Here is a hidden treasure in the web.
Robert E. Snodgrass was an American entomologist who published extensively on arthropod anatomy and evolution during the first half of the twentieth century. He was as knowledgeable about arthropod morphology as he was a superb artist– you can see some of his illustrations decorating the banner of this blog. His name is synonymous with insect morphology: his 1935 textbook on the subject (reedited by Cornell University Press in 1993) is still the main reference for any modern course in entomology.
Snodgrass was a lecturer in the University of Maryland for most of his academic life. In 1960, two years before his death, he gave a series of three lectures that were recorded in audio tape. Fortunately for us Jeffrey W. Shultz, professor of entomology at Maryland, has digitized and made these lectures available through a nicely designed page called The Snodgrass Tapes.
Adding to the audio files, Shultz provides well annotated transcripts and, even more impressively, has taken the time to got through Snodgrass’ extensive body of anatomical illustrations to incorporate those suitable for each passage. You have the option of following the lectures in your web-browser with sound, text and illustrations, download the transcripts as pdf files, or just the audio as mp3 files and put them into your iPod1.
The audio itself is a real treat. Adding sweet to the lectures is the constant sound of chalk against the blackboard as Snodgrass masterly drew his illustrations for the audience. But these are not dry lectures. As he deals with the particularities of arthropod anatomy he constantly pauses to introduce the listener to general terms and concepts of evolutionary theory, all done with parsimonious grace and elegance. For example, when laying out the difference between the often confused pair of terms rudiment and vestige (the former referring to ontogeny while the later to phylogeny), he states:
[...]the rudiment is something that has a future, and a vestige is something that has a past.
The page also provides links to pdf versions of Snodgrass biography and list of publications compiled and published by Ernestine B. Thurman in 1959.
- Yeah, I did that. So what? It’s very geeky, but that’s how I roll. ↩
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