Not What You Thought You Knew

John Edmonstone the Former Slave who Taught Darwin

Nov. 27, 2019

John Edmonstone was born into slavery in the former Dutch colony of Demara in the late 1700s but died a free man in Scotland having taught one of the greatest men in the history of science, Charles Darwin, the skill of taxidermy. 


We speak to Dr Angelina Osborne, independent researcher and heritage consultant and co-author of the upcoming book, 100 Great Black Britons about Edmonstone's life and his remarkable journey from the coastal jungles of Demerara to the cobbles of Edinburgh's old town.


And to understand the art taxidermy and the skills that Edmonstone imparted to his pupil, we also talked to Tannis Davidson, curator at UCL's Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy who explains the importance of taxidermy to zoologists like Darwin and why her favourite specimen in the museum isn’t some exotic creature but a common-or garden-taxidermy chicken.


Sponsored by Ancestry, this episode of Sky HISTORY's Not What You Thought You Knew is presented by Dr Fern Riddell with production by Kim Sergeant, Peter Ross and Sam Pearson.

 

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