The Zoology Museum

News archive



May 23rd will mark the 300 year anniversary of the great Swedish biologist Carl von Linné, also known as Linnaeus. He is best remembered as a botanist and the founder of modern systems of naming living organisms.

Linnaeus trained as a physician. At that time, botany was a core subject of medical training as most prescribed drugs were derived and prepared from medicinal plants. Linnaeus went on to outline classification systems in botany and zoology using binomial naming. His consistent use of binomial (the use of just two names to describe any given species) led to it being adopted as the standard. His published works, Systema Naturae (in particular the 10th edition published in 1758) and Species Plantarum (1753) are of particular importance as these are generally considered as the starting point for zoological and plant nomenclature respectively.

In expanding his knowledge of the world, Linnaeus sponsored his students on various voyages. These so-called ‘Plant-Hunters’ included David Solander (who accompanied Joseph Banks on Cook’s first voyage), Anders Sparman (who attended on Cook’s 2nd voyage) and Carl Thunberg. An Aberdeen link comes through Francis Masson (1741-1805) who undertook 2 voyages with Thunberg between 1773 and 1775.

Our Tercentenary exhibition is now open in the Zoology Museum Foyer. The exhibition looks at the life, scientific work and legacy of the great Swedish biologist, Linnaeus The exhibition gives an historical perspective of Linnaeus, his contribution to the classification of living organisms and the naming of plants and animals. It will also consider Linnaeus’s other achievements, like that of his contribution to the field of chronobiology.

In addition, smaller supporting exhibitions can be seen around campus - at Special Libraries and Archives (, the Queen Mother Library and at the Institute for Medical Sciences. Also visit The David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park this summer to see more about Linnaeus and his plant hunters.

The Natural History Centre are running associated activities. Visit for more information.


Gulbenkian Longlisting for Scotland and Medicine Project. February 2007

The University of Aberdeen’s museums are a partner in the Scotland & Medicine: Collections and Connections project (, which has been longlisted for the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize.

The Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries is given annually to one museum or gallery anywhere in the UK, and is open to a wide range of projects, both large and small. It aims to "recognise and stimulate originality, imagination and excellence in museums and galleries in the UK".

For more information and to view the full list of nominees visit the Gulbenkian Prize website:

Birds of a feather: Audubon's Adventures in Edinburgh. July-October 2006

John James Audubon (1785-1851) was one of the world's greatest wildlife artists. Production of his most famous book, Birds of America, began in Edinburgh, aided by the city's leading lights in science and literature. The National Library of Scotland's summer exhibition charts Audubon's relationships with these brilliant men, and shows how his magnificent books were made.

A complete volume of The Birds of America will be on display together with our own skins of North American birds presented to William MacGillivray by Audubon. The original labels were written by MacGillivray who was Professor of Natural History at Marischal from 1840 until his death in 1852. The exciting wording on the labels is "presented by Mr. Audubon".

4 July to 15 October
Monday-Saturday: 10.00-17.00*
10.00-20.00 during Edinburgh Festival, 13 August to 3 September
Sunday 14.00-17.00

George IV Bridge Building
Admission free

Anatomy Acts: Edinburgh May 13th - July 9th

Twenty three objects from the University’s Museum collections have journeyed south for a major exhibition that opened at the City Arts Centre in Edinburgh this month. Anatomy Acts, a major exhibition in Edinburgh, aims to explore the social, cultural and scientific significance of anatomy in Scotland over the past 500 years by bringing together for the first time rare and historic items from Scotland’s medical museums and archives. The University is one of the principal contributors.

Objects being sent from the University’s historic collections are diverse, ranging from anthropometry cards of student fingerprints from the Special Libraries and Archives collection to a cod skull from the Zoology Museum prepared by Frederick Knox, brother of the infamous surgeon Robert Knox who was involved in the Burke and Hare scandal.

A number of Auzoux papier-mâché models are also being loaned including a horse hoof, a snail and a life–sized articulated anatomical model of a man.

Frenchman Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux (1797-1880) popularised the use of articulated models in the 19th century as a means of studying anatomy. Papier-mâché models on this scale are now very rare. Our life-sized model is believed to be the only one of its kind in Scotland and it is one of only a handful remaining in the world.

Anatomy Acts is at the City Arts Centre, Edinburgh from May 13th until July 9th and will then tour to venues in Dundee, St Andrews, Inverness and Glasgow.

Opening January 2006: Super Models

The University's Marischal Museum and Scientific Collections will be mounting a new exhibtion that will explore the world of models in the very broadest sense!

September 22nd 2005: Exhibition of the work of Kieran Dodds, Diageo Young Photographer of the Year

Kieran Dodds graduated from Aberdeen in 2003, with an honours degree in Zoology and with an eye for a good photograph.

© Kieran Dodds/ Evening Times

Kieran is now forging himself a successful career as a press photographer with the Evening Times. The high quality of his work has recently been recognised by the award of The Diageo Young Photographer of the Year Prize for 2005.

The prize was presented to Kieran by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown at the Picture Editors' Awards ceremony. Photographers from the regional and national press and agencies gathered at the Guildhall in London for the culmination of the competition, which is now in its 12th year.

The Picture Editors’ Awards recognise and reward the very best in photographic journalism throughout the UK and Ireland; the winners are chosen by a ballot of picture editors across the British Isles. More than 1,400 individual entries, almost 9,000 images, were submitted this year.

We are delighted to see one of our zoology graduates achieve such success and we are celebrating by mounting an exhibition of his work here in Aberdeen.

The exhibition Just One More by Kieran Dodds will be housed in the Marischal Museum and will run from Thursday September 22nd, probably through to Christmas.

The following photographs are from Kieran's award winning portfolio.

© Kieran Dodds/ Evening Times

© Kieran Dodds/ Evening Times


August 11 2005: Robert Brown and the Year of Einstein

One day in 1827 Robert Brown, the eminent botanist and Aberdeen Graduate, was looking at tiny pollen grains suspended in still water through his microscope. He noticed that yet tinier particles within the pollen grains were moving in an incessant, irregular manner that is now called "Brownian motion". Little did he know of how important his observations were to be in the development of Albert Einstein’s ideas three quarters of a century later.

Robert Brown

Albert Einstein

Although the existence of atoms and molecules was still open to debate in 1905, Einstein predicted that the random motions of molecules in a liquid impacting on larger suspended particles would result in irregular, random motions of the particles, which could be directly observed under a microscope. The predicted motion corresponded precisely with the puzzling Brownian motion. From this motion Einstein accurately determined the dimensions of the hypothetical molecules in one of his seminal 1905 papers.

Microscope c.1830. Similar to that used by Brown.
Marischal Museum collection

The University Zoology Museum, the Marischal Museum and the University Collection of Scientific Instruments are to celebrate the achievements of Brown and Einstein with a joint exhibition that will open on August 29th in the foyer of the Natural Philosophy Building (Fraser Noble Building).

May 2005

May 23 2005: A sabre-toothed tiger is coming to Aberdeen!

Thanks to the generosity of our visitors and well-wishers, the Zoology Museum has recently acquired an exquisite replica of the skeleton of the extinct sabre toothed-tiger Smilodon fatalis from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

Sabre tooth under construction

What we are aiming for!

The 231 separate bones that constitute the skeleton are currently being mounted by local taxidermist Sandy Anderson in his workshop in rural Aberdeenshire.

We plan to have the skeleton ready for public display when the museum re-opens in October 2005.


May 23 2005: temporary closure of the museum

Because of major building works in the Zoology Building the Zoology Museum and the Natural History Centre will close on June 10th 2005.

© Wendy McMurdo

We hope to re-open to visitors in September/October 2005.

May 5 2005: Museum curator receives silver medal for services to mammalogy

At the Easter conference of the The Mammal Society of Great Britain the president, Dr Derek Yalden, presented the society's silver medal for outstanding services to Mammalogy to Martyn Gorman, our museum curator.

The Mammal Society Medal

Martyn Gorman & Derek Yalden

Other recipients of the medal include Sir David Attenborough who was presented with the medal in 2004.

For over 50 years The Mammal Society has worked to protect British mammals, to halt the decline of threatened species, and to advise on all issues affecting British Mammals. The Mammal Society is a leading provider of top quality training on various aspects of mammal work and has run courses since 1997 for those wanting to know more about mammals in Britain. To-date, they have trained many thousands of people in various field skills needed to participate more actively in mammal conservation work.

You can read more about British Mammals, and the Society’s work, on their web site, which is maintained by Dr Gorman and hosted by The University of Aberdeen.

May 5 2005: New exhibition on the theme Extinct

The University has seven museum collections of national and international importance, each one ranking amongst the finest in the country.

For the first time, the 7 have come together to mount a joint, innovative exhibition on the theme Extinct.


Marischal Museum at Marischal College.


May 6 - July 2005.


Monday-Friday 10-5
Sunday 2-5.