Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Sir Ferdinand von Mueller (Born 30 Jun 1825; died 10 Oct 1896). German-born Australian botanist and explorer. He migrated to Australia in 1848 for health reasons, and there became the country’s greatest 19th-century scientist. Mueller gained an international reputation as a great botanical collector and writer. His contributions covered a wide field of sciences such as geography, pharmacy, horticulture, agriculture, forestry, paleontology, and zoology. His activity as a botanist is shown by hundreds of Australian plant names which are followed by ‘F. Muell’. From 1853, he held the post as the first Government Botanist of Victoria until his death, 43 years later. He travelled widely throughout the colonies on botanical exploration, including as naturalist to the Gregory expedition to northern Australia (1855-57).

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (Born 30 Jun 1817; died 10 Dec 1911). English botanist who was assistant on Sir James Ross’s Antarctic expedition and whose botanical travels to foreign lands included India, Palestine and the U.S., from which he became a leading taxonomists in his time. His Student’s Flora of the British Islands became a standard text. He was a great friend of Charles Darwin, and they collaborated in research. With Charles Lyell, Hooker encouraged the publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution. He served (1855-65) as assistant director to his father, Sir William Jackson Hooker, of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, whom he succeeded as director for another 20 years. He was also a president of the Royal Society. At age 94, he died in his sleep and was buried at Kew.

See Jim Endersy’s website on J.D. Hooker, and his new book, Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science. Also, my post on Hooker from March 2008, and today’s post from Mystery of Mysteries.

Abraham Werner (Died 30 Jun 1817; born 25 Sep 1750). Abraham Gottlob Werner was a German geologist who founded the Neptunist school, holding that all rocks have aqueous origins. This contrasts with the Plutonists, or Vulcanists, who maintain that granite among other rocks were of igneous origin. Werner also rejected the idea of uniformitarianism whereby geological evolution has been a uniform and continuous process.

And on this day in 1860, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley squared off in a debate. Prof. Olsen has more, but also read Did Huxley really mop the floor with Wilberforce? from Brian at Laelaps.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (Died 19 Jun 1844; born 15 Apr 1772). French naturalist who established the principle of “unity of composition,” postulating a single consistent structural plan basic to all animals as a major tenet of comparative anatomy, and who founded teratology, the study of animal malformation.

Sir Joseph Banks (Died 19 Jun 1820; born 13 Feb 1743). (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.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston (Born 12 June 1858; died 31 Aug 1927). British explorer, botanist, and pioneer colonial administrator. His interest in zoological specimens gave him a lucrative part-time income, illustrating books for the new sciences of biology, geography and anthropology. The combination of art, languages and a developing interest in the sciences marked Johnston as a new breed of scholar whose skills met colonialism’s need for exploration, expansion and documentation.Widely travelled in Africa and speaking many African languages, he was closely involved in what has been called the scramble for Africa by 19th-century colonial powers. He published 40 books on African subjects.

Karl von Frisch (Died 12 June 1982; born 20 Nov 1886). Zoologist whose studies of communication among bees added significantly to the knowledge of the chemical and visual sensors of insects and simple animals. He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with animal behaviourists Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen. He showed that bees have the ability to recognize different odours and tastes, and discovered their famous “waggle dance” used by bees to communicate among with others in the hive. This sequence of body movements indicates the direction and distance to food. He showed polarized light is used by the bees as a “compass” for navigation, even when the sun is not visible. In fish, he demonstrated their acute hearing, and ability to distinguish colours and brightness.

Fleeming Jenkin (Died 12 June 1885; born 25 Mar 1833). British engineer noted for his work in establishing units of electrical measurement. After earning an M.A. (1851), he worked for the next 10 years with engineering firms engaged in the design and manufacture of submarine telegraph cables and equipment for laying them. In 1861 his friend William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin – see this post) procured Jenkin’s appointment as reporter for the Committee of Electrical Standards of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He helped compile and publish reports that established the ohm as the absolute unit of electrical resistance and described methods for precise resistance measurements.

Jenkin’s review of On the Origin of Species.

Today in Science History

My grandfather would have been 89 years old this day. A World War II veteran, amateur geologist, gardener, metal-detector, interested in butterflies , and 60 minutes-watching man, I wish I would have spent more time with him before he passed away in 2002 from pancreatic cancer. He could have taught me things, but I was too busy hanging out with my friends, going to amusement parks, and watching movies. I have two large storage containers full of rocks, magazine clippings, an old microscope and accessories I inherited after he died (also in there, this Life issue and the 1942 National Geographic issue with Charles R. Knight‘s “Parade of Life through the Ages”) out in my storage shed – I’ll get to going through it in the future. Here are two pictures of him on my photo site.

From Today in Science History:

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (Born 11 Jun 1910; died 25 Jun 1997). French naval officer, oceanographer, marine biologist and ocean explorer, known for his extensive underseas investigations. He was co-inventor of the aqualung which made SCUBA diving possible (1943). Cousteau the developed the Conshelf series of manned habitats, the Diving Saucer, a process of underwater television and numerous other platforms and specialized instruments of ocean science. In 1945 he founded the French Navy’s Undersea Research Group. He modified a WWII wooden hull minesweeper into the research vessel Calypso, in 1950. An observation dome added to the foot of Calypso‘s bow was found to increase the ship’s stability, speed and fuel efficiency.

Mary Jane Rathbun (Born 11 Jun 1860; died 4 Apr 1943). American marine zoologist known for establishing the basic taxonomic information on Crustacea. For many years she was the Smithsonian’s complete department of marine invertebrates where she studied, cataloged, and preserved specimens. Through her basic studies and published works, she fixed the nomenclature of Crustacea and was the recognized, and the much sought after, authority in zoology and carcinology (thestudy of crustacea). When the department needed an assistant, she resigned as superintendent and used her salary to hire someone. She continued to work without pay as a dedicated volunteer carcinologist. She published over 160 papers on a wide variety of scientific subjects.

Leland Ossian Howard (Born 11 Jun 1857; died 1 May 1950). American entomologist noted for pioneering efforts in applied entomology and his experiments in the biological control of harmful insects. He is regarded as the founder of agricultural and medical entomology. He proposed that natural enemies rather than pesticides be used for controlling pests. Howard was head of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for over 30 years. He described 20 new species of mosquitoes, and 47 new groups of parasitic wasps. Howard revealed that houseflies carry and transmit many diseases. He was the first to suggest covering standing water with oil to control egg-laying by mosquitoes and kill larvae to reduce disease transmission. His work led to belief that great natural balances are mainly due to the action of the parasites.

Alfred Newton (Born 11 Jun 1829; died 7 Jun 1907). British zoologist, one of the foremost ornithologists of his day. In 1866, he was appointed the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at Cambridge University. Despite the fact that he suffered from diseased hip joints and walked with the aid of two sticks, he traveled throughout Lapland, Iceland, the West Indies, and North America 1854-63. During these expeditions he studied ornithology and became particularly interested in the great auk. He was instrumental in having the first Acts of parliament passed for the protection of birds. He wrote a great deal on the subject, including a 4-volume Dictionary of Birds, and the articles on Ornithology in several 19th century editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Roger Bacon (Died 11 Jun 1292; born c.1219). English scholar who was one of the first to propose mathematics and experimentation as appropriate methods of science. He studied mathematics, astronomy, optics, alchemy, and languages. He elucidated the principles of refraction, reflection, and spherical aberration, and described spectacles, which soon thereafter came into use. He developed many mathematical results concerning lenses, proposed mechanically propelled ships, carriages, and flying machines, and used a camera obscura to observe eclipses of the Sun. Bacon was the first European give a detailed description of the process of making gunpowder.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Francis Crick (Born 8 Jun 1916; died 28 Jul 2004). Francis Harry Compton Crick was a British biophysicist, who, with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, received the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their determination of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the chemical substance ultimately responsible for hereditary control of life functions. Crick and Watson began their collaboration in 1951, and published their paper on the double helix structure on 2 Apr 1953 in Nature. This accomplishment became a cornerstone of genetics and was widely regarded as one of the most important discoveries of 20th-century biology.

William Dampier (Born 8 Jun 1652; died Mar 1715). English navigator who recorded descriptions of native cultures as well as coastlines, rivers, and villages during his several voyages of mapping and exploration around the world. He published these, along with natural history observations, including his experience on 4 Jul 1687 when his ship survived a typhoon. This, one of the earliest known European descriptions of a tropical revolving storm, also presented a new understanding that storms somehow move, rather than remain stationary. He collected plants in Brazil, Australia, Timor and New Guinea. His book A New Voyage Round The World contained descriptions of people, places, things, plants, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. In effect he was an early contributor to scientific exploration.

Titan Arum In 1937, a specimen of the world’s largest flower, first bloomed in the U.S. in the NY Botanical Garden. The giant Sumatran Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, measured 8½-ft high and 4-ft diam. Its putrid rotting-corpse fragrance repelled visitors. Native in Sumatran jungles of Indonesia, it is known there as the “corpse flower.” Dr. Odoardo Beccari, an Italian botanist, was the first western expert to find the Titan Arum in the Pading Province during 1878. Seeds he sent back to his patron, the Marchese Corsi Salviati were grown in Italy, and a few plants were at Beccari’s request sent to Kew Gardens in England in 1879. One of those seedlings flowered in June 1887. Another plant bloomed there in 1926, to wide attention.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Katherine Esau (Died 4 June 1997; born 3 Apr 1898). Russian-born American botanist who did groundbreaking work in the structure and workings of plants. She is best known for her research into the effects of viruses upon plant tissues, and her studies of plant tissue structures and physiology. Her research into plant viruses focused on how viruses effect the structure and development of a plant’s phloem (its food-conducting tissue). This research enabled her to distinguish between primary and secondary viral symptoms, allowing studies of viral damage to specific plant tissues to be conducted. In addition, she clarified the development phases of plant tissues, particularly the sieve tubes which serve to move solutes throughout a plant. Her definitive work Plant Anatomy (1953, rev.1965) is a classic.

William Beebe (Died 4 June 1962; born 29 July 1877). (Charles) William Beebe was an American biologist, explorer, and writer on natural history who combined careful biological research with a rare literary skill. As director of tropical research for the New York Zoological Society from 1919, he led scientific expeditions to many parts of the world. He was the coinventor of the bathysphere, a spherical diving-vessel for use in underwater observations. In 1934, with Otis Barton, he descended in his bathysphere to a then record depth of 3,028 feet (923 metres) in Bermuda waters on 15 Aug 1934. Later dives reached depths of around 1.5 km (nearly 1 mile).

The Remarkable Life of William Beebe: Explorer and Naturalist, by Carol Grant Gould.

Today in Science History: Botanists Born

From Today in Science History:

Carolus Linnaeus (Born 23 May 1707; died 10 Jan 1778). Swedish botanist and explorer who was the first to frame principles for defining genera and species of organisms and to create a uniform system for naming them.

Palaeoblog and Prof. Olsen have more on Linnaeus.

John Bartram (Born 23 May 1699; died 22 Sep 1777). American explorer who is also regarded as the father of American botany, a subject he self-taught from the age of ten. He made a systematic study of healing plants. In 1728, Bartram bought land beside the Schuylkill River at Kingsessing, outside Philadelphia, created Bartram’s Garden, and began likely the first experiments in hybridizing in America. (His Garden now forms part of Philadelphia’s small park system – the oldest living botanical garden in the U.S. – where many giant trees may still be seen that he planted.) He travelled widely to gather ripe seeds, roots and bulbs in proper condition for transplanting. Shipping many species to introduce in Europe developed into a business. His son William Bartram followed him as a naturalist.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Henry Horatio Dixon (Born 19 May 1869; died 20 Dec 1953). Irish botanist who, with John Joly, investigated plant transpiration and originated the tension theory of sap ascent in trees (1894) building on the work of Eduard Strasburger, François Donny and Berthelot. Dixon’s earlier work was in cytology and had developed sterile culture methods for seedlings (1892). After the 1894 publication, he made further transpiration experiments to consolidate his theory which he published in 1909 and 1914. He resolved the debate over the mechanism of xylem transport by proposing a compromise between the pulling power of the leaf and the tensile strength of the water columns. From 1910, he was curator of a new herbarium at Trinity College Dublin.

Carl E. Akeley (Born 19 May 1864; died 17 Nov 1926). Carl Ethan Akeley was an American naturalist and explorer who developed the taxidermic method for mounting museum displays to show animals in their natural surroundings. His method of applying skin on a finely molded replica of the body of the animal gave results of unprecedented realism and elevated taxidermy from a craft to an art. He mounted the skeleton of the famous African elephant Jumbo. He invented the Akeley cement gun to use while mounting animals, and the Akeley camera which was used to capture the first movies of gorillas. In the 1920’s Akeley made a large specimen collection, part of the American Museum’s famous African mammal hall.

Previous post on Akeley.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Sir Edwin Ray Lankester (Born 15 May 1847; died 15 Aug 1929). British zoologist whose interests embraced comparative anatomy, protozoology, parasitology, embryology and anthropology. He was one of the first to describe protozoan parasites found in the blood of vertebrates. Lankestrella (a parasite related to the causative agent of malaria) carries his name. His work contributed to an understanding of the disease. Based on his investigation into the comparative anatomy of the embryology of invertebrates, Lankester endorsed Darwin’s theory of evolution. In anthrolopology, his activities included the discovery of flint implements, evidence of early man, within Pliocene sediments, in Suffolk. He was Director of the British Museum of Natural History (1898-1907).

(Alexandre-)Henri Mouhot (Born 15 May 1826; died 10 Nov 1861). (Alexandre-)Henri Mouhot was a French naturalist and explorer of the interior of Siam, Cambodia and Laos (1858-61), he is remembered for his reports of the ruins of Angkor, capital of the ancient Khmer civilization of Cambodia. The location was known to the local population, had been visited by several westerners since the 16th century, but it was Mouhot’s evocative accounts and detailed sketches that popularized the Angkor series of sites with the western public. He drew the attention of western scholars to the many ancient terraces, pools, moated cities, palaces and temples as important archaeological sites. His books were published posthumously as he died in Laos at the young age of 35 from malarial fever on his fourth jungle expedition.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Andreas Franz Wilhelm Schimper (Born 12 May 1856; died 9 Sep 1901). German botanist whose Pflanzentogeographie (1898) was one of the first and finest mapping of the floral regions of the continents. He coined (1885) the term chloroplasts (the organelles in plant cells that conduct photosynthesis), and distinguished them from chromatophores (pigment-containing cells found in many marine animals). In 1880, he proved that starch is the source of stored energy for plants. His explorations included Florida, the West Indies, South America, and Indonesia. On the Valdivia expedition (1898) he studied the oceanic plankton of numerous oceanic islands and coastal Africa. His father, Wilhelm Philipp Schimper was an expert on mosses and whose cousin Karl Friedrich Schimper studied plant morphology.

Abraham Trembley (Died 12 May 1784; born 3 Sep 1710). Swiss naturalist, is best known for his studies of the freshwater hydra, mainly Chlorohydra viridissima. He discovered the freshwater hydra in 1740. His extensive systematic experiments foreshadowed modern research on tissue regeneration and grafting. In 1744, Trembley published that he found that a complete hydra would be regenerated from as little as 1/8th of the parent body. He also succeeded in turning these animals inside out, a remarkably delicate operation which he performed by threading them on horse hairs. Trembley showed that the hydras would survive even this drastic operation. A thorough researcher, Trembley studied three species of hydra and published his findings in 1744.

Alfred Wegener In 1931, the frozen body of Alfred Wegener was found by a search party in Greenland, where he had been on his fourth expedition since 1906 to study the ice cap and its climate. He was last seen alive by his colleagues on his 50th birthday, 1 Nov 1930, as he left the “Eismitte” research post. He set off to return to the base camp at the coast with Greenlander Rasmus Villumsen after they brought relief supplies to the outpost. Wegener was the German meteorologist and geophysicist who first gave a well-developed hypothesis of continental drift. Others saw the fit of coastlines of South America and Africa, but Wegener added more geologic and paleontologic evidence that these two continents were once joined.

Dispersal Event 2008-05-06

First & foremost: Happy Belated Birthday! to Thomas Henry Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog,” born May 4, 1825. More from Palaeoblog and Prof. Olsen and especially Brian at Laelaps. From Today in Science History:

English biologist who made his reputation as a marine biologist while a ship’s surgeon. Later he turned to the study of fossils, especially of fishes and reptiles. He is best known as the main advocate of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. In 1860, one year after The Origin of Species was published, Huxley debated with the bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, at the British Association for the Advancement of Science. During the discussion Wilberforce asked whether he traced his ancestry to the apes. Huxley’s withering reply was that given the choice of a miserable ape and a man who could make such a remark at a serious scientific gathering, he would select the ape. Huxley coined the word agnostic to describe his own beliefs.

Website for Stony Brook University’s Darwin 2009 meeting.

Nature Network interviews Karen James of The HMS Beagle Project.

Darwin’s embryo drawings flawed? at Playing Chess with Pigeons.

First, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland assigned Quammen’s The Reluctant Mr. Darwin for its Common Reading Program (for all incoming students), and now the University of Pennsylvania has selected Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish for their 2008-2009 Reading Project for new students. What a way to start off your time in college, by reading books that make sense. (May 3, 2008): Historian links Darwinian theory with artist [A New Zealand historian claims that writings by British artist Augustus Earle may have contributed to Darwin’s “theory of evolution]; also from The Sydney Morning Herald and Scoop, and John has thoughts at Evolving Thoughts

The complete text of Robert M. Young’s Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture is online on his wesbite.

Systematics and Biogeography (blog): The Enduring Legacy of Misinterpreting Darwin [on Kevin Padian’s article in Nature earlier this year]

Toronto Star (May 4, 2008): Explore nature, as Darwin did

A website for the Darwin exhibit in Brazil, and a brief mention of it at Blog de Arara.

Forthcoming book: Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

A film review from the H-SCI-MED-TECH listserve for Proteus: A Nineteenth-Century Vision, about Ernst Haeckel and his radiolarian work.

First Expelled, now this: Challenging Darwin in 2009 from Creation Ministries International [Hat-tip to the commenter on this post, and John has thoughts at Thoughts in a Haystack].

An image of Darwin as Hitler and Wallace as Mussolini. The page is in German, so I don’t know if it supporting the Expelled-endorsed view of the Darwin-Hitler pseudo-link, or if it’s just a joke – the atheist, Dawkins, and evowiki links in the sidebar lead me to think it’s a joke…

Will Thomas of Ether Wave Propaganda looks forward to the latest issue of Isis.

Today in Science History: Alexander von Humboldt died

Charles Darwin wrote in his Beagle diary on February 28, 1832, while in Bahia:

The houses are white & lofty & from the windows being narrow & long have a very light & elegant appearance. Convents, Porticos & public buildings vary the uniformity of the houses: the bay is scattered over with large ships; in short the view is one of the finest in the Brazils. — But their beauties are as nothing compared to the Vegetation; I believe from what I have seen Humboldts glorious descriptions are & will for ever be unparalleled: but even he with his dark blue skies & the rare union of poetry with science which he so strongly displays when writing on tropical scenery, with all this falls far short of the truth. The delight one experiences in such times bewilders the mind, — if the eye attempts to follow the flight of a gaudy butter-fly, it is arrested by some strange tree or fruit; if watching an insect one forgets it in the stranger flower it is crawling over, — if turning to admire the splendour of the scenery, the individual character of the foreground fixes the attention. The mind is a chaos of delight, out of which a world of future & more quiet pleasure will arise. — I am at present fit only to read Humboldt; he like another Sun illumines everything I behold. —

Alexander von Humboldt had great influence on Darwin’s desire to travel the tropics. BBC’s In Our Time did a show on Humboldt last year, and here’s the Today in Science History entry:

Alexander von Humboldt (Died 6 May 1859, born 14 Sep 1769). (Baron) Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was a German natural scientist, archeologist, explorer and geographer, who made two major expeditions to Latin America (1799-1804) and to Asia (1829). During the first, equipped with the best scientific instruments, he surveyed and collected geological, zoological, botanical, and ethnographic specimens, including over 60,000 rare or new tropical plants. He charted and made observations on a cold ocean current along the Peruvian coast, now named, the Humboldt Current. In geology, he made pioneering observations of stratigraphy, structure and geomorphology; he understood the connections between volcanism and earthquakes. Humboldt named the Jurassic System.

Another Meme: A Favorite Historical Figure of Mine

I was tagged for this meme by John at Thoughts in a Haystack, a while ago. I just can’t write about Darwin for my favorite historical character. I mean, that’s all I share anyways. So I am going to offer 7 random/weird, or just interesting, things or quotes about one of Darwin’s colleagues and friends, the botanist, biogeographer, traveler, and Kew Gardens administrator, Joseph Dalton Hooker.

1. An interesting anecdote from his childhood as recalled later in life (1887):

… my father used to take me on excursions in the Highlands, where I fished a good deal, but also botanised; and well I remember on one occasion, that, after returning home, I built up by a yheap of stones a representation of one of the mountains I had ascended, and stuck upon it specimens of the mosses I had collected on it, at heights relative to those at which I had gathered them. This was the dawn of my love for geographical botany.

2. And from the same 1887 speech:

… my great delight was to sit on my grandfather’s knee and look at the pictures in Cook’s ‘Voyages’. The one that took my fancy most was the plate of Christmas Harbour, Kerguelen Land, witht he arched rock standing out to sea, and the sailors killing penguins; and I thought I should be the happiest boy alive if ever I would see that wonderful arched rock, and knock penguins on the head.

3. Hooker is usually referred to as a botanist, a traveler, and an administrator, as the titles of two biographies attest – Joseph Dalton Hooker: Botanist, Explorer, and Administrator and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker: Traveller and Plant Collector. A forthcoming book will stress the imperialist nature of Hooker’s career – that as a botanist, traveler, and administrator of a government-funded institution, Hooker contributed to Britain’s imperial ambitions, especially in the manner of colonial and economic botany. Another work in progress stresses that along with being a respectable traveler and explorer, Hooker was a first rate mountaineer. When on the glaciers at the base of Kinchinjhow in the Himalayas, Hooker had attained the highest elevation of any European in history, surpassing Alexander von Humboldt’s near-summit ascent of the 19,275 ft. Chimborazo in Chile in 1802. So then, an uber-title for a biography: Joseph Dalton Hooker: Botanist, Explorer, Traveller, Plant Collector, Administrator, Imperialist, and Mountaineer.

4. Hooker, quite possibly the first non-family member to hear of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and instrumental in urging Darwin to publish what become On the Origin of Species, was the first naturalist to collect botanical specimens in a new world armed with the theory of evolution through natural selection. Also, in the introductory essay of his Flora Tasmania (published in December of 1860), Hooker ‘confessed’ his conversion to Darwin’s ideas.

5. The surgeon and official naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle while Darwin was aboard (and whom left the voyage in Brazil) was also the surgeon Hooker was assistant to on the 1839-1843 Antarctic voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror, the same retro-fitted ships that were part of the unsuccessful Franklin Expedition to navigate the Northwest Passage later in the 1840s. Oh, the surgeon was Robert McCormick, and he was also part of an unsuccesful expedition in search of Franklin.

6. Hooker, along with American botanist Asa Gray, took part in a botanical survey in the Rocky Mountains in 1877, headed by Ferdinand V. Hayden (of Yellowstone National Park fame), head of the U.S. Geological Survey. Quite luxurious accomodations for the Englishman (see photo).

7. From historian Michael Reidy:

After his successful attempt to climb above 19,000 feet, the narrative changes to one of imperial adventure, a topic that has excited past historians. From the Donkia Pass, Hooker literally fled into Tibet, out-riding the Sikkim guards sent to the border to deter him. His violation on entering Tibet placed the Sikkim Rajah in a difficult position, as he was perpetually fearful of angering his Chinese neighbors. Upon Hooker’s return, the Sikkim authorities arrested Hooker’s climbing companion, Archibald Campbell, who alerted Hooker by yelling “Hooker! Hooker! the savages are murdering me!” Campbell was bound, beaten, and tortured. Though Hooker was never actually arrested, his guides were bound and placed in stocks, and Hooker was “retained.” He refused to leave his companion behind. As he put it, “I kept as near as I was allowed, quietly gathering rhododendron-seeds by the way.” Campbell was eventually freed, and the British used the episode to annex further territory from Sikkim.

Much of this information on Joseph Dalton Hooker comes from this biography, and a paper my advisor presented at a conference last year.


And now I bestow this task to these blogs:

A. Lincoln Blog

Today in Science History

Born this day:

Luther Burbank (Born 7 Mar 1849; died 11 Apr 1926). American naturalist and horticulturist who was a pioneer of plant breeding. At age 21, he produced the the Burbank potato. Thus he began a 55 year career, prodigiously producing useful varieties of fruits, flowers, vegetables, grains, and grasses. He had an ability to detect and nurture hybrids which he made from multiple crosses of foreign and native strains under suitable growing conditions. Basing his understanding upon his own observations, he believed in the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. It was for others to develop the modern science of plant breeding based on the genetic theory. He developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants, including the Freestone peach, and the Burbank potato (1871).

Sir John F. W. Herschel (Born 7 Mar 1792; died 11 May 1871). (1st Baronet) Sir John (Frederick William) Herschel was an English astronomer. As successor to his father, Sir William Herschel, he discovered another 525 nebulae and clusters. John Herschel was a pioneer in celestial photography, and as a chemist contributed to the development of sensitized photographic paper (independently of Talbot). In 1819, he discovered that sodium thiosulphate dissolved silver salts, as used in developing photographs. He introduced the terms positive image and negative image. Being diverse in his research, he also studied physical and geometrical optics, birefringence of crystals, spectrum analysis, and the interference of light and sound waves. To compare the brightness of stars, he invented the astrometer.

See this post on Herschel’s influence on Darwin from the blog Mystery of Mysteries

André Michaux (Born 7 Mar 1746; died 13 Nov 1802). French explorer, botanist and silviculturist who wrote the first book on the forest trees of America. After studying under Bernard de Jussieu, beginning in 1779, he began a series of explorations searching for and classifying new species of plants in England, France and the Pyrenees. Becoming French Consul in Persia led to full-time botanical explorations there (1782-85). Next, he travelled in North America for the French government to send back tree species suitable to transplant for naval shipbuilding. Jefferson provided him with letters of introduction as a scientist. In 1796, he lost notes and specimens in a shipwreck off Egmont, Holland. In 1801, while exploring Madagascar his health failed from the exertion and he died of a tropical fever.

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.

Today in Science History

Born this day:

John Bachman (Born 4 Feb 1790; died 24 Feb 1874). Naturalist and Lutheran minister who published studies of southern animals and works on botany and agriculture. He met John James Audubon in 1831 and helped him write the text of The Birds of America (1840-44). After visiting the German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt at the University of Berlin in 1838, Bachman did much of the writing and edited all of Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, 3 vol. (1845-49). He also published The Unity of the Human Race (1850), in which he theorized that all humans are of one species. Audubon named the Bachman’s Sparrow in honor of his friend. Bachman discovered and named the Bachman’s Warbler (a bird probably extinct today).

Augustin Pyrame de Candolle (Born 4 Feb 1778; died 9 Sep 1841). Swiss botanist whose prolific writings in taxonomy and botany were highly influential, particularly his belief that taxonomy should be based on morphological characters, and his scheme of classification, for which he coined the term taxonomy, prevailed for many years. Candolle achieved extensive subdivision of flowering plants, describing 161 families of dicotyledons, and demonstrated decisively the inadequacy of Linnaean classification, which his system supplanted. Candolle also contributed to agronomy and the linking of soil type with vegetation. He also pioneered the study of phytogeography, the biogeography of plants, by carrying out investigations in Brazil (1827), East India (1829), and North China (1834).

Died this day:

George Engelmann (Died 4 Feb 1884; born 2 Feb 1809). German-American botanist and physician, who varied his career in medical practice with botanical travels. After obtaining his medical degree in Europe, he travelled to the U.S. and eventually settled in St. Louis, Missouri. Among his 100 papers documenting western North American flora, his monograph on the cactus, Monography of North American Cuscutinae (1842), is particularly noteworthy. Engelmann collaborated to incorporate a major botanical collection in the public Shaw’s Gardens established by businessman Henry Shaw (1800-89) in St. Louis, which is now the Missouri Botanical Garden). The Engelmann spruce of the Rocky Mountains is named for him.

Charles-Marie de La Condamine (Died 4 Feb 1774; born 28 Jan 1701). French naturalist and mathematician who became particularly interested in geodesy (earth measurement). He was put in charge by the King of France of an expedition to Equador to measure a meridional arc at the equator (1735-43). It was wished to determine whether the Earth was either flattened or elongated at its poles. He then accomplished the first scientific exploration of the Amazon River (1743) on a raft, studying the region, and brought the drug curare to Europe. He also worked on establishment of a universal unit of length, and is credited with developing the idea of vaccination against smallpox, later perfected by Edward Jenner. However, he was almost constantly ill and died in 1773, deaf and completely paralyzed.

Giambattista della Porta (Died 4 Feb 1615; born 1535). Italian natural philosopher, experimenter and mathematician, though he also sought the miraculous or magical. He studied optics, including refraction (De refractione, 1593). Porta did not invent the telescope, regardless of his published claim. He was the first to propose adding a convex lens to the camera obscura, and first to recognise the heating effect of light rays. He wrote on cryptography in De furtivis literarum (1563), and his other books included mechanics, squaring the circle, description of a steam engine in De spiritali (1606). He formed the society, Accademia dei Segreti, dedicated to discussing and studying nature, meeting at his home, until closed by the Inquisition (about 1578).

Today in Science History

Born this day:

Charles-Marie de La Condamine (Born 28 Jan 1701; died 4 Feb 1774). French naturalist and mathematician who became particularly interested in geodesy (earth measurement). He was put in charge by the King of France of an expedition to Equador to measure a meridional arc at the equator (1735-43). It was wished to determine whether the Earth was either flattened or elongated at its poles. He then accomplished the first scientific exploration of the Amazon River (1743) on a raft, studying the region, and brought the drug curare to Europe. He also worked on establishment of a universal unit of length, and is credited with developing the idea of vaccination against smallpox, later perfected by Edward Jenner. However, he was almost constantly ill and died in 1773, deaf and completely paralyzed.

Sir T.W. Edgeworth David (Born 28 Jan 1858; died 28 Aug 1934). Sir T(annatt) W(illiam) Edgeworth David was a Welsh-born Australian geologist who produced an extensive study of the geology of Australia, including the first geological map of the Sydney-Newcastle Basin. He also researched the evidence of major glaciations in Australia of the Upper Paleozoic time (from 345- to 225- million years ago). In 1897, he drilled to a depth of 340-m at Funafuti Atoll in an effort to verify Darwin’s theory of the formation of coral atolls. Whereas his results supported Darwin’s ideas, they were short of absolute proof. He served as scientific officer of the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition from 1907-9, and led the party that first reached the southern magnetic pole on 16 Jan 1909, which was on land at that time.

Anthropologist Eugene Dubois was also born today (see Paleoblog and Professor Olsen).

Born This Day: Roy Chapman Andrews

From Today in Science History:

Roy Chapman Andrews (Born 26 Jan 1884; died 11 Mar 1960). American naturalist, explorer, and author, who spent his entire career at the American Museum of Natural History. He led many important scientific expeditions with financial support through his public lectures and books, particularly in central Asia and eastern Asia. On his 1925 central Asian expedition, the first known dinosaur eggs were discovered, also: a skull and parts of Baluchitherium, the largest known land mammal; extensive deposits of fossil mammals and reptiles previously unknown; evidence of prehistoric human life; and geological strata previously unexplored. During his career he was not known as an influential scientist, yet Andrews was the museum promoter, creating immense excitement and successfully advancing research there.

The HMS Beagle Project…

… is really cool. The project is building a replica of the ship Darwin & Fitzroy sailed on between 1832 and 1836. They will resail the voyage starting in 2009 in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, doing nifty science and science education along the way. You should check their website out, and tell your friends/colleagues about it as well. They also have a shop through CafePress, where you can get your HMS Beagle Project gear to support this endeavour.

Died Yesterday: George Forster, explorer and naturalist

From Today in Science History:

Georg Forster (Died 12 Jan 1794; born 26 Nov 1754). Explorer and scientist who helped to establish the literary travel book as a favoured genre in German literature. Forster sailed to the Pacific as a botanical collector with James Cook’s second expedition to the Pacific 1772-75 on board the Resolution. He then worked as an anthropologist, essayist, art critic, and travel writer in Germany, and finally participated in the French Revolution before dying in his Paris exile in 1794. He died before he was 40.

See Common-place for more on Forster.

Catching Up on Today in [Natural History] History

Born this day (11/30):

Sir William Henry Flower (Born 30 Nov 1831; died 1 Jul 1899). British zoologist who made significant contributions to comparative anatomy and clarification of the classification of mammals, including carnivores (1869), rhinocerosces (1875), and edentates (1882). He was superintendent, and subsequently followed Sir Richard Owen as director of Natural History Departments of the British Museum of Natural History (1884-98). Flower’s innovations in museum displays greatly improved their educational value to the public. His main research interest dealt with marsupials, primates and especially whales, through which he was the first to demonstrate that lemurs are primates. Further, in thorough anthropological studies, he recorded detailed measurements of over 1,300 human skulls.

Born 11/29:

Pierre-André Latreille (Born 29 Nov 1762; died 6 Feb 1833). French zoologist and Roman Catholic priest (ordained 1786) who became the father of modern entomology. During the French revolution he was imprisoned in Bordeaux. He made the acquaintance of a physician, a fellow-prisoner, who had obtained a specimen of the rare beetle, Necrobia ruficollis. It was through this discovery that Latreille became acquainted with the naturalist, Bory de Saint-Vincent, who obtained his release. He did not share Lamarck’s evolutionary views, although he worked under him from 1805 at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. Latreille made the first detailed classification of crustaceans and insects. He used a “natural method” of classification combining the approaches of Linnaeus and Fabricius.

John Ray (Born 29 Nov 1627; died 17 Jan 1705). Leading 17th-century English naturalist and botanist who contributed significantly to progress in taxonomy, and is often referred to as the father of natural history in Britain. He toured Europe with Francis Willoughby in search of specimens of flora and fauna. Ray was the first to classify flowering plants into monocotyledons and dicotyledons. Ray established the species as the basic taxonomic unit – his enduring legacy to botany. His major work was the three-volume Historia Plantarum (1686-1704). He also attempted to classify the animal kingdom. In 1693 he published a system based on a number of structural characters, including internal anatomy, which provided a more natural classification than those being produced by his contemporaries.

Died 11/28:

Karl Ernst von Baer (Died 28 Nov 1876; born 29 Feb 1792). Prussian-Estonian embryologist who discovered the mammalian egg (1827) and the notochord. He established the new science of comparative embryology alongside comparative anatomy with the publication of two landmark volumes (in 1828 and 1837) covering the range of existing knowledge of the prebirth developments of vertebrates. He showed that mammalian eggs were not the follicles of the ovary but microscopic particles inside the follicles. He described the development of the embryo from layers of tissue, which he called germ layers, and demonstrated similarities in the embryos of different species of vertebrates. He was also a pioneer in geography, ethnology, and physical anthropology.

Died 11/27:

Athanasius Kircher (Died 27 Nov 1680; born 2 May 1601). German Jesuit priest and scholar, sometimes called the last Renaissance man. Kircher’s prodigious research activity spanned a variety of disciplines including geography, astronomy, physics, methematics, language, medicine, and music. He made an early, though unsuccessful attempt to decipher hieroglyphics of the Coptic language. During the pursuit of experimental knowledge, he once had himself lowered into the crater of Vesuvius to observe its features soon after an eruption. He made one of the first natural history collections. Kircher studied animal luminescence, writing two chapters of his book Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae to bioluminescence, and debunked the idea that that an extract made from fireflies could be used to light houses.

Born 11/26:

Georg Forster (Born 26 Nov 1754; died 12 Jan 1794). Explorer and scientist who helped to establish the literary travel book as a favoured genre in German literature. Forster sailed to the Pacific as a botanical collector with James Cook’s second expedition to the Pacific 1772-75 on board the Resolution. He then worked as an anthropologist, essayist, art critic, and travel writer in Germany, and finally participated in the French Revolution before dying in his Paris exile in 1794. He died before he was 40.

Died 11/26:

Nicolaus Steno (Died 26 Nov 1686; born 10 Jan 1638). (a.k.a. Niels Steensen, or Stensen) was a Danish geologist and anatomost who first made unprecedented discoveries in anatomy, then established some of the most important principles of modern geology. During medical studies in Amsterdam he discovered “Stensen’s duct” providing saliva from the parotid gland to the mouth. He was Danish royal anatomist for 2 years. Interested by the characteristics and origins of minerals, rocks, and fossils, he published in Prodromus (1669) the law of superposition (if a series of sedimentary rocks has not been overturned, upper layers are younger and lower layers are older) and the law of original horizontality (although strata may be found dipping steeply, they were initially deposited nearly horizontal.)

PODCAST: Robert FitzRoy FRS: sailing into the storm

Thanks to Richard Carter of The Friends of Charles Darwin for informing us (here’s his post with mp3 link) of a podcast from the Royal Society about the captain of HMS Beagle, Robert Fitzroy:

John Gribbin is the author of more than a hundred books of popular science, including FitzRoy: the remarkable story of Darwin’s Captain and the invention of the weather forecast. In this talk, he discusses FitzRoy’s career as captain of HMS Beagle and as a pioneering meteorologist. Dr John Gribbin, University of Sussex

The Beagle Project Blog on the Fitzroy podcast. Many other history of science and exploration podcasts from the Royal Society here or here. Also, the Royal Society still has their archives freely accessible until the end of November:

Royal Society digital journal archive
Back by popular demand – FREE access to science’s greatest journal archive
The Royal Society Digital Journal Archive, dating back to 1665 and comprising in excess of 60,000 articles is available FREE online for a three month period beginning 1 September 2007.
The archive contains seminal research papers and a record of some of the key scientific discoveries in the last 340 years including: Halley’s description of his comet’ in 1705; details of the double helix of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1954; and Edmond Stone’s breakthrough in 1763 that willow bark cured fevers, leading to the discovery of salicylic acid and later the development of aspirin.
The development of the digital archive means that the Society’s online collection, which until now only extended back to 1997, contains every paper ever published in the Royal Society’s journals – from the first ever peer-reviewed article in Philosophical Transactions to the most recent interdisciplinary article in Interface.
The complete archive is FREE online until the end of November 2007. Following this period, it will continue to be free as part of any of the Royal Society’s new journal subscription packages.
For further information on the archive and our packages, please visit or contact us quoting LIB1
[The image of Fitzroy is from Wellcome Images]

One-Day Darwin Symposium at The Field Museum

The Field Museum in Chicago, in addition to opening what looks to be a neat exhibit on maps on November 2, is putting together a one-day Darwin symposium, free and open to the public. Here are the details:

Darwin at The Field Museum

The Field Museum will host a one-day symposium on Darwin and his Theory of Evolution. The symposium celebrates the temporary exhibit on Darwin, his life and his science, currently on display at the Museum. World-class experts from the United States and Great Britain will explore Darwin’s place in the history of biology, the philosophical dimensions of Darwin’s theory of evolution, evolutionary innovation in the plant and animal kingdoms, microevolutionary processes in lizards and birds (Darwin’s finches), problems of co-evolution, tracking the evolution of the HIV virus, and the origin of man.

Download the symposium itinerary and speaker list (pdf format).

Saturday, November 3, 2007
9 a.m. – 5 the James Simpson Theatre, West Entrance
For more information call (312) 665-7621.
Pr-Registration Not Required