Today in Science History: a bunch of botanists were born or died

From Today in Science History:

George Bentham (Born 22 Sep 1800; died 10 Sep 1844). 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.

Michael Faraday (Born 22 Sep 1791; died 25 Aug 1867). English physicist and chemist whose many experiments contributed greatly to the understanding of electromagnetism. Although one of the greatest experimentalists, he was largely self-educated. Appointed by Sir Humphry Davy as his assistant at the Royal Institution, Faraday initially concentrated on analytical chemistry, and discovered benzene in 1825. His most important work was in electromagnetism, in which field he demonstrated electromagnetic rotation and discovered electromagnetic induction (the key to the development of the electric dynamo and motor). He also discovered diamagnetism and the laws of electrolysis. He published pioneering papers that led to the practical use of electricity, and he advocated the use of electric light in lighthouses.

Christian Konrad Sprengel (Born 22 Sep 1750; died 7 Apr 1816). German botanist and teacher whose studies of sex in plants led him to a general theory of fertilization which, basically, is accepted today. Although director of a school at Spandau and tutor in Berlin, he devoted himself chiefly to the study of flowering plants. Sprengel’s 1793 treatise on floral structure examines the ways that flower colors, scents, shapes, and markings work harmoniously to attract insects for pollination. A clergyman and botanist, he spent his life researching the role played by the wind and insects in the fertilization of flowers. Although Sprengel’s work was neglected by his contemporaries, Charles Darwin later praised Sprengel’s work and brought it brought to public attention.

Peter Simon Pallas (Born 22 Sep 1741; died 8 Sep 1811). German naturalist who was a pioneer in zoogeography by going beyond merely cataloging specimens with simple descriptions, but included observations of causal relationships between animals and their environment. He looked for hidden regularities in natural phenomena over an extreme range of habitats. His extensive field studies made on expeditions in Russia resulted in records of hundreds of species of animals and plants together with commentary on the interrelationships among them and their environment, and careful notes on the areas of distribution and boundaries. This work was a precursor to theories of evolution. He was first to theorise that mountain formation resulted from volcanic processes causing uplifts and receding seas.

Merritt Lyndon Fernald (Died 22 Sep 1950; born 5 Oct 1873). American botanist noted for his comprehensive study of the flora of the northeastern United States. In Feb 1891, Fernald was offered a position at the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University that would allow him to work and study part-time at Harvard. He remained at the Gray Herbarium in one capacity or another for the rest of his life, beginning as an assistant, going on to be a professor, eventually as curator of the Gray Herbarium, 1935-37, and director, 1937-1947. Fernald is known for his work on phytogeography. He combined extensive field work with his herbarium work, concentrating on the flora of eastern North America. He did much exploring in Quebec in his younger years; when older, he worked in Virginia.

Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey (Died 22 Sep 1948; born 8 Aug 1863). American ornithologist and author of popular field guides. She preceded Ludlow Griscom in calling for the use of binoculars instead of shotguns when birding. By 1885, she began to write articles focusing on protecting birds. She was horrified by the fashion trend which not only used feathers, but entire birds to decorate women’s hats. Five million birds a year were killed to supply this fashion craze. At age 26, Bailey collected and developed the series of articles she had written for the Audubon Magazine into her first book, Birds Through an Opera Glass, (1889). Altogether she published about 100 articles, mostly for ornithological magazines, and 10 books. including the Handbook of Birds of the Western United States (1902) and Birds of New Mexico (1928).

John Bartram (Died 22 Sep 1777; born 23 Mar 1699). 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:

Harry Hammond Hess (Born 24 May 1906; died 25 Aug 1969). American geologist who made the first comprehensive attempt at explaining the phenomenon of seafloor spreading (1960). This revived Alfred Wegener’s earlier theory of continental drift. Together, these provided an interpretation of the earth’s crust in terms of plate tectonics. The surface of the globe is not continuous. Rather, it is broken into a number of huge plates that float on the molten rock under the crust, moved over eons of geologic time by convective currents driven by earth’s internal heat. With this motion these plates rub against, collide with, or separate from other plates. Thus the nature of earthquakes and volcanoes could be explained, plus the existence of ridges of young rock mapped around the globe under the ocean where the sea floor was spreading.

Ynes Mexia (Born 24 May 1870; died 12 Jul 1938). Ynes Enriquetta Julietta Mexia was an American botanical collector, who developed her passion for botany and fieldwork in her 50’s, and yet was able to make about 150,000 collections in 12 years on seven expeditions. She was aged 55 when she made her first collecting trip. She accompanied Stanford’s Assistant Herbarium Curator, Roxanna Ferris, in Mexico. Her activity was remarkable, as she spent several years exploring for specimens in remote reaches of Central and South Americas. At age 59, she began a 2-1/2 year expedition in Peru and Brazil which included a three-month period trapped by floods with her team in a 600-m deep gorge which they escaped eventually by building a raft and running the river and its rapids.

Charles-Lucien Bonaparte (Born 24 May 1803; died 29 Jul 1857). (Prince) French zoologist who was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. From 1822 to 1828, he was in the United States, where he wrote four volumes of American Ornithology (1825-33) adding to the body of work left unfinished by Alexander Wilson at his death. Bonaparte’s scientific reputation was established by these volumes, with which he had the assistance of the artist Titian Peale, who found and painted birds for him from the Rocky Mountains and Florida. In 1848-49, Bonaparte’s scientific career experienced a brief hiatus when he took part in the political agitation for Italian independence against the Austrians and he was forced to leave Italy in July 1849. He went to Holland and then to France.

William Whewell (Born 24 May 1794; died 6 Mar 1866). British scientist, best known for his survey of the scientific method and for creating scientific words. He founded mathematical crystallography and developed Mohr’s classification of minerals. He created the words scientist and physicist by analogy with the word artist. They soon replaced the older term natural philosopher. Other useful words were coined to help his friends: biometry for Lubbock; Eocine, Miocene and Pliocene for Lyell; and for Faraday, anode, cathode, diamagnetic, paramagnetic, and ion (whence the sundry other particle names ending -ion). In metereology, Whewell devised a self-recording anemometer. He was second only to Newton for work on tidal theory. He died as a result of being thrown from his horse.

Today in Science History

Born this day:

Henry Wetherbee Henshaw (Born 3 Mar 1850; died 1 Aug 1930). Naturalist

Sir John Murray (Born 3 Mar 1841; died 16 Mar 1914). Scottish naturalist who, as one of its founders, coined the name oceanography. He studied ocean basins, deep-sea deposits, and coral-reef formation. As a marine scientist, he took part in the Challenger Expedition (1872-76), the first major oceanographic expedition of the world. He was first to observe the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the existence of marine trenches. He attempted with Buchan to construct from temperature and salinity observations a qualitative theory of water movement in the world’s oceans. With A. Agassiz, he put forward a modified hypothesis for coral reef development, arguing against Darwin’s hypothesis and suggesting that subsidence was not always a controlling mechanism. He died in 1914, killed by a motor car.

Died this day:

Sewell Wright (Died 3 Mar 1988; born 21 Dec 1889). American geneticist, one of the founders of modern theoretical population genetics. He researched the effects of inbreeding and crossbreeding with guinea pigs, and later on the effects of gene action on inherited characteristics. He adopted statistical techniques to develop evolutionary theory. Wright is best known for his concept of genetic drift, called the Sewell Wright effect – that when small populations of a species are isolated, out of pure chance the few individuals who carry certain relatively rare genes may fail to transmit them. The genes may therefore disappear and their loss may lead to the emergence of new species, although natural selection has played no part in the process.

Johann Christian Fabricius (Died 3 Mar 1808; born 7 Jan 1745). Danish entomologist who was one of the great entomologists of the 18th century. After studying with Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, Fabricius travelled widely in Europe to see insect collections and produced many publications describing all the new species that he saw. He named and classified some 10,000 species of insects. The system of classification of insects he developed was based on mouth structure (instead of wing). He offered theories, progressive for his time, suggesting that hybridization could produce produce new species or varieties, and that environmental adaptation could influence changes in anatomical structure or function.

Robert Hooke (Died 3 Mar 1703; born 18 July 1635). English physicist, born Freshwater, Isle of Wight, who discovered the law of elasticity, known as Hooke’s law. He was a virtuoso scientist whose scope of research ranged widely, including physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, architecture and naval technology. Hooke invented the balance spring for clocks; served as Chief Surveyor and helped rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666; invented or improved meteorological instruments such as the barometer, anemometer, and hygrometer. He authored the influential Micrographia, the first book on microscopy (1665).

Matthias de L’Obel (Died 3 Mar 1616; born 1538). French physician and botanist whose Stirpium adversaria nova (1570; written in collaboration with Pierre Pena) was a milestone in modern botany, a collection of notes and data on 1,300 plants that he had observed and gathered in France and England. In this book, he argued that botany and medicine must be based on thorough, exact observation. L’Obel divided plants according to the form of their leaves. His two professions were closed related, as most medicines derived from plants. Thus, l’Obel managed several gardens of herbs, and wrote on them. The popular garden perennial Lobelia was named by Linneaus for him. (De l’Obel is French for “of the white poplar” and his family coat of arms was a poplar leaf.)

A Darwin Video & A Darwin Lecture & A Darwin Cartoon

A VIDEO: The play Re:Design, about the correspondence between Darwin and botanist Asa Gray, is available for viewing online, via the Suffolk Humanists site.

A LECTURE: Tim Lewen’s Darwin Day lecture, “Darwin: A Philosophical Naturalist?”, is available via the Suffolks Humanists site.
AND A CARTOON: From Richard Carter, FCD. Click photo for link.

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).