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Scientific research inspired by Darwin

Examining Domestic Practices of Place in the scientific work of Charles Darwin and Mary Treat

Charles Darwin’s prolific scientific output, both as author and correspondent, has been extensively recorded and discussed (see for example Desmond and Moore, 1991; Browne, 1995; Keynes, 2001, Browne 2002 and In contrast Mary Treat’s work has, until recently, received limited attention (e.g. Norwood, 1993; Bonta, 1995). Tina Gianquitto’s Chapter on Treat in her publication Good Observers of Nature: American Women and the Scientific Study of the Natural World, (2007) is the most detailed to date, complemented by work on Treat’s carnivorous plant studies (Sanders, 2010).

A recent grant to The Darwin Correspondence Project is enabling greater attention to be paid to Darwin’s female correspondents, including Treat, thus offering researchers and educators a more complete picture of his extensive correspondence networks. In examining Treat’s practice through her ‘home-studies in nature’ (Treat, 1885) similarities to Darwin’s ‘practices of place’ (Kohler, 2002) emerge. My research compares their homes and gardens as scientific ‘locales’ (Kohler, 2011), and the everyday, sometimes intimate, objects both scientists appropriated, as natural historian ‘bricoleurs’ (Spary, 2000).