Yesterday on Taxacom a request for short sound files of scientists’ voices was made by Andy Mabbett, a Wikipedian from Birmingham. This request formed part of a project to add more sound files to Wikipedia. I happened to pick up the message in the evening after the children had been fed, organised and sent to bed, at a time when I tend to do the interesting but non-grant funded academic activities that keep me engaged with e-learning and botany. One of the conditions of the request was the need to be featured in a Wikipedia page.
To my amusement and surprise, in 2008, I discovered I was one of a set of ‘British Botanists’ in the Dutch Wikipedia, opening “Alastair Culham (1965) is een Britse botanicus.” so there was no opportunity to lie about my age! As a class exercise I later got our MSc Plant Diversity students to set up a set of English Wikipedia pages on British Botanists and I was one of the guinea pigs chosen by that group. So I have a Wikipedia page – although it is marked with a warning that the subject may not be sufficiently notable and might get deleted – and was in a position to offer a sound file.
It took a couple of minutes to put on my headset and record the requested statement –
I emailed it through to Andy and 10 minutes later it was sitting on Wikipedia. I’ve always found it very odd hearing my own voice played back but the students seem to cope with it for hours on end during lectures and practicals. I would love to be able to hear recordings of the voice of Linnaeus, Lamarck, Rev William Colenso, Rafinesque and a range of other historic botanists. Perhaps in another 250 years these sound files will be as important as the digitised handwritings we now use to identify the work of historic botanists.