As a boy Philip Henry Gosse explored the sea-life around Poole. His aunt Susan was a huge encouragement. This passion stayed with him for the rest of his life. Later on he worked in Newfoundland and Canada before becoming a schoolmaster in Dallas, Alabama. His skills as a zoologist later took him on a collecting expedition to Jamaica.

Gosse is probably best known for his book on aquariums. He tells the public how to keep rock pool animals alive in their own homes. Gosse invented the word ‘aquarium’ and helped create the first public aquarium in Regent’s Park in London. His books are partly responsible for the aquarium craze that gripped Victorian England.

Gosse moves to Devon

In 1849 he became ill. He moved to St Marychurch, South Devon, and later to Ilfracombe. It was here that he began to research and write about the marine life of rocky shores. ‘A Naturalist’s Rambles on the Devonshire Coast’ and a ‘Year at the Shore’ are both about his trips to local rock pools.

Gosse tried to reconcile the Bible and Darwin’s theories. His efforts were poorly received. This, coupled with the death of his wife, left him rather depressed and he returned to find solace in St Marychurch. He went on to complete what many consider his greatest work on British sea anemones and corals.

Gosse and RAMM

RAMM has many examples of Gosse’s accurate scale drawings and attractive chalk and collage lecture slides. Some of these correspond to plates from his publications. Browse them on Collections Explorer.

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