NABOKV-L post 0013273, Fri, 8 Sep 2006 19:39:49 -0700

Improbable Collocations: VN's butterfly genitalia & Stalin's Ant
Harvard University's Museum of Natural History is a bastion of modern-day scientific research. But it still shows its roots as a cabinet of wonders, as Nancy Pick's The Rarest of the Rare proves. Among its curiosities are the last stuffed bird from the Lewis and Clark expedition, butterfly genitalia collected by Vladimir Nabokov and the Stalin ant. The insect was present at a Kremlin dinner attended by Stalin and Harlow Shapley, a Harvard astronomer and amateur entomologist, who preserved it by dropping it into his vodka. Then there's the mastodon skeleton at the centre of a notorious murder case. John Webster, a Harvard professor who borrowed $ 3,000 from landlord George Parkman to acquire the skeleton, was hanged in 1850 for killing his creditor after human bones -- and Parkman's false teeth -- were found in Webster's furnace and tea chest.

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