Job Baster


Today is the birthday of the Dutch naturalist and pond-owner-extraordinaire Job Baster.

Baster was one of the first Dutch nature researchers to use a microscope to look at flora and fauna. He wrote down his findings in a book. He also wrote an excellent translation of Philip Miller's work on horticulture.
In 1758, Baster was given a beautiful property loaded trees and two large ponds. He called it Zonnehof (Sunshine Farms). As a new pond owner, Baster decided to try his hand at breeding Goldfish. A versatile scientist, Baster exchanged letters with leading biologists of his time, and the first twelve fish arrive thanks to a contact in England. Unfortunately, all the goldfish die. The following year, Baster gets eighteen more fish. Two die, but the rest survive. Thirteen years later, Baster owned more than a thousand goldfish. When Baster died, an inventory of his estate showed that all of his goldfish had been sold - raising over seven hundred guilders (not a small amount at the time). That's Job Baster, the man who introduced goldfish to the Dutch.
Baster also drew goldfish and then hand-colored the images. I've seen these images, and I'm telling you they have that iridescence that makes them look like someone just laid out real goldfish on the page - they are that life-like after all this time.
Baster had a large collection of shells. At the time, adhering shells to furniture was a fad in Europe. Baster took the fad and ran with it, covering a buffet with European and Tropical shells. At the bottom of the buffet are the coat of arms of Baster (jumping greyhound) and his wife Jacoba Vink (climbing lion) - all made out of shells. After seeing the Baster buffet at the Royal Zeeland Society of Sciences, one sightseer commented, "one can almost hear Baster's wife, who donated the piece to the museum after his death, saying, "Job, will you do something with all those shells!"
To honor Baster's work with mollusks, there is a floating snail named for Baster, and the Dutch Malacological Association's scientific journal "Basteria" is a nod to this versatile explorer of the natural world.

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Job Baster
Job Baster

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