A Line in Birds:Thomas W Blakiston’s contribution to Ornithology and Biogeography in Early-Meiji Japan by Andrew Davis

blakiston

Wednesday, 28th October 2009, 6.45pm
The Oriental Club, Stratford House,11 Stratford Place,
Marylebone, London, W1C 1ES
Free – booking essential. A pay bar is available before the lecture
(Please note that Oriental Club rules require gentlemen to wear a tie)

“Blakiston’s Line” is the boundary between a ‘Siberian’ flora and fauna north of Honshu and a ‘Tropical’ one to the south. It is an important biogeographic discontinuity in eastern Asia. Blakiston (1832-1891) determined his line on the basis of intense study and deep knowledge of Japan’s birds and a lesser, but still impressive, knowledge of its other animals and its plants. His knowledge of the birds also led to his producing the first classificatory catalogue of Japanese birds.

Andrew Davis spent four years as a professor at Hokkaido University, teaching and conducting research. It was when introducing the familiar concept of Blakiston’s Line to his ecology students, that he began to wonder who Blakiston was and why his name was associated with this biogeographic distinction between the organisms of Honshu and those of Hokkaido. Andrew Davis argues that it was Blakiston’s ability to make these contributions to Japanese biology arose, because he fitted none of the normal categories for Europeans in Meiji Japan and was thus a member of them all. He was not employed by the Japanese state, was not an academic, not strictly speaking a scientist nor a merchant, and certainly not an accredited diplomat.

Andrew Davis currently lives in Jena, Germany, conducting ecological research at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology, running a translation business and researching the life and work of Thomas Wright Blakiston.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 7828 6330 or email events@japansociety.org.uk .

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