Articles on frogs in the history of science

The articles in this section explore frogs in the history of science across a range of contexts, using the Whipple Museum's rich collections to investigate the many ways in which scientists have used and learnt from frogs in the past 300 years.

Mr Froggy
Image 1 Our large frog model, 'Mr Froggy', tranferred from the Zoology Museum (Wh.6599). Image © the Whipple Museum.
Mr Froggy
Image 2 Papier mâché and plaster anatomical model of a frog, by Emile Deyrolle (Wh.6569). Image © the Whipple Museum.

Why Frogs? Historians of science can learn a lot from frogs, just like the scientists whose work they study.

Frog-plates: Adams and Lieberkühn Preparation Slides. These tools for microscopists are among the Whipple Museum's oldest objects designed for use with frogs. Natural philosophers used microscopes and vivisected frogs to witness and display bodily motions like circulation firsthand.

Ziegler's Wax Models of Primordial Skulls and the Frog Embryo. Models like these played prominent roles in growing 19th century fascination with comparative anatomy and development. Representation of the forms of frog anatomy could be challenged on various grounds and produced in various ways.

Frogs in the Classroom. For over a hundred years, frogs have been staple resources in the teaching of life sciences. Posters and models were used as complements to live frogs as tools for understanding anatomy, but also often replaced them entirely. They represent shifting ideas about visual learning, and their history provides opportunities to reflect on why we teach with frogs at all.

Frogs and Electricity. In late 18th century Italy, two philosophers contested experiments on the muscular motion of frogs by arguing about which kind of electrical instrument best represented the frog's behavior. Galvani and Volta's heated controversy shows how instruments were used to defend or disprove claims about animal bodies and electricity.

Frogs in the Foster Collection. Paper technologies changed the way that people communicated about science and technology, which in turn changed what they talked about and in what terms. This page examines two different examples of such printed matter, and how frogs' positions in scientists' information order reflect conceptions of frogs' bodies.

Frogs and Physiological Instruments in 20th Century Cambridge. When Cambridge University modernised its scientific departments in the late 19th century, it suddenly demanded far more, and more complex and expensive, scientific instruments than it ever had previously. Academics' research into frogs demanded new specialised equipment, which were often designed with the particular physiology of frogs in mind, much of it produced in collaboration with scientific instrument companies.

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