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

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze