Dry Storeroom Nr 1 by Richard Fortey

Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum - Richard Fortey

This is a special kind of book. A marmite book. It's a memoir of a scientist, of a museum, and of a whole era too in a lot of ways. 

 

It manages to cram a history of Taxonomy, the science of classifying things, a personal memoir, a history of the radical changes a century wrought to science in general, particularly the effect Darwin had on all fields of biology, a complete history of the incredible British Museum of Natural History, a biography of Linnaeus, discussion on the value of the colonial legacy of botanical gardens, a history of the changes to the British civil service in the past 40 odd years, a grounding in basic latin and greek, and .... well you get the idea. In fact, I think all the things I listed are covered before the half way point. There's a lot of book in this book!

 

It's a bit of a dry read, unless you're really fascinated by that kind of thing which I am.

It's chock full of hilarious anecdotes too.  You just have to slog through a bit of science to find them.

 

Like the one about the marine cryptogam expert (that's fungi) who was mistaken for a cryptogram expert (note the extra r in there) and whisked off to Bletchley park during the war - only to accidentally save the day (and possibly the war) when he was the only one who knew how to save and restore German codebooks retrieved from a sunken submarine. 

 

I read a good chunk of this, but then I was busy and set it to text-to-speech - which I really don't like usually, but I have this one posh english voice to use so I tried it out - and it actually worked pretty well. '

 

I suspect the audiobook version of this would be really great, if it's got a good narrator, and would probably get a whole 'nother star. In fact, I think I will look out for that, because there's SO much in this book, I am pretty sure I could read it another 3 times and still be finding new things.