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The Big Interview: From sugar packets to shells, David Feld has some unusual collections

David Feld.
David Feld.

You would be hard pushed to find anyone else in Grantham who has as many interests, collections and society memberships than David Feld. We spoke to the microbiologist, natural historian, conchologist, taxonomist, bibliomane and ephemerist to find out more.

**What are your background and qualifications? I have a higher national diploma in applied biology from Sheffield Polytechnic and am a member of the Institute of Biology, now the Royal Society of Biology, by examination (the equivalent of an Honours degree) earned at Manchester Polytechnic. I am also a chartered biologist and have run laboratories for several companies over the years, including Christian Salvesen, Cadbury and Dairy Crest. I am an expert in the microorganisms which occur in food and water – bacteria, yeasts, moulds, protozoans and viruses – and their detection. I have also run quality departments within food and other companies.

David's shell collection.
David's shell collection.

**Tell us about being a natural historian and conchologist. I have always been fascinated by things biological, and call myself a natural historian, such that very few aspects of wildlife escape my attention. My main interest outside of microbiology is conchology, the study of shells, together with malacology, the study of molluscs. My collection houses over 3,000 species from all over the world. My favourite is the shinbone tibia, or tibia fusus, which grows to over a foot long. I take part in ‘bioblitzes’ and other surveys of particular areas of Lincolnshire, where I identify and list all of the molluscs present. Later this year I will be following up on another interest, the fungi by taking part in, and probably leading, the latest Society of Biology’s East Midlands branch fungus foray at Twyford Woods.

**What does it mean to be a taxonomist? Being a biologist has given me an interest in the way animals, plants and microorganisms are named (taxonomy) and in how they are interrelated (systematics). I’ve been elected to one of the world’s oldest learned societies, The Linnean Society of London, named after Karl von Linné who devised the binomial system of nomenclature. Linné was the man who gave us such names as Homo sapiens which are understood by biologists all around the world, whatever their own first language. Linné, Charles Darwin and his modern champion, Richard Dawkins, are my heroes. I am also a member of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, the Institute of Science Technology, and Grantham Civic Society.

**And you collect books and ephemera, too? My passion for books has taken me beyond being a bibliophile (book-lover) to bibliomane (literally mad about books). I am a member of the Jerome K. Jerome Society, and have a couple of hundred of ‘JKJ’ volumes, including dozens of different editions of his Three Men in a Boat. I tell people that I have about 20,000 volumes; this is possibly a slight exaggeration, but the collection is certainly into five figures! Friends and family call me a hoarder, but strictly speaking I am a collector, being very particular about what I collect. My third main collection is of sugar-packets, of which I have several thousand, and the study of which is called sucrology. I have also become very interested in collecting modern ephemera, including newspaper cuttings and leaflets. Unfortunately, I tend to collect these faster than I can file and curate them!


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