Minerva Scientifica Birthday Celebration
23rd February 2021Agnes Arber (1879-1960)
BORN 23rd Feb 1879, 26 Regent’s Park Road, London
click on the blue button to listen
Botany was Arber’s passion throughout her life, but she approached it in very different ways. She began by studying texts from the 15th – 17th centuries about the uses of herbs in medicine, and then proceeded to research and publish her own work on various plants. During WW2 when she found it hard to continue researching she began to read philosophy and became influenced by mysticism.
The music above is the closest we could come to an example of the kind of Herbal texts Arber was studying – it’s from an early C18th publication “A Curious Herbal” by Aberdonian Botanist Elizabeth Blackwell (c.1700-1758). The music is a combination of riffs created by Frances M Lynch from the listed herbs with interjections by an SATB choir using the music of Isabella Scott Gibson (1786–1838) – originally a hymn setting entitled “With Mary’s Love” in which the voices set out some of the more bizarre medicinal uses for the herbs. The music was produced and recorded by Herbie Clarke and Frances M Lynch with the voices of Frances M Lynch and Francis St. John.
from The Old Mermaid and other poems by Muriel Arber
….Everything in the household has its own particular voice
The bolt of the scullery door and the lid of the biscuit jar,
The clink of the lid of the mustard pot when the table is laid for meals,
Each window and door, each clock being wound, each kettle as it is filled,
The handles of the broom being propped in its corner, the bathwater’s swirl,….
WORKING FROM HOME
Women in STEAMMM!
(Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts, Music, Maths & Medicine)
Agnes Arber was one of many women who typically worked from home at a time when laboratories would not have been welcoming to her sex.
On the left an extract from a poem by her daughter Muriel neatly describes one side of her life
and on the right is a poem of Arber’s own which reflects her philosophical approach to her work
A poem by Agnes Arber (1956) from The Manifold & the One
….Time’s fortress falls, the battlements are down;
The bastions crumble into futile dust.
Time’s captive, man, released by ruin, stands
Freed from the shackling bonds of Here and Now.
Vision, no longer pent and loophole-barred,
Achieves the far horizon in its sweep,….
……Unending stillness and the flowing hour.
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Created by electric voice theatre, Minerva Scientifica is a project that brings together professional performers with community musicians and school children. Together, we raise awareness of the rich heritage and deep connections between music and science, and inspire the next generation of future scientists.