Odds and quads

This glass model of a dissected cuttlefish is one of about 100 remarkable representations of marine life held by the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

February 24, 2011

All are the work of the father-and-son team Leopold (1822-95) and Rudolf Blaschka (1857-1939). Descended from a family with origins in 15th-century Venice, Leopold started his career manufacturing jewellery, scientific apparatus and glass eyes.

When he moved to Dresden in 1863, however, he made contact with the director of the local natural history museum and began a sideline producing biological models. Some of the most famous were the plants and flowers made exclusively for Harvard University.

Between them, the Blaschkas continued in this line of business for more than 70 years. Although they initially worked from illustrations, they soon realised that they could achieve greater accuracy by using preserved and eventually live animals.

Along with its value for scientific education, their work has been widely admired for its beauty and technical skill.

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

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