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Banks Environmental Society John Jackson, Director of Science Policy at the Natural History Museum

On Thursday 17 November, the Director of Science Policy at London’s Natural History Museum, John Jackson, came to talk to the Banks Environmental Society. His talk was entitled ‘From Philosophical Barnacles to Bar-coding Life’, an intriguing title which didn’t give much away other than that he would attempt to cover a broad spectrum of subjects associated with natural history museums. Indeed, he covered the many roles that such institutions take on, from showcasing interesting collectibles to providing a home for post-doctoral research, and on to contributing towards government policies, including the Natural Environment White Paper. He clearly defined the difference between the bizarre collections of eccentrics, which make up smaller local museums and often served to harbour myths, and the ordered specimens which make up the Natural History Museum’s vast compilation, which were conversely employed to dispel misconceptions and paved the way to much more organised classification systems. Mr Jackson’s words were suitably accompanied by eye-catching photos, including one of the ‘Vegetable Lamb of Tartary’, a mythological plant believed to bear sheep as its fruit. Needless to say, the photo of the museum’s specimen revealed why.

Peregrine Dunn OS (SMM)