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 6 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

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips