Michael Faraday Prize Lecture
By Dr Richard Fortey FRS
For most of his life, Richard Fortey has worked with collections in London's Natural History Museum, so curation has become a kind of unbreakable habit for him. In his Michael Faraday Prize lecture he will present another collection: his own personal museum of scientists. They are not necessarily household names, but their biographies show how science is full of surprising connections. The natural history of scientists gives the lie to any idea about 'the two cultures'; several of the scientists Richard Fortey has collected have strong claims to the arts.
We will find out how a study of herrings led to the discovery of a lost Mozart manuscript; how Proust admired an expert on lice. We will trace the tragic story of the trilobite expert who disappeared. We will see how a mine in Bohemia links the origins of the trade union movement with the dollar, and with the discovery of radium. Science is sometimes presented as a kind of inexorable advance, marked out by the contributions of a few, famous names - those who are become subject of numerous biographies. Fortey sees natural history as a more democratic business, full of unsung heroes.