Robbert Striekwold is a PhD student in the History of Biology at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. His research project concerns the history of ichthyology in the Netherlands during the 19th century.
The Odd Shrimp
My research is part of the project 'A New History of Fishes: a long-term approach to fishes in science and culture, 1550-1880'. Within this larger programme, I focus on the role of museums in 19th century ichthyology. In particular, I look at three major fish collections that were brought to the Dutch National Natural History Museum (RMNH; now Naturalis) from Japan and Southeast Asia. These are the collections of Kuhl & van Hasselt, von Siebold, and Bleeker. Much work was done in the Dutch East Indies, where Bleeker was stationed as an army surgeon, and Kuhl &van Hasselt were sent under the auspices of a special Commission for the Scientific Study of the East-Indies.
I look not only at the means by which these collections were acquired, but also at the role the objects played in 19th century natural history. For instance, new techniques of preserving specimens made rigid concepts such as type specimens possible, which turned museums (as repositories for such specimens) into powerful hubs for natural history research. During the 19th century ichthyology came into its own as a professional discipline, as witnessed by such multivolume standard works as Cuvier & Valencienne's 'Histoire Naturelle des Poissons' and Bleeker's 'Atlas Ichthyologique'. This project aims to produce a narrative of the history of ichthyology in which these various threads are connected into an explanatory pattern.
I majored in Biology and Philosophy at Utrecht University from 2007-2010. After two years of laboratory-based internship work in Neuroscience at the UMC Utrecht and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, I switched to a MSc in History & Philosophy of Science at the Descartes Centre in Utrecht, from which I graduated cum laude in 2015. In 2016, I obtained my current PhD position in the History of Biology at Leiden University and Naturalis Biodiversity Centre.