|Still from Quatermass and the Pit (1967)|
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the first thing I thought of when I saw the wax models of Hydrophilus piceus, or 'The Great Water Beatle' (see image below) were dormant, chrysalis-like aliens. These are part of the collection at the University of Leeds' Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and were formerly used in University teaching from the late 19th century onwards. What is unique about Hydrophilus is that it is the only insect to have been reproduced by the noted embryo modeler Adolf Ziegler (1820-1889). Louis Compton Miall (1842-1921), former Professor of Biology at Leeds, was widely acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost experts on The Great Water Beatle, second only to Karl Heider (1856-1935), who provided the drawings that the wax series was based on.
|Hydrophilus piceus, or 'The Great Water Beatle'|
During the latter part of the 19th century, wax models became instruments not just for teaching, but for research. Embryological development was called upon as key evidence in evolutionary debates and the models' great detail and accuracy meant they could be used in new investigations. Due to the public interest in embryology, wax models, along with text and print images, were displayed in a number of private and public museum collections.
As well as Ziegler's water beetle, the collection holds series detailing the development of the pig, the vertebrate eye, the human heart, and the convolutions of the human brain. For further information, please visit: http://arts.leeds.ac.uk/museum-of-hstm/