Edited 21st Sept 05 to include picture of herbarium sheet.
In my article ‘Business Intelligence (BI): The way it is without the blah blah’, I mention that I was aware of some exiting research using the SQL Server OLAP engine, the results of which where hopefully about to hit Nature magazine. I couldn
The article doesn
Let me give you an abstract to show how SQL Server Analysis Services OLAP has contributed to mankind’s understanding of its own history and the study of biology therein.
In the shadow of the afore mentioned article, we must now understand that it was Henslow who had first recognised variation in species, and that it was this recognition and the desire to seek its verification that put Darwin on the Beagle. Furthermore, it was the fidelity of Darwin to fulfil this ambition, with its incumbent rigours in procedure, that ultimately lead him to break free of the creationist shackles that had hindered his mentor, and from which, sadly, his mentor would never be freed.
The research in this article covers 10,172 plants collected by Henslow. By creating an OLAP cube to analyse the sheets of paper holding these plant samples, the researchers show that Henslow organised his documentation by none other than the variation he observed to be within the limits of species variation. Nobody is known to have attempted this before. It is of the stuff that makes a good film that we can now visit his herbarium at Cambridge and see, with newly enlightened eyes, how the plants within it have been carefully arranged to illuminate this most potent observation; a place where, hitherto, this brilliant enlightenment has been so shrouded in the dark silence of ignorance.
Below, courtesy of the authors, is an image of one of Henslow’s herbarium sheets: Phleum arenarium. Eight numbered individuals are arranged in order of increasing height. Plants 1-5 were collected 3rd June 1829 at Mildenhall, Suffolk by J.S. Henslow. Plants 6-8 were collected in June 1822 at Liverpool by W. Wilson.