Decoding A Star

St Barnabas at Bethnal Green.

“You wouldn’t believe how many goths we get posing outside for pictures,” says Father Brian Ralph, vicar of the church of St Barnabas at Bethnal Green. At street level on the corner of Roman Road and Grove Road in East London, it’s not immediately obvious why. But as you gaze up the yellow and red…

I Eat Cheese, Therefore I Write

Fresh curd cheese

Of course it’s slightly more complicated than my play on Rene Descartes’ famous philosophical proposition. But in simple terms, the discovery of cheese and the evolution of human tolerance to lactose had an influence on the development of written language. It all started around 10,000 years ago. Hot dry summer and cool wet winter weather patterns had…

Star Specimen: A Mineralised Skull

An image of the skull from the late eighteenth-century book Museum Britannicum, being an exhibition of a great variety of antiquities and natural curiosities belonging to the British Museum, by Jan van Rymsdyk. This was the tome that sparked the original tip-off.

Behind the Scenes at the Natural History Museum, London Some time ago I got a tip-off from my regular library source about the existence of a mineralised human skull in the Museum’s collection. All she could tell me was that a scientist had been down to consult a book that contained some information about it; but…

Inside St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

My name’s Amy and I’m a ‘no photography’ rule flouter. Many a time I’ve felt the shoulder tap and heard the hushed “no photos, Miss” from a museum or gallery worker. So when the rare opportunity arose to visit St Paul’s Cathedral after hours for a special photographer’s event, I jumped at the chance to…

Butterflies Emerge

butterflies emerge

Over the Easter weekend the first batch of blue morpho butterflies began to hatch at the Natural History Museum’s Sensational Butterflies exhibition. And I was there to catch the process on film. Each individual butterfly takes only a minute or so to emerge from its chrysalis, a few minutes to unfurl, and around two hours…

Cousins Across The Centuries

dodos and pigeons

The most famous symbol of human-caused extinction – the dodo – and the ubiquitous pigeon have more in common than you might think. If you had been walking the narrow, cobbled streets of seventeenth-century London, your nose assaulted by the stench of sewage, edging your way along against the Tudor buildings for fear of being…

John Connell Freeborn’s Battle of Britain, 75 Years On

John Connell Freeborn

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Wintson Churchill, August 1940 Among those “few” praised by Churchill for their efforts in the Battle of Britain was my great uncle, John Connell Freeborn. A member of 74 ‘Tiger’ Squadron based at Hornchurch during those first…

I Like Evolution And I Cannot Lie

Sir Mix-A-Lot

Published by Smith Journal – – When Sir Mix-a-Lot sang about big butts, there was more to it than just aesthetics. Well, maybe not for him. But, what the more scientifically-minded may already know is that he wouldn’t have been able to even physically sing the song if it hadn’t been for his own –…