Edward Forbes, an English naturalist, was born Feb. 12, 1815. Forbes specialized in marine invertebrates, such as starfish and sea urchins, and in 1841 he published A History of British Starfishes. What attracts the attention of those not particularly interested in starfish (which I assume would include most of us) is Forbes’ puckish sense of humor. He was an excellent artist, and he decorated his books with all sorts of charming headpieces and tailpieces depicting whimsical invertebrates (with a few vertebrates thrown in). The images above are all taken from this book, and show, in order: a sea chariot, starfish dancing, an imp saving a starfish from a clam, and two human urchins introducing a land urchin (hedgehog) to a sea urchin. We displayed this book in our 2009 exhibition, The Grandeur of Life, and if you visit the online catalog, you can see details of the “dancing starfish” and the “starfish saved from danger,” as well as a more conventional illustration of several sea cucumbers.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City