Way of the Lodestone

The Lamp and Owl is not the first magazine in Birkbeck’s long history. For many years starting in 1905 it was The Lodestone, named after the magnetic rock used in olden days as a sort of compass, to help point the way for travellers. Hidden way in a basement room at Birkbeck is an archive of bound volumes of our predecessor, a complete set, and we have been browsing among its ancient pages. This is the first of a series in which we revive some long-hidden words of wisdom from former Birkbeck students. To start with, from the first two issues, a poem and some thoughts on hobbies:

The Natural History Society was very active. At their April 1905 meeting members brought exhibits and delivered “short scientific lecturettes”. The items shown included:

“A collection of radiant Birds of Paradise; nests of wasps and of the leaf-bee; a collection of pond-life; a collection of minerals and of objects exquisitely worked in them; herbarium specimens of ferns and mosses; specimens illustrating trees in the spring condition; test tube cultures of bacteria, harmful and the reverse; and a collection of drawings of animals by very young children.”

The lecturettes ranged from an account of sleeping sickness by Mr Fantham to one of toadstools by Mr Hastings, and included “a delightful series of slides of birds’-nests by Mr Bayne and some very good photomicrographs by Mr Mason”. More to come! Thanks to Chris Terrey, assistant to the College Secretary, for helping with access to the archive.

Simon Steele

I am a freelance journalist and a student at Birkbeck College, studying web design.

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