This Day In London’s History
1826: The founders of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) hold their first meeting.
In 1824 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of the city of Singapore, returned to England in poor health. After a period of convalescence in Cheltenham he moved to London and turned his attention to establishing a ‘learned society’ for the purpose of studying animals. On 26th February 1826 he held the society’s first meeting, with a number of eminent naturalists in attendance.
Stamford Raffles was elected president of the society in April, but suffered a stroke and died in July. Nonetheless his successor, the Marquess of Lansdowne proceeded to build London’s Zoological Gardens at the north end of Regent’s Park, which were opened to the public in April 1828.
London’s Zoological Gardens, or ‘London Zoo’ as they would become known, grew from strength to strength – soon boasting the most extensive collection of animals in the world. The Zoological Society went on to expand its operations in the twentieth century, opening Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in 1931 to allow animals to be kept in more ‘natural’ surroundings, and setting up the Institute of Zoology in 1961 to enable scientific research into “issues relevant to the conservation of animal species and their habitats”.
As well as being the oldest scientific zoo in the world, London Zoo can also lay claim to having opened the first reptile house, the first public aquarium, the first insect house and the first children’s zoo.
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
You might conceivably recall us salivating over the British Library’s exhibition ‘London: A Life in Maps’ when it opened last November. Well the exhibition draws to a close this Sunday (4th March), so if you haven’t checked it out yet, this week is your last chance to do so. Full details on the British Library’s website.
If you’re thinking of popping along, you should also have a look at the ‘Treasures of the British Library’ permanent exhibition while you’re there. It certainly impressed us on our exploratory visit last summer.
Picture taken from nic0’s Flickr photostream under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Sharealike 2.0 licence.