image intellectual observer_november 1862_plate 1
Image number: RS.12338
Credit: ©The Royal Society

‘The Portuguese Man of War’





Peter Hinckes Bird (1827-1891, British), Surgeon

Object type




height (print): 212mm
width (print): 135mm


Content object

   > animal


Seascape showing a surface view of the marine siphonophore, the Atlantic Portuguese man o' war Physalia physalis (here termed Physalia pelagica). The illustration is of the flotation bladder, or pneumatophore, with limited underwater detail of the colony.

Plate accompanying the paper ‘Physalia pelagia, (the Portuguese Man-of-War) (With an illustration in colours from a living specimen in the aquarium of P.H.Bird, Esq)’, by H Noel Humphreys, The Intellectual Observer, November 1862, pp.233-243. Inscribed below: ‘THE PORTUGUESE MAN OF WAR. Physalia Pelagia.’

The accompanying text states that: ‘The specimen from which our drawing was taken was, it is believed, the first ever seen alive in London. It was obtained by my friend, Mr P.H. Bird, M.R.C.S., while visiting the Isle of Wight in July last. He heard of an extraordinary creature having been secured by the captain of a trading vessel; and being an enthusiastic naturalist, hastened on board to see the marine wonder…procuring a large barrel, placed in longitudinally, so as to serve as a temporary aquarium…Many of Mr Bird’s friends were fortunate in seeing it in a living state in his aquarium, but, in spite of fresh sea-water obtained every day, its London existence was exceedingly brief…several drawings were made from the life, and our colour printed engraving was taken from one made by Mr. Bird.’

Peter Hinckes Bird (1827-1891) British surgeon and Medical Officer of Health, was also an artist and photographer.

Associated place

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