Malacology and its social context (3)

Of most malacologists no archival data is preserved, and especially complete correspondence archives are rare. So if one tries to reconstruct the contact network one may use a few sources; e.g., in publications often several names turn up as suppliers of material (either as field or as cabinet collectors), in the collection (if preserved) labels may point to collectors or colleagues with whom material was exchanged, and (in some rare cases) correspondence may reveal some of the contacts.

In the case of Henri Drouët (1829–1900) all three sources could be used and revealed a quite extensive contact network of more than 100 persons. The following figure gives a picture of his network, distinguished according to the following roles: malacological authors (MA), authors from other disciplines (AO), field collectors (FC), and other contacts (OT). The persons in the first three categories all received one or more eponyms.



This picture also makes clear that  eponyms may be used as a proxy for contacts of an author.

Sikora: an Austrian dealer based in Reunion

Franz Sikora (1863–1902) was an Austrian collector and dealer.

He was born on 12 January 1863 in Stockerau, near Vienna, Austria. As a youngster, he left Austria for Africa, where he married with Marie Amalie Teia in Zanzibar and moved to Reunion with his family. He explored Reunion island (Cilaos, Saint-Leu etc.) and collected many zoological specimens which he sold to different buyers in Europe.

During seven years from end of 1880s, he was entrusted with a scientifical mission by the Austrian gouverment; he lived in Antananarivo or Tananarive (Madagascar) and he frequented the Protestant mission based in Andrangoloaka (Battistini & Richard-V., 1972) from where he brought back important collects (insects, plants, shells…). After Beolens et al. (2011): “he discovered some remains of giant lemurs and early human settlers at Andrahomana Cave, Madagascar (1899)”. He was in contact with Alfred Grandidier (1836-1921), a great naturalist who explored Madagascar as nobody else (His Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar count ab. 30 vol.). We know that Sikora took many photographs of plants, and several photographs were given to Grandidier (e.g. the plant Pachypodium ramosum wlas described on a specimen of Grandidier and on a photograph that Sikora who had given him) and conserved in his herbarium (MNHN). Some photographs taken by Sikora are present in the photographic library Grandidier in ORSTOM (Feller & Sandron, 2010).

After his stay in Tananarive, he moved to Fort-Dauphin before returning to Reunion until his death.

He worked with some museums (e.g., Wien, MNHN, BMNH, Turin). Various animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, were named after him; included two molluscs: Ampelita sikorae Ancey, 1890 and Cyclostoma sikorae Fulton, 1901.


Example of publicity in the Feuille des Jeunes Naturalistes

He died in Reunion Island in May 1902, but the day and the locality seemed unknown until now. The Ultramarine Archives (ANOM) on line allowed to find these information, in searching for each municipality one after the other! It appeares he died on 23 May 1902 in La Plaine-des-Palmistes (Reunion Isl.). The act is written in French, the name is francized: François Sikora. We learn also he was in resort since two years in this municipality and was known there as naturalist.

Lacroix M. “Hannetons”. (consulted in 2016)

Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The eponym dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1–296 (Sikora: p. 243).
Battistini R., Richard-Vindard G. 1972. Biogeography and Ecology in Madagascar. The Hague, Springer-Science, 765 p.
Feller C., Sandron F. 2010. Parcours de recherche à Madagascar. L’IRD-Orstom et ses partenaires.Marseille, IRD, 424 p.

Malacology and its social context (2)

Social network analysis (SNA) is currently mainly a theme within sociology, but the study of networks has received some attention from other disciplines as well (e.g, physics). Since it is possible to build social networks from empirical data and use software to visualise the results in graphics, it becomes interesting to see if historical data relating to malacologists may be usefully applied with these methods.

An important distinction in SNA is between ‘egocentric social networks’ (hereafter ‘egonets’) and ‘whole social networks’ (hereafter ‘networks’). In the historical context we are interested in, an egonet always takes always the perspective from one person and tries to study his/her relationships. In the case of malacologists thus the relationship between malacologist A (‘ego’) and malacologist B, C, D, etc. (the ‘alter(i)’).


But this figure makes also clear that there may relationships between the alter(i). So one has to define the network boundary, or alternatively one studies a large group (of which the egonet of malacologist A is only a part); this is a ‘whole social network’ (also with a defined boundary, e.g. the European malacologists, which does not mean that alter(i) from outside Europe may not be included; it all depends on the research question).


One example of a question that one could ask is: What flows through the network from one individual to another? In a malacological network e.g., one could make a distinction in the development of contacts between two persons of the following, nested categories: (a) the exchange of questions, ideas or informal knowledge (through correspondence or meetings); (b) the exchange of material (i.c. dry shells or preserved molluscs), and (c) the exchange of formal knowledge (i.c. in publications or through reprints).

[1] Herz et al., 2016: 4/38.

Herz A, Heidler R, Gamper M, Stark M, Düring M. 2016. Erhebung von Netzwerkdaten. Syllabus 10. Trier Summer School on Social Network Analysis.

Lamare-Picquot: collection

Lamare-Picquot (1785-1873) is a famous french explorator: Mauritius, Indes, Turkey, and also North America from where he tried to introduce in Europe some species, e.g., Psoralea esculenta (the “Picquotiane”) instead potatoes… Lamare-Picquot was a great naturalist, also ethnologist, correspondent of Academy of Sciences and of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, in Paris. He obtained some fame because of his theory that reptiles could suckle the milk from udder, a theory classified under the category “prejudices”, by Duméril and Bibron. Lamare-Picquot has given many collections to MNHN, while others were sold (e.g., to BMNH) to finance his voyages.

According to Chaigneau (1982), who consulted the National Archives (AJ 15-548), we learn that his zoological collections were shared at the end of his life between MNHN and different universities:


In Lyon University, we found in the general collection a shell, which was apparently obtained by this sharing in 1865.

dsc_9847 [1]

[1] Coll. UCBL
I thank Mrs. Blandine Bartschi for welcoming us.

Chaigneau M. 1982. Christophe-Augustin Lamare-Picquot, pharmacien, naturaliste, explorateur. Revue d’Histoire de la Pharmacie 70 (252): 5–26.

Miot: bio, collection

Henri (or Henry) Calixte Miot (1841-1938) was linked by his family ties to the Diderot family, and hence to the famous encyclopedist Diderot. He was born on 3 June 1841 in Langres (France, Haute-Marne) in a family of lawyers. His major commitment in his career was about justice, and also the protection of animals. In particular he wrote a little book on the legal implementation of animal protection (domestic animals mistreated) (Miot, 1870b). Member of the Société protectrice des Animaux, he was convinced (just as Duméril) that the birds, the reptiles and the insects were useful to regulate the populations of the insect pests, and that we need to protect them (Miot, 1870a).

Settled in the surroundings of Dijon, he was in the magistracy as substitute for the Imperial Prosecutor in Semur-en-Auxois (France, Côte-d’Or), and later as investigating judge in Beaune. He was also a great collector. We know in particular that he was interested in philately [1] and in bibliophily. In natural sciences, he was interested in entomology, geology and malacology. His collection is housed in the geological collections of the University of Burgundy (UBG).


It consists of seven drawers exclusively dedicated to Unionid shells, with some Cyclas and Corbicula species (233 lots). The material originates from North America (United States and Canada), Africa and Middle-East (Gabon, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq) and Europa (Spain, France and Italy). The majority of the specimens is from France, and their provenance shows they originate from the Drouët collection. Henri Drouët (1829-1900) was an administrator and a famous conchologist specialized in the Unionidae family, living in Troyes before moving to Dijon. The two persons were in close connection but probably only at the end of Drouët’s life. He mentioned him for the first time in 1898 in Unionidés du Bassin de la Seine, and probably he did not have time to give him an eponym. Besides Drouët, some other collectors appears in the provenance data of his collection, such as Léon Provancher (1820-1892) and Mr. Pétot.





I thank Mrs. Monique Léquy for the information kindly provided.
[2] Provided by courtesy of Guy Peaudecerf. Henri Miot
Ex libris & collectis. C. Audibert, private collection.
Signature in a dedication inside a book (British Museum)

Audibert C, Thomas J. 2014. Une autre collection de mulettes de Drouët à l’université de Bourgogne : la collection “Henri Miot”. Folia Conchyliologica 27: 4–7.
Miot H. 1870a. Les insectes auxiliaires et les insectes utiles. Paris: Librairie agricole, 1–101.
Miot H. 1870b.
De la répression des mauvais traitements exercé envers les animaux domestiques. Commentaire de la loi des 2-9 juillet 1850 (loi Grammont). Paris: Librairie agricole, 1–24, 1 pl.

Malacology and its social context (1)

Coan & Kabat (2016) have listed an enormous amount of people who were (are) involved with the study of shells. Even if we take a partial view and focus e.g., on the 19th and early 20th centuries, the number of persons involved is still large. From a viewpoint of malacology the emphasis is often on the species, their systematic position and their nomenclature. In other words, the emphasis is usually on taxonomy. But no taxonomy without people, and when speaking about people it is naturally to look at interactions between them. So here comes the social context in play.

Even when malacologists [1] are working in splendid isolation, there are always people in the background. Apart from family and friends, relations with other malacologists are needed to be productive. And some may have been friends indeed, as is sometimes testified in malacological literature (e.g., Morelet 1848: 352).

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-31 om 15.44.56

It is here that some concepts from the social sciences may be useful to introduce. At the individual level people are more likely to have an association, connection or friendship if they share the same interests. This is called homophily, and connected people tend to have an effect on one another (called influence). These are two of the major propositions used in the study of social networks (Kadushin 2012: 9). So perhaps it’s interesting to look to the history of malacology from the perspective of social networks. Once we adopt a network perspective, we may suppose that individuals are connected and individual outcomes are related (Robins 2015: 4). In the history of malacology this may not always have been true to its full extent in all cases, but certainly it helps to look and try to uncover hidden links and relations.

Let’s first look at the different roles that people can play if we take a network perspective. In order to avoid a too detailed approach, we will recognise the following three: 1) the field collector is the person who is out in the field and picks up shells; 2) the cabinet collector works at home, sorting the shells and trying to give them a proper name; 3) the malacological author goes one step further and write up his findings in order to publish them. For the sake of simplicity we will leave it with these three, but other roles might be useful to recognise in a later stage.

Kadushin C. 2012. Understanding social networks. Theories, concepts and findings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, i–xii, 1–252.
Morelet PAM. 1848. Testacea quaedam Africae occidentalis terrestria et fluviatilia. Revue zoologique par la Société Cuvierienne 11:351–355.
Robins G. 2015. Doing social network research. Network-based research design for social scientists. Los Angeles: Sage, i–xiv, 1–261.

[1] Malacologists is used throughout this text in its broadest sense, i.e. amateurs and professionals, field collectors and cabinet collectors, and people producing scientific works or those merely interested in the beauty of shells. Several of these categories may overlap in practice.

Moricand: a letter in a book

A large collection of reprints and separata are owned by the library of the Centre de conservation et d’étude des collections in Lyon. Reading a binded volume of miscellanea of Stefano Moricand (1779-1854), we found inside a letter written by Moricand addressed to Ange-Paulin Terver (1798-1875). The handwritting style is quite similar to his correspondant, with a minute handwritting and thick downstrokes.

The letter is dated on 21 May, 1836, and reads as follows.

“Monsieur, j’ai reçu dans le temps l’ouvrage de Mr. Michaud que vous avez bien voulu m’envoyer ; qui m’a fait grand plaisir. Ayant inutilement cherché et attendu une occasion pour vous faire passer mes petits mémoires & craignant que mon silence en se prolongeant se pût être mal interprété, je me décide à vous les envoyer par la messagerie, ils vous serviront de catalogue pour vos desiderata, car je ne crois pas avoir conservé de note de ce que je vous ai envoyé. Quand vous recevrez vos coquilles d’Alger je me recommande à votre bon souvenir; je vous prie d’agréer l’assurance de mon (ill.) dévouement. Stefano Morricand” [signed with double r].



The interpretation of this letter sheds a new light on the activities of Terver. As collaborator of Michaud, he drew the lithographs for the Supplement to Draparnaud (Michaud 1831); this was likely the book sent to Moricand. Terver was apparently preparing his study of the Algerian fauna (which was published in 1839). From the letter is becomes obvious that Moricand and Terver exchanged not only books but also shells. And finally, we learn that the catalogues of Moricand (1834, 1836) were likely to be used to mark the oblata!

[1] Source: CCEC.

Michaud G. 1831. Complément de l’Histoire naturelle des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles de la France, de J. P. R. Draparnaud. Paris / Montpellier, 1–128, pl. XIV-XVI.
Moricand S. 1834. Note sur quelques espèces nouvelles de coquilles terrestres. Mémoires de la Société de Physique et d’Histoire naturelle de Genève 6: 537-543, pl. I.
Moricand S. 1836. Mémoire sur les coquilles terrestres et fluviatiles envoyées de Bahia par M. S. Blanchet. Mémoires de la Société de Physique et d’Histoire naturelle de Genève 7 (2): 415-446, pl. II.
Terver A-P. 1839. Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles observés dans les possessions françaises au nord de l’Afrique. Paris / Lyon: J.-B. Baillière, Crochard & Savy, 1–39, 4 pl.