Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Charles Wilson Peale's Science

Yesterday you learned about a great painter from the America’s revolutionary days. But Charles Wilson Peale did more than just paint portraits of famous Americans and foreign visitors. Peale is also known for his natural history museum and his contributions to science.

Peale put together the first scientific expedition in America. He and his crew went to New York and dug up a full mastodon skeleton. The mastodon is extinct, but it was kind of like an elephant. Below is Peale’s The Exhumation of the Mastodon. This painting shows Peale’s crew trying to dig the mastodon out of the ground. They are using to the buckets and wheel to empty the water out of the hole.
Peale also collected living snakes, toads, turtles, and fish. He stuffed other animals, including several species of birds. He classified everything using the Linnaean taxonomy. The Linnaean taxonomy is the same system we use today to classify living things (though it is much more complex today).

Charles Wilson Peale gathered all these animals and created a natural history museum in Philadelphia. He placed each animal in its own natural habitat. He put the mastodon’s bones back together to create a full, 3D skeleton. Neither of these things were common in natural history museums in the 1800s but you’ll notice skeletons and animals in natural scenes when you go the museum now. Above is Peale’s The Artist in his Museum. It shows Peale pulling the curtain to reveal his natural history museum. Notice the mastodon skeleton behind the curtain and the stuffed animals lining the walls.

**If anyone knows of a good site about Linnaean taxonomy for kids, please tell us about it in the comments. I couldn't find one to link to here, but it would be very helpful. Thanks!**

Edited to Add: Thanks to Ms. Julie for the link: taxonomy for kids. This site is very long but it's written in easy-to-understand language.

Also thanks to Peter for the classification link. Here you'll find a simple illustration of how to sort colored shapes the way we sort living things.

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Unknown said...

I know a lot of home schoolers frequent this page Jessica. If they have not already thought of this, just these past two posts could be the framework of a great unit study!
I really appreciate what you do and I'm learning tons! Thank you!

Unknown said...

By the way I did have a link for a classification site over on my Homeschool Herald Site.

I would say it is friendlier to older kids though. It has more links from there.
The site is

Jessica said...

Thanks so much for the link. Classification is so complicated. The simpler it can be explained, the better--for kids and adults!

I'm glad you're finding the site useful. Thanks for the comments!

PeterParis said...

There is a site which I believe gives a good way of the "classification understanding" and where the "hierarchical ordering" is illustrated,: http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/ahp/CLAS/CLAS.Linn.html

PeterParis said...

Forgot to say how much I have learnt here and how impressed I am about WP - and you!

Jessica said...

Thanks for the nice comments, Peter, and for the link. The illustrations are helpful.

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