Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Stephen Jay Gould (Born 10 Sep 1941; died 20 May 2002). American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and science writer who grew up in New York City. He graduated from Antioch College and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1967. Since then he has been Professor of Geology and Zoology at Harvard University. He consider[ed] himself primarily a palaeontologist and an evolutionary biologist, though he teaches geology and the history of science as well. A frequent and popular speaker on the sciences, his published work includes both scholarly study and many prize-winning popular collections of essays.

Lilian Gibbs (Born 10 Sep 1870; died 30 Jan 1925). Lilian Suzette Gibbs was an independent English botanist who organized botanical expeditions to some of the most remote places on Earth. After her education at Swanley Horticultural College and in botany at the Royal College of Science, she made a botanical trip to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1905, followed by expeditions in 1907 to Fiji and New Zealand, Queensland and Tasmania. In 1910, she became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Kinabulu in Borneo. She contributed over 1,000 botanical specimens from that trip to the British Museum. Bambusa gibbsiae (Miss Gibbs’s bamboo) was named for her. In 1912 she made a botanical trip to Iceland, and in 1913, to the East Indies and Dutch New Guinea.

John Needham (Born 10 Sep 1713; died 30 Dec 1781). John Turberville Needham was an English naturalist and Roman Catholic priest. He experimented, with Buffon, on the idea of spontaneous generation of life. After boiling mutton broth and sealing it in glass containers which were stored for a few days, then reopened, he found numerous microorganisms therein. His conclusion was that the organisms had arisen from non-living matter. (However, two decades later, Spallanzani indicated this was invalid since some spores could still survive the short period of boiling temperature Needham used.) He was the first clergyman of his faith to become a member of the Royal Society of London (1768).

George Bentham (Died 10 Sep 1844; born 22 Sep 1800). British botanist whose classification of seed plants (Spermatophyta), based on an exhaustive study of all known species, served as a foundation for modern systems of vascular plant taxonomy. Sir William Hooker, invited him to establish permanent quarters at Kew gardens, where Bentham participated in the Gardens’ definitive survey of floras of the British colonies and possessions, for which he prepared the Flora Hongkongensis (1861) and the Flora Australiensis (7 vol., 1863-78), cataloging and describing more than 7,000 species. Collaborating with Hooker’s son Sir Joseph, Bentham spent 27 years in research and examination of specimens for the work Genera Plantarum (3 vol., 1862-83), which covered 200 “orders” of 7,569 genera, and 97,200 species.

1 thought on “Today in Science History

  1. My favourite story about Bentham – his work was long the standard reference for the West Australian flora, despite the fact that he himself never actually set foot in Australia. In fact, he suggested that the soils around modern Perth must be rather swampy due to the high diversity of sundews in the area – Perth is decidedly arid.

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