Catching Up with Today in Science History

Born February 13th:

G. Brown Goode (Born 13 Feb 1851; died 6 Sep 1896). G(eorge) Brown Goode was an American zoologist who directed the scientific reorganization and recataloging of the collection at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. During the 1880’s he edited two volumes of atlases of illustrations of “The Fisheries and Fisheries Industries of the United States” while Deputy Commissioner of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. The study captured the state of the American fisheries at that time. They describe a significant part of the marine environment with 532 etchings of marine mammals, fish, and shellfish and also illustrated the state of fishing vessels, gear, methods, and processing.

Sir Joseph Banks (Born 13 Feb 1743; died 19 Jun 1820). (Baronet) British explorer and naturalist, and long-time president of the Royal Society, known for his promotion of science. As an independent naturalist, Banks participated in a voyage to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1767. He successfully lobbied the Royal Society to be included on what was to be James Cook’s first great voyage of discovery, on board the Endeavour (1768-71). King George III appointed Banks adviser to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Banks established his London home as a scientific base (1776) with natural history collections he made freely available to researchers. In 1819, he was Chairman of committees established by the House of Commons, one to enquire into prevention of banknote forgery, the other to consider systems of weights and measures.

Born February 14th:

Joseph Thomson (Born 14 Feb 1858; died 2 Aug 1895). Scottish geologist, naturalist and explorer who was the first European to enter several regions of eastern Africa and whose writings are outstanding contributions to geographical knowledge, exceptional for their careful records and surveys. Thomson’s gazelle (Gazella thomsoni), the most common gazelle of eastern Africa, was named for him.

Thomas Robert Malthus (Born 14 Feb 1766; died 23 Dec 1834). English economist and demographer, best known for his theory that population growth will always tend to outrun the food supply and that betterment of the lot of mankind is impossible without stern limits on reproduction.

Died February 14th:

Sir Julian Huxley (Died 14 Feb 1975; born 22 Jun 1887). Sir Julian Sorell Huxley was an English biologist, philosopher, educator, and author who greatly influenced the modern development of embryology, systematics, and studies of behaviour and evolution. He studied the differential growth of different body parts, Problems of Relative Growth (1932). He wrote many popular articles and essays, especially on ornithology and evolution, and co-produced several history films, including the Private Life of the Gannet (1934). No stranger to controversy, Huxley supported the contentious view that the human race could benefit from planned parenthood using artificial insemination by donors of “superior characteristics”. (He was the grandson of biologist T. H. Huxley and brother of Aldous Huxley.)

Carl Erich Correns (Died 14 Feb 1933; born 19 Sep 1864). German botanist and geneticist who in 1900, independent of, but simultaneously with, the biologists Erich Tschermak von Seysenegg and Hugo de Vries, rediscovered Gregor Mendel’s historic paper outlining the principles of heredity. In attempting to ascertain the extent to which Mendel’s laws are valid, he undertook a classic study of non-Mendelian heredity in variegated plants, such as the four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa) which he established (1909) as the first conclusive example of extrachromosomal, or cytoplasmic, inheritance (cases in which certain characteristics of the progeny are determined by factors in the cytoplasm of the female sex cell).

James Cook (Died 14 Feb 1779; born 28 Oct 1728). English seaman who was the first of the really scientific navigators. Captain Cook spent several years surveying the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. He observed a solar eclipse on 5 Aug 1766 near Cape Ray, Newfoundland. On the first of three expeditions into the Pacific (1768) he took Joseph Banks as the ship’s botanist to study the flora and fauna discovered. (This practice of carrying a naturalist took place some 75 years before Charles Darwin’s famous voyage.) Cook observed the transit of Venus on this voyage from the island of Tahiti on 3 Jun 1769. This would help scientists plot the distance between the sun to the earth. His geographical discoveries made him the most famous navigator since Magellan. He was killed by cannibal natives in Hawaii.

Died February 15th:

Jan Swammerdam (Died 15 Feb 1680; born 12 Feb 1637). Dutch naturalist, known for his skilled biological microscopical observations and accurate illustrations, who was the first to describe the red blood cells (1658). He studied and illustrated the life histories and anatomy of many species of insects, which he classified on the basis of development. He demonstrated the presence of butterfly wings in caterpillars about to undergo pupation. To facilitate the study of human anatomy, he developed better methods for injecting wax and dyes into cadavers. He was one of the first to dissect under water and to remove fat by organic solvents. He demonstrated experimentally that whereas muscles alter in shape during contraction, their volume is not thereby increased, which contradicted beliefs of the time.

Born February 16th:

Ernst Haeckel (Born 16 Feb 1834; died 9 Aug 1919). German biologist who separated the animal kingdom into unicellar and multicellular organisms, and was an enthusiastic supporter of Darwin’s theories. He led numerous scientific expeditions, and cataloged 4,000 new species of lower marine animals. However, he held an erroneous concept, popularized an expression, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” (meaning that he supposed any animal embryo progresses through all previous evolutionary stages as it develops) which he based on the striking resemblance of the early embryos of many early vertibrate embryos. Such interpretation may not have lasted, but he nevertheless stimulated enquiry. He coined many words used by biologists today, such as ecology, phylum and phylogeny.

Sir Francis Galton (Born 16 Feb 1822; died 17 Jan 1911). English scientist, founder of eugenics, statistician and investigator of intellectual ability. He explored in south-western Africa. In meteorology, he was first to recognise and name the anticyclone. He interpreted the theory of evolution of (his cousin) Charles Darwin to imply inheritance of talent could be manipulated. Galton had a long-term interest in eugenics – a word he coined for scientifically selected parenthood to enable inheritance of beneficial characteristics. He coined the phrase “nature versus nurture.” Galton experimentally verified the uniqueness of fingerprints, and suggested the first classification based on grouping the patterns into arches, loops, and whorls. On 1 Apr 1875, he published the first newspaper weather map – in The Times.

Jean-Baptiste-Julien d’ Omalius d’Halloy (Born 16 Feb 1783; died 15 Jan 1875). Belgian geologist who was an early proponent of evolution. From his youth he pursued geological researches. He was one of the pioneers of modern geology who determined the stratigraphy of the Carboniferous and other rocks in Belgium and the Rhine provinces, and also made detailed studies of the Tertiary deposits of the Paris Basin. As noted by Charles Darwin in the preface of Origin of the Species: “In 1846 the veteran geologist … Halloy published … his opinion that it is more probable that new species have been produced by descent with modification than that they have been separately created: the author first promulgated this opinion in 1831.” Even in his ninety-first year Halloy made a scientific expedition alone, which exertion contributed to his death.

Died February 16th:

H. W. Bates (Died 16 Feb 1892; born 8 Feb 1825). H(enry) W(alter) Bates was a naturalist and explorer whose demonstration of the operation of natural selection in animal mimicry (the imitation by a species of other life forms or inanimate objects), published in 1861, gave firm support to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. He and Alfred Russel Wallace left England in 1842 to explore and collect insects in the Amazon basin. Bates spent 11 years in Amazonia amassing large collections of insects that were sent back to museums and collectors in Europe. Bates was quick to embrace Darwin’s and Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Bates’ own theory of mimicry, which now bears his name (Batesian mimicry), provided evidence for evolution by natural selection.

3 thoughts on “Catching Up with Today in Science History

  1. Thanks Michael, I was beginning to wonder where you had got to….

    Do you know of any good biography of Joseph Banks? I have been looking for Patrick O’Brian’s, with no success.

  2. Thanks. I searched that on a few months ago and it came up as unavailable. Now it is listed again.

    Where’s me wallet…?

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