Greetings, fellow snurflers!
Pre-quals are coming up this week and as I am preparing a presentation on my proposed doctoral research into the evolutionary origins and specialization of mammalian facial muscles, I wanted to share with you a key text in this field of research. Boas and Paulli’s two volume work, The Elephant’s Head, is not just scientifically significant, it is also a deeply beautiful illustrated work.
The supposed genesis of this masterwork was around the year 1899, with the death of a young Indian elephant from the Copenhagen Zoo. Two Danish anatomists, Johan Erik Vesti Boas (1855 – 1935) and Simon Paulli (1865 – 1933), seized the opportunity to study the body, especially the head and proboscis. What Boas and Paulli quickly discovered was that in order to properly understand the anatomy of the elephant’s highly specialized head, it was necessary to engage in a comparative survey of the facial musculature of a wide variety of mammals. Over the next several years and what I imagine are many dozens of dissections later on specimens provided by the zoo, Boas and Paulli were prepared to publish the first installment of the most comprehensive zoological study of facial musculature ever before or since.
So here’s hoping that pre-quals goes by with the average amount of snot and tears (I am not even asking for the minimum amount), and that we can continue in this tradition of producing beautiful and meticulous comparative anatomy!