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An open letter to Hugh Laurie, aka “Dr. House”

September 22, 2011

Mr. Laurie:

While I’m a fan of the curmudgeonly brilliant physician you play on television, I am also intrigued by your real-life polymathic tendencies.  Congratulations, sir, on the unbounded success of your new blues album, “Let Them Talk.”  (I will still always think of you belting out vintage tunes at a plinkety piano in “Jeeves & Wooster.”)

In the New York Times magazine interview (“Hugh Laurie Sings the Blues,” profile by Gavin Edwards, 9/4/11) you experienced while meandering through the Darwin exhibit at London’s Natural History Museum with your journalist buddy-of-the-day, you lamented the horrifyingly invasive aspects of interactive museum media and sought peace and quiet.

He headed past an array of interactive touch screens explaining evolution, then questioned a security guard about where he could find a less high-tech section of the museum.  “Glass cases, mahogany cabinets, no people,” Laurie specified.  Thus directed, we decamped for the mineral gallery and found a bench between the sulfides and the silicates.

Mr. Laurie, I’ve got the nexus of glass cases, mahogany cabinets and Charles Darwin to recommend to you if your publicity tour takes you through Philadelphia.

Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth, image courtesy of Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadephia, click to view original

Don’t miss the Wagner Free Institute of Science, founded in the 19th century to provide free science education for the people of Philadelphia.  Little has changed since its founding and you’ll find glass cases galore, filled with stuffed birds and mammals, skeletons, fossils, geologic specimens and more.

As the museum’s own website explains

The Institute is not a reflection of the past, but the past itself, visible and vital, as it continues to pursue the mission of its founder, William Wagner.

You don’t need a replica of Darwin’s ship, the H.M.S. Beagle, in order to indulge in exploration of Darwin’s theories.  (Darwin, according to Laurie, is “a good contender for the single biggest idea anyone’s ever had.”)  Wandering around the Wagner, one might think they just glimpsed Darwin himself disappearing around Case 71 with the hanging tree sloth.

You don’t need to thank me for the suggestion.  Just enjoy yourself.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2011 10:26 am

    I’ve never heard of the Wagner, and I’m always on the lookout for free, interesting stuff to do. Thanks for the tip! Also, good word: ‘polymathic’. It’s been awhile since I had to look up a word. 😉 Thanks for the dose of enlightenment!

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      September 22, 2011 10:33 am

      Glad to be able to steer you toward a fascinating place, Joy! (And it always tickles me to be able to link past and present in unexpected ways) You can also check out their “Science on Tap” events (often held at National Mechanics); science lectures and beer — tough to top that! (The next one is October 10)

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  1. Ah, the sweet nectar of science! Mark your calendar « My Own Time Machine: Buildings, Places, People & Things

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