Culture24's top ten Science and Nature stories of 2014

| 30 December 2014

Charles Darwin's notebooks, Patrick Moore's BBC scripts and David Livingstone's African beetles; just a few of the top stories of 2104 in Science and Nature

A photo of a person silhouetted against a large glowing yellow scientific cylindrical machine
© Nick Rochowski / Science Museum
The Large Hadron Collider arrives in Manchester

People might not have been able to get to CERN’s Geneva base, reasoned the Museum of Science and Industry, so the particle physics laboratory arrived in Manchester – or, at least, a luminous recreation of it, following a spell at the Science Museum which attracted 25,000 visitors. Olivier Award-winning actors Michael Wynne and Finn Ross were part of a display combining curation and theatre.

a photo of the interior of a museum with two large dinosaur casts
© Oxford University
Thousands visit the reopened Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Curators were eager to reopen after 14 months out and a dawn call saw the earliest of 5,000 people on the opening Saturday. It followed a period Director Paul Smith described as a “long, dark year”. “It is very nice to see the doors opened again without buckets to collect rainwater,” he added of a place first opened as a home for seven million specimens in 1860.

A black and white photo of a man in a suit looking through a telescope in a garden
© Chris Doherty
Patrick Moore’s archive moves to the Science Museum

Personally assembled at the home where he would work and rest when he wasn’t welcoming impromptu, starry-eyed visitors, Patrick Moore’s collection came under the care of the Science Museum in an agreement fostered by the master astronomer’s former friend, Queen guitarist Dr Brian May. The items, including draft scripts for The Sky at Night and detailed drawings, will be made available to the public once they have been catalogued.

A photo of black ink handwriting on a shade of mottled yellow paper
© Cambridge University Library
Cambridge University releases vast collection of Charles Darwin notes and pictures

Darwin’s Pencil Sketch, in 1842, was the first time the scientist coined the term “natural selection”. Perhaps this one artefact encapsulated a collection described by academics as the most complete explanation of his thought patterns, with the “seedbed of the Origin” initially taking form in late 1838 and 1839.

A photo of a man in a dark blue raincoat standing in a forest with green plants and trees
© Iain Pate
Semiconductor and Chris Watson foray through forests

Three of the country’s most creative science artists – Cabaret Voltaire founder Chris Watson and Brighton art duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, known as Semiconductor – plotted singular routes for public explorers through forests in Northumberland and Surrey. Part of Watson’s walk, including hidden multichannel speakers, was inspired by ravens from Norse mythology; Jarman and Gerhardt’s “very wobbly”, semi-permanent design incorporated a 26-metre flux tower.

A close-up photo of a beetle with a large yellow and black abdomen and very thin legs
© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London
Beetles from David Livingstone’s African adventures found in vaults

Max Barclay, a beetle curator, was carrying out a routine check when he found a box of 20 pinned specimens. Gathered by lawyer and amateur entomologist Edward Young Western when he accompanied David Livingstone’s Zambezi River expedition 150 years ago, they will, as a pleasantly surprised Barclay admitted, be studied by observers for generations to come.

A photo of a newspaper cutting showing a picture of a female anatomy surrounded by text
© Wellcome Library, London
Wellcome Trust sends 100,000 exhibits free online

You can’t say fairer than a collection which “touches and illuminates almost every facet of human existence”, as British Academy Fellow Colin Jones credits the trust’s set of more than 100,000 images with being. Users can copy, edit and use each object under the blessing of a modest acknowledgement: the oldest is a 2,000-year-old prescription from Egypt.

A photo of the body of a read mammal inside a box with a male curator looking at it
© NHM, London
Natural History Museum’s Russian guest – the most complete woolly mammoth ever found

Comparable in size to a large dog but with some fairly noticeable differences, this mammoth baby was spotted frozen in wet clay and mud by a reindeer herder on a Siberian peninsular seven years ago. Part of a vast herd of a huge Ice Age creatures, Lyuba – ‘love’ in Russian – died 42,000 years ago.

A photo of a large dinosaur arched towards the camera with grey bones and spine
© Courtesy NHM
World's most complete Stegosaurus fossil skeleton goes on show

No surprise that Professor Paul Barrett, the NHM’s lead dinosaur researcher, described this 300-bone, 150 million-year-old fossil as an “extraordinary” specimen. With the distinction of becoming the first complete specimen to join the display in nearly a century, this most recognisable giant is the size of a 4x4 originally arrived from Switzerland and the US at the end of 2013.

A photo of a woman drawing a diagram of a large rhino skull inside a modern museum
© Grant Museum of Zoology UCL
Grant Museum bids to preserve rarest skeleton in the world

London’s Grant Museum is ceaselessly ambitious. After years of corrosion – partly because of the proximity visitors are allowed to them, which should induce a few guilty donations – curators started preservation work on 40 of their largest skeletons, from gorillas and rhinos to baby orang-utans and river dolphins.

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More from Culture24's review of 2014:

Top ten literary history and heritage stories of 2014

Top ten archaeology stories of 2014

Top ten military history stories of 2014
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