Odds and quads - 27 June 2013

The desk and spectacles pictured belonged to Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the German polymath whose travels in Latin America led to the first serious scientific account of the continent

June 27, 2013

Some say that Humboldt gave the items to the French scientist and politician François Arago, others that they were purchased by the French Academy of Sciences for the Paris Observatory.

The circular measuring device (right), probably intended for military purposes, was made by the instrument maker Erasmus Habermel (c.1538-1606), who served at the court of the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II. It is unclear how 15 of his remarkable instruments also found their way to the Paris Observatory, although they may have been brought to France by Louis XIV’s soldiers.

Along with Louis Pasteur’s notebooks and Marie Curie’s personal papers, these are just some of the most significant of the 500,000 objects owned by the Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL). Established in 2010, this brought together 20 separate higher education institutions – including the Collège de France and the École Normale Supérieure as well as the Observatory – that were established to study disciplines neglected by the nearby Sorbonne. A major exhibition on the Humboldt brothers is planned for next year.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations