EXHIBIT: Explorer of the Natural World

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Science  08 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5596, pp. 1141
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5596.1141d

Insect larvae taste unpleasantly like “rusty bacon,” according to 17th century Dutch microscopist Jan Swammerdam. But they are slightly tastier when cooked, he writes. A new Web site describes the work of this pioneering scientist known for his insight into everything from insect life stages to nerve function and the mechanics of the penile erection.

This tour through Swammerdam's life and work delves into accomplishments such as detailed dissections and a still-used system of insect classification. He is also credited with the first description of insect reproduction and metamorphosis. The site also explores Swammerdam in his historical context. According to the site's developer, biologist Matthew Cobb of the University of Manchester, U.K., Swammerdam was torn between mystical religious feelings and his commitment to the new experimental science. But most importantly, the site brings Swammerdam's passion for the natural world alive. Take his description of a postcoital snail that retires to its shell “until the furious lust of generation gathers new strength, and effaces the memory of the uneasiness suffered after the former coition.”


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