Today in Science History: Happy Birthday to E.O. Wilson & Some Other Naturalists/Biologists Died Years Ago

Edward O. Wilson (Born 10 June 1929) Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist recognized as the world’s leading authority on ants who has conducted extensive studies of the ecology and evolution of the ant. He has travelled the world studying ant populations, and he has discovered several new ant species. These currently number practically 9,000, but Wilson predicts that count will someday total nearly 20,000. He also estimates that within these species there are over a million billion individuals. In 1967, he co-published The Theory of Island Biogeography, a study of islands, which examines the relation between island size, the number of species contained, and their evolutionary balance. He is also active in sociobiology, a genetic study of social behaviour.

PREVIOUSLY on DoD: Plants & Ants on PBS Last Night: Watch Online! (NY Times review of “Ants”), LECTURE: E.O. Wilson on “The Great Linnean Enterprise” (a paper here, and a summary here), “From Bacon to Bits” 400 Years of Science”, Happy Birthday E.O. Wilson (2007, with more links), Encyclopedia of Life; OTHER: Bob Sacha on Wilson the Rock Star, and – just for fun – I recently noticed that Wilson reminds me of a particular animal Darwin was fond of, this picture specifically,

Otto Heinrich Schindewolf (Died 10 June 1971; born 7 June 1896). German paleontologist, known for his research on corals and cephalopods. He was an anti-Darwinist, who advocated a cataclysmic theory of evolution to explain the origin of the higher taxonomic categories. Studying different fossil species of coral and ammonites obtained from sequential geological strata, he concluded that the most recent taxonomic categories could not have arisen by slow, intermediate steps, generally thought to characterize evolution, but rather by large, single transformations. Though his views are not accepted by many biologists, particularly the population geneticists, who consider them too controversial, he has drawn attention to fundamental problems in evolution.

Filippo Silvestri (Died 10 June 1949; born 22 Jun 1873). Italian entomologist, best remembered for his pioneering work in polyembryony, the development of more than one individual from a single fertilized egg cell. During the late 1930s Silvestri discovered that this type of reproduction occurs in the insect species Litomatix truncatellus. His finding, resulting from a close analysis of the reproductive stages, cell division, and egg structure of these parasitic hymenopterans, attracted the attention of many biologists because of its implications for the nature of the egg and the causes of multiple generation. He also studied the morphology and biology of the Termitidae, the most highly evolved family of termites. He also made a comparative study of the form and structure of the millipede and the centipede.

Robert Brown (Died 10 June 1858; born 21 Dec 1773). Scottish botanist who was an outsatanding authority on plant physiology in his day. Improved the natural classification of plants by establishing and defining new families and genera, but is best known for being the first to notice the natural continuous movement of minute particles in colloidal solution (1828), since known as Brownian movement. Later scientists recognized that this gives direct evidence of molecular motion in liquids, and links to the kinetic theory of gases. Brown established the distinction (1826) between what became known as the conifers (gymnosperms) and the flowering plants (angiosperms). He recognized the general occurence in living cells of a structure for which he coined the name nucleus (Latin: “little nut”).

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