image L&P_7_188_5
Image number: RS.8500
Credit: © The Royal Society
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Turret nests of termites


ca. 1781


Henry Smeathman (1742-1786, British), Naturalist

Object type

Archive reference number



height (painting): 232mm
width (painting): 292mm


Content object

   > animal
      > insect


Plate 9 figures 1-6 and one unused figure from the paper “Some account of the termites, which are found in Africa and other hot climates”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society vol.71 part 1 1781 pp.139-192. View of “turret nests” of termites (identified by Smeathman as Termes mordax and Termes atrox) in grassland, with a key to the figures below. An inset figure, showing a European stooping over a smaller scale version of the same scene with a measuring rod, was not used in the printed plate. This figure tentatively identified as a portrait of Henry Smeathman in the essay “Imagining the tropical colony: Henry Smeathman and the termites of Sierra Leone” by Starr Douglas and Felix Driver (2005). A faint pencil inscription above this reads: “This group and figure not to be engraved”. Headed “Drawing 6”. Signed upper left “Hen: Smeathman, del”.

Associated place