Presenting… The Worldwide Web

How spiders linked the world together, and the man at the centre of it all.
From 26 July to 27 September

The Worldwide Web

This is one of the spiders that Pickard-Cambridge collected. With over 35,000 species described from all regions of the globe, except Antarctica, spiders are diverse in both form and origin.

spider specimen in spirit

Golden Silk Orb-weaver

The magnificently-named Octavius Pickard-Cambridge (1828-1917) was one of the foremost arachnologists of his day, who received correspondence and spider specimens from all over the world. He amassed a collection of an estimated 40,000 arachnids, covering all the major groups, and was a prolific author of scientific papers.

Born in Bloxworth, Dorset, Pickard-Cambridge collected a wide range of spider-related materials, as well as the spiders themselves. The majority of his specimens come from the United Kingdom, but there are examples of species from over 120 other countries, representing fauna from each of the continents where spiders and their allies are found.

Along with the specimen collection there is also a large archive of Pickard-Cambridge’s correspondence. This archive maps out a worldwide web of contacts, showing Pickard-Cambridge as a focal point of Victorian-era arachnology.

It is striking how scientists like Pickard-Cambridge were able to build global networks of correspondents at a time before the modern worldwide web, which makes communication between scientists much more rapid today.

Other features from our Presenting... series
William Burchell
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Fulgurites
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A space traveller’s arrival
Alfred Russel Wallace
William Smith
The science of disguise
Our new Collections Manager - Hilary Ketchum
The Breath of Life
Pine cones, great and small
Charles Darwin's insects
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The Oxford Dodo
Fossils of the Gault Clay
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A wartime gift
The other Audubon
The wonderful diversity of bees
A plesiosaur named Eve

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