Peter Dear, “Darwin’s Sleepwalkers: Naturalists, Nature, and the Practices of Classification” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 44:4 (Sept. 2014): 297-318.
Abstract Darwin used taxonomic arguments widely in his work on transformism and natural selection, especially in attempts to persuade other (typically non-transformist) naturalists of the correctness of his ideas in Origin of Species. But, as has long been noticed, classificatory practices in natural history were by no means turned on their head in the wake of his work. Darwin succeeded in coopting, or else leaving untouched, the taxonomic conclusions of his colleagues, because he needed to use their conclusions as evidence for his transformist views: time and again, he made points by referring to what a typical naturalists would make of things. By telling them that the kind of knowledge that their taxonomy produced was really about genealogical relationships, Darwin tried to tell naturalist that their judgments were correct even though they had not previously known why this was so: they were sleepwalkers, finding their way in the dark, and Darwin would illuminate them. His argumentative style continually attempted to draw existing practices of classification to his assistance, and made the judgments of his colleagues into surrogate phenomena that would provide evidence for his views. Those colleagues thus constituted a society that established nature by its own practices.
Aydin Örstan, “Two early nineteenth-century uses of the term “evolution” to denote biological speciation” Archives of Natural History 41:2 (Oct. 2014): 360-362.
Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, “Charles Darwin” In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Ecology, 2014.
This is a monumental undertaking – a 24,000 word bibliography looking at Darwin and how he is studied from many angles.
Ordering Life: Karl Jordan and the Naturalist Tradition, by Kristin Johnson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), 376 pp.
For centuries naturalists have endeavored to name, order, and explain biological diversity. Karl Jordan (1861–1959) dedicated his long life to this effort, describing thousands of new species in the process. Ordering Life explores the career of this prominent figure as he worked to ensure a continued role for natural history museums and the field of taxonomy in the rapidly changing world of twentieth-century science.
Jordan made an effort to both practice good taxonomy and secure status and patronage in a world that would soon be transformed by wars and economic and political upheaval. Kristin Johnson traces his response to these changes and shows that creating scientific knowledge about the natural world depends on much more than just good method or robust theory. The broader social context in which scientists work is just as important to the project of naming, describing, classifying, and, ultimately, explaining life.
Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago): “Speciation: Problems and Prospects”
Paul Sereno (University of Chicago): “Dinosaurs: Phylogenetic Reconstruction from Darwin to the Present”
David Jablonski (University of Chicago): “Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology: The Revitalized Partnership”
Neil Shubin (University of Chicago): “Great Transformations in Life: Insights from Genes & Fossils”
Robert J. Richards (University of Chicago): “Darwin’s Biology of Intelligent Design”
In the current Isis (Vol. 100, Dec, 2009, pp. 811-26):
Abstract Darwin’s emotional life has been a preoccupation of biographers and popularizers, while his research on emotional expression has been of keen interest to anthropologists and psychologists. Much can be gained, however, by looking at Darwin’s emotions from both sides, by examining the relationship between his emotional experience and his scientific study of emotion. Darwin developed various techniques for distancing himself from his objects of study and for extracting emotional “objects” from feeling subjects. In order to investigate emotions scientifically, his own emotional life, his feelings for others, had to give way—or did it? This question has implications well beyond the life of Darwin, moral implications about the effects of scientific discipline on those who practice it and on the animals and people subjected to it. This dual approach to Darwin’s emotions also allows us to address a conundrum of recent histories of “objectivity”—namely, the status of the scientific self as a feeling subject.
Also in this issue, essay reviews of The Tragic Sense of Life (about Ernst Haeckel) and Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform, and a short review of Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science.
In the journal Endeavour:
Hodacs Hanna, “In the field: exploring nature with Carolus Linnaeus” Endeavour (2010) Article in Press.
Abstract Teaching his students the art of observing nature outdoors was central to the Swedish naturalist Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus (1707–1778). These exercises came to influence both their progress and his work. The open-air classroom was a stage where Linnaeus could demonstrate his skills and mobilize support. It was also a testing, training and recruitment ground: the students’ field observations helped Linnaeus to develop his new scientific nomenclature, and it was in the field that students could train their observational skills and progress from novices to naturalists.
From the December 11, 2009 issue of Science:
Classification was a key practice of the natural history sciences in the early 19th century, but leading taxonomists disagreed over basic matters, such as how many species the British flora contained. In this arena, the impact of Charles Darwin’s ideas was surprisingly limited. For taxonomists like Darwin’s friend, Joseph Dalton Hooker, the priority was to establish a reputation as a philosophical naturalist, and to do so Hooker embarked on a survey of global vegetation patterns. He believed that taxonomic “splitters” hindered his ambition to create natural laws for botany (and hence establish it as a prestigious science) by generating a multitude of redundant synonyms for every plant variety. Despite the fact that Darwin’s ideas apparently promised a justification for splitting, they also offered a philosophical justification for Hooker’s taxonomic practice, and so he enthusiastically championed his friend.
Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science. By Jim Endersby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. xii + 429 pp. Acknowledgments, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index,. $35.00 (cloth).
In Pamela Smith’s The Body and the Artisan, we are asked to reconsider assumptions we hold about the Scientific Revolution: that it was a radical change in the acquiring of knowledge about the natural world, and that through texts and experimentation, natural philosophers in Italy and England led the way. For Smith, however, it was within a different place and among different actors that the “Scientific Revolution” actually got its start: artisans, not natural philosophers, in the Lower countries and Germany, not Italy and England, structured their desire to know about the natural world through physical experience, not books, to claim the superiority of embodied knowledge . Those figures commonly associated with the Scientific Revolution, such as Francis Bacon, took up the artisans’ epistemological methodology.
This decentering of geographic origins and deemphasizing the role of iconic figures in the history of science has recently became a new analytical tool that has turned upside down long held notions of science as a progressive and strictly Western process. In Imperial Nature, historian of science Jim Endersby asks similar questions about Victorian science. Is it strictly something pouring out of Britain to the rest of the world? Is it run only by iconic men of science? Is the nineteenth century a period that is best understood only as split into pre- and post-Darwinian? Is the primary characteristic of Victorian science the push for professionalization within different disciplines? Endersby, probably more than any other historian working today, has an abiding fondness for Joseph Dalton Hooker. An online resource about Hooker that Endersby put together testifies to this claim (http://www.jdhooker.org.uk/), as does the many articles he has published in a variety of journals. But Endersby does more than just inform others about Hooker. Imperial Nature, based on Endersby’s Ph.D. dissertation, analyzes Hooker’s career as a nineteenth-century botanist to reconsider common yet clichéd themes in thinking about Victorian science: “the reception of Darwinism, the consequences of empire, and the emergence of a scientific profession” (3).
Important to Endersby, as the subtitle stresses, is an understanding of the practices of nineteenth-century botany, the minutiae of everyday “doing.” This structures his narrative, as each chapter focuses on a particular practice: Traveling, Collecting, Corresponding, Seeing, Classifying, Settling, Publishing, Charting, Associating, and Governing. Some chapters are more engaging than others, particularly the first five and “Charting.” According to Endersby, “a focus on practice serves to overcome a long-standing historiographical tendency to divide the factors and influences that shape science into those which are internal to science (such as objectivity and careful experimentation) and those which lie outside (e.g., political, religious, and economic factors)” (313). Looking at practice – what naturalists and collectors were doing rather than focusing on their ideas that developed – helps us to understand a complexity of issues at work.
Reading through Imperial Nature, Endersby diverts Hooker’s links to Darwin to the conclusion. The impression given is that he does not want his Hooker book, truly a labour of love, to become a Darwin book, as 2008 and 2009 have been flooded with many new works, covering many disciplines beyond science, about Darwin. “I have deliberately chosen to keep Darwin in the background,” Endersby states in the conclusion (316). Darwin’s story is well known, while those of his contemporaries, Hooker included, are not. Yet the conclusion becomes the place for Endersby to bring Darwin in and analyze Hooker’s and other Victorian naturalists’ careers in relation to the “species question.” Endersby argues that it is not the question of whether or not species evolved that was central to Victorian science (we are all familiar with the pre-/post-Darwinian, pre-/post-Origin, pre-/post-1858 markers), but the question of whether or not species were stable in nature. For Hooker, to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was not to become a supporter of transmutation (Endersby argues that natural selection hardly changed the ways naturalists did their work), but to recognize the value of natural selection as a theoretical tool to the practice of botany. Natural selection gave Hooker a way to combat those aspiring botanists who tended to claim many species of plants where Hooker saw one of a few. This tension between “lumpers” and “splitters” in botanical classification helped to shape much more than Hooker’s eventual support for Darwin (Endersby also explores debates around whether or not Hooker actually accepted Darwin’s theory).
The lumper/splitter dichotomy was best explained by the imperial context of nineteenth-century botany. Colonial botanists collected plants and sent them back to metropolitan botanists, such as Hooker. Economic botany – understanding what plants are where and how best they can be utilized as natural resources – was important to imperialism. Endersby, however, stresses that colonial botanists – such as William Colenso and Ronald Gunn – were not simply passive servants of more powerful botanists in London and at Kew Gardens specifically. Colonial botanists held some autonomy, using their rare positions as skilled collectors in far away places to further their own agendas, whether aspiring to be better botanists or better gentlemen. A constant through Hooker’s career is dealing with colonial botanists and their willingness to agree (or not) to his methods. For Hooker, the colonial botanist should simply collect and send specimens back to the center, while not speculating on theoretical or philosophical matters, such as transmutation, naming, or distribution. To further their own goals, however, colonial botanists did speculate beyond collecting. They tended to be splitters: having more local knowledge of plant varieties in a given location, colonial botanists argued for more distinct species. They wanted to emphasize the diverse floras of the regions they represented while asserting the authority of their local knowledge and in situ experience (they often found European botanical books inadequate). Metropolitan naturalists, on the other hand, minimized the number of species for several reasons. Hooker, as did other metropolitan botanists, constructed herbariums, collections of dried plant specimens ordered by hierarchies of classification and managed within specially built cabinets in drawers with folders. Managing an herbarium became a daunting task as colonial botanists sent in this and that new species of orchid or liverwort. Keeping the number of species to a minimum not only maintained a metropolitan botanist’s authority over peripheral subordinates, but helped in maintaining the physical herbarium (in itself a microcosm of the botanical world). Hooker’s broad species concept – that many species across the globe are more generally varieties of a species with a broad geographic range – also required broader collections. Arguing against splitters was, in a way, related to the demand for more publicly funded scientific positions to build public funded collections.
Colonial botanists, Endersby persuasively argues, were not passive recipients of metropolitan scientific knowledge. “The result was not a one-way flow of plants or authority from periphery to center but a complex negotiation in which each side bartered its assets according to its interests and in the process defined who was central or peripheral and why” (110). Men like Hooker, Darwin, and Huxley depended on colonial botanists. Without their collections, whether botanical or zoological, these “men of science” could hardly have accomplished their work. In turn, their work, is not something to be considered as meaning the same thing in different regions. As Endersby effectively shows, the meanings of botanical illustrations and botanical classifications (think of Bruno Latour’s “immutable mobiles”) did not necessarily transfer from one location to another and hold their intended meanings.
Endersby’s time in the archives is apparent. He uses a wealth of primary documents – letters and papers mainly – that are representative of the “centers” and “peripheries” of his story: America, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The subsections of many chapters in the book testify to his use of primary documents as well, as they are titled using quotes taken from these documents.
Imperial Nature, a reassessment of Victorian science seen through the career of a botanist bent on heightening the status of his discipline to be among geology and astronomy by claiming it “philosophical” and not an amateur pursuit (Hooker made his living from botany), will interest historians of Victorian science, biology (whether of botany, taxonomy, or evolution specifically), biogeography, imperialism, and even those who study the role of objects in history (chapter 2, “Collecting”). This is not a biographical treatment of Hooker (see Ray Desmond’s Joseph Dalton Hooker: Traveller and Plant Collector). Endersby has made a valuable contribution to several historical disciplines, showing how telling history entrenched in –isms (colonialism, professionalism, Darwinism) is detrimental to a proper understanding of Victorian science.
1. Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).
Darwin and Huxley’s disagreement over taxonomy’s connection to evolution
Polly Winsor FLS
Lecture at the Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BF
Thursday 4th December, 6.00pm
In 1857 T. H. Huxley wrote to Charles Darwin about the logical relationship between taxonomy and evolution, asserting that classification was a free-standing statement of similarities, quite independent of history, to which Darwin responded with the view that once his theory was accepted, most naturalists would prefer classifications that reflected ancestry. Their short and private exchange suggests a cascade of questions, running backwards and forwards in time and ranging from simple matters of fact to subtle matters of historiography. What was it in the reading and experience of these two men that led them to opposite sides of a basic issue in the philosophy of science? Was their disagreement known by any of their contemporaries, or did they suppress it in the interests of promoting evolution? Were their views handed down to later disputants, or do modern debates bear merely an analogical resemblance to this Victorian conversation?
Tea will be served in the Library from 5.30pm and the lecture will be followed by a wine reception. This meeting is free and open to all, registration is not necessary.
From Today in Science History:
Adolf Engler (Died 10 Oct 1930; born 25 Mar 1844). (Gustav Heinrich) Adolf Engler was a German botanist famous for his system of plant classification and for his expertise as a plant geographer. He emphasized the importance of geological history in the study of plant geography, and worked out an influential system of plant classification. He wrote several works on plant geography and taxonomy, and collaborated with Karl Prantl on the early volumes of Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien (32 vol. in 17, 1887–1909) and edited the early volumes of Das Pflanzenreich. The Engler and Prantl system of flowering plant classification was the principal one in use until the 1970s.
Sir Ferdinand von Mueller (Died 10 Oct 1896; born 30 Jun 1825). 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).
Thomas Say (Died 10 Oct 1834; born 27 Jun 1787). American self-taught naturalist often considered to be the founder of descriptive entomology in the United States. His taxonomic work was quickly recognized by European zoologists. Say was a founding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He was chief zoologist of Major Stephen Long’s exploring expedition to the tributaries of the Missouri River in 1819 and in 1823 for the expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi. During the 1819 expedition, Say first described the coyote, swift fox, western kingbird, band-tailed pigeon, Say’s phoebe, rock wren, lesser goldfinch, lark sparrow, lazuli bunting, and orange-crowned warbler. His important work, American Entomology, remains a classic. He also wrote on paleontology and conchology.
Pierre Lyonnet (Died 10 Oct 1789; born 22 Jul 1708). Dutch naturalist and engraver who skillfully dissected insects and made detailed illustrations of their anatomy. He also had a career as an official codebreaker. In 1738 he entered the service of the States General as an administrator of secret expenses and as a code-clerk. In his leisure he turned to natural history. He believed that nature was a cipher that could be interpreted by tracing every detail of its perfect design. He designed a simple microscope which had each lens suspended at the end of a series of ball and socket joints over a small mahogony dissecting table mounted on a post above a wooden base with small drawers containing his instruments. After preparing engravings for several books written by others, he produced his own treatises.
Read my review of this book here.
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.
From Today in Science History:
Olof Swartz (Born 21 Sep 1760; died 19 Sep 1818). Swedish botanist who left a legacy of a collection of plants from his botanical tours of the West Indies, Jamaica, North America, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Cuba between 1783-87. On his return, he described nearly 900 species, most of them new, in Flora Indiae occidentalis (3 vols., 1797-1806). The Swedish Museum of Natural History now holds the collection, about 6000 specimens of phanerogams and ferns, mostly from the West Indies. It is a part of their Regnellian herbarium. He is also noted for his taxonomic studies of specific plant groups, including orchids, mosses and especially ferns. He also published Nova Genera et Species Plantarum seu Prodromus (1788) and Observationes botanicae (1791).
From Today in Science History:
Carl Erich Correns (Born 19 Sep 1864; died 14 Feb 1933). 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).
Florentino Ameghino (Born 19 Sep 1853; died 6 Aug 1911). Argentine paleontologist and anthropologist who made significant contributions to the field of vertebrate paleontology and established the Pampas region of Argentina as a rich source of fossils. He discovered over 6,000 fossil species and classified 35 suborders of mammals. Ameghino’s controversial discoveries of stone implements, carved bones, and other signs of a human presence in Argentina during the Pliocene, Miocene, and earlier periods served to increase his worldwide fame.
David Starr Jordan (Died 19 Sep 1931; born 19 Jan 1851). American naturalist, educator, and the foremost American ichthyologist of his time. Jordan was a renowned expert in many fields. For example, he served as an expert witness on the validity of the theory of evolution at the Scopes trial in Tennessee. He was known for his work in education, philosophy, and as a peace activist. He often approached the subject of peace from a biological angle, arguing that war was detrimental to the health of the species because it removed the strongest individuals from the gene pool. Although he campaigned vigorously against US involvement in World War I, once war was declared, he advocated aggressive measures to end the conflict quickly.
Francis Darwin (Died 19 Sep 1925; born 16 Aug 1849). English botanist who was the third son of Charles Darwin, and published the results of his collaboration with his father in the publication of The Movement of Plants (1880).
Georg August Schweinfurth (Died 19 Sep 1925; born 29 Dec 1836). German botanist who travelled in the interior of East Africa (from 1868) and studied the inhabitants together with the flora and fauna of the region. During this journey, in Mar 1870, he discovered the River Welle (Uele), explored the upper Nile basin, and charted the western feeders of the White Nile. He wrote about the cannibalistic practices of the Mangbettu, and his discovery of the pygmy Akka confirmed the existence of dwarf races in tropical Africa (The Heart of Africa, 1873). During 1875-88, he lived in Cairo, where he founded the Royal Geographical Society of Egypt. He made historical, geological, ethnographical and botanical investigations ranging from there to the Arabian desert.
Giacomo Doria (Died 19 Sep 1913; born 1 Nov 1840). Italian naturalist and explorer who conducted important research in systematic zoology. Pursuing his work, he made expeditions to Persia (1862), Borneo (1865-66) and Tunisia (1879). In 1867, he founded the civic museum of natural history in Genoa. The collection he donated became the nucleus of the museum, which he directed for more than 40 years. He was also director of Societa Geografica Italiana (1891-1900). The museum he founded now contains important zoolological, paleontological, botanical, and mineralogical collections from all over the world. These collections are continually growing, now estimated to be more than 3.5 million exhibits.
Olof Swartz (Died 19 Sep 1818: born 21 Sep 1760). Swedish botanist who left a legacy of a collection of plants from his botanical tours of the West Indies, Jamaica, North America, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Cuba between 1783-87. On his return, he described nearly 900 species, most of them new, in Flora Indiae occidentalis (3 vols., 1797-1806). The Swedish Museum of Natural History now holds the collection, about 6000 specimens of phanerogams and ferns, mostly from the West Indies. It is a part of their Regnellian herbarium. He is also noted for his taxonomic studies of specific plant groups, including orchids, mosses and especially ferns. He also published Nova Genera et Species Plantarum seu Prodromus (1788) and Observationes botanicae (1791).
From Today in Science History:
Stephen Hales (Born 17 Sep 1677; died 4 Jan 1781). English botanist, physiologist, who pioneered the quantitative experimental approach in plant and animal physiology. He was a clergyman whose work in plant physiology, Vegetable Staticks (1787), included early demonstrations of the importance of air and light in plant growth, and of the role of transpiration in causing upward sap flow. He also measured the rates of growth of shoots and leaves and the pressure roots exert on sap, and he investigated plant respiration. Hales was the first to quantitatively measure blood pressure, measured the capacity of the left ventricle of the heart, and the output of the heart per minute. He invented an artificial ventilator that could convey fresh air into prisons, ships’ holds, and granaries.
Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu (Died 17 Sep 1836; born 12 Apr 1748). French botanist who developed the principles that served as the foundation of a natural system of plant classification. He was born into a family of eminent botanists from Lyons in France. After graduating from the Jardin du Roi in 1770, he continued to work there. He is remembered for introducing a natural classification system that distinguishes relationships between plants relying a large number of characters, unlike the artificial Linnean system, which uses only a few. He distinguished 15 classes and 100 families, of which 76 remain in botanical nomenclature today. His uncles Antoine, Bernard, and Joseph de Jussieu all made important contributions to botany and his son, Adrien, subsequently continued the family tradition.
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.
From Today in Science History:
Elliott Coues (Born 9 Sep 1842; died 25 Dec 1899). American army surgeon and ornithologist whose Key to North American Birds (1872) was the first work of its kind to present a taxonomic classification of birds according to an artificial key and promoted the systematic study of North American [birds]. Beginning the U.S. army as a medical cadet during the Civil War (1862), he became an assistant surgeon (1864-81). His interest in the study of birds began while a boy. He met many naturalists at the Smithsonian Institution and published his first technical paper at age 19. As his army assignments took him to various locations throughout the West, he continued studying the bird life in each new area, and found new species. He also did valuable work in mammalogy and wrote a book, Fur-Bearing Animals (1877).
Joseph Leidy (Born 9 Sep 1823; died 30 Apr 1891). American zoologist, who made significant contributions in a remarkably wide range of earth and natural science disciplines, including comparative anatomy, parasitology, and paleontology. As the Father of American Vert[e]brate Paleontology, he described not only the first relatively complete dinosaur skeleton, but the diversity of fossil finds in the American West. His knowledge of comparative anatomy enabled him to make sense of even fragmentary fossil remains. He was also a competant microscopist, scientific illustrator, and published papers in human biology and medicine. His microscopic examination of parasite cysts in cooked ham and microorganisms in housefly mouthparts enabled him to improve public heath.
William Lonsdale (Born 9 Sep 1794; died 11 Nov 1871). English geologist and paleontologist whose study of coral fossils found in Devon, suggested (1837) certain of them were intermediate between those typical of the older Silurian System (408 to 438 million years old) and those of the later Carboniferous System (286 to 360 million years old). Geologists Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick agreed. They named (1839) this new geologic system after its locale – the Devonian System. Lonsdale’s early career was as an army officer (1812-15) and later he became curator and librarian of the Geological Society of London (1829-42). He recognised that fossils showed how species changed over time, and more primitive organisms are found in lower strata. Darwin used this to support his evolution theory.
Andreas Franz Wilhelm Schimper (Died 9 Sep 1901; born 12 May 1856). 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.
Check out Carl Zimmer’s post, Darwin, Linnaeus, and One Sleepy Guy:
We are now descending into a frenzy of Darwin celebrations, and you’re not going to escape it until the end of 2009. We’ve got his 200th birthday in February, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species in November. The spotlight is going to be on Darwin, and Darwin alone.
I think this is a mistake. Darwin deserves celebrating, but that doesn’t mean we should fall prey to a cult of personality. Darwin did not invent biology. Darwin did not even find most of the evidence that he used to back up his theory of evolution. And he certainly did not discover all there was to know about evolution. Biologists have discovered many new things about evolution since his time. In some cases, they’ve challenged some of his most important arguments. And that’s fine. That’s the great strength of science.
From Today in Science History:
Georges Cuvier (Born 23 Aug 1769; died 13 May 1832). (Baron) French zoologist and statesman, who established the sciences of comparative anatomy and paleontology.
Philip Henry Gosse (Died 23 Aug 1888; born 6 Apr 1810). English popular science writer and naturalist who wrote books illustrating such topics as Jamaican wildlife and marine zoology. Stephen Jay Gould called Gosse the “David Attenborough of his day.” However, he did not accept the theory of evolution, and in his best-known book, Omphalos, he attempted to apply biblical literalism in a way still consistent with uniformitarianism. His premise in the book was criticized by both sides of the debate. He invented the institutional aquarium when on 21 May 1853, he opened the Aquatic Vivarium, the world’s first public aquarium in Regent’s Park, London
Alexander Wilson (Died 23 Aug 1813; born 6 Jul 1766). Scottish-born ornithologist and poet who left his homeland in 1794, aged 27, in search of a better life in America. Naturalist William Bartram sparked his interest in birds. By 1802, Wilson had resolved to author a book illustrating every North American bird. He travelled extensively to make paintings of the birds he observed. This pioneering work on North American birds grew to nine volumes of American Ornithology, published between 1808 and 1814, with illustrations of 268 species, of which 26 were new. As a founder of American ornithology he became one of the leading naturalists who also made the first census of breeding birds, corrected errors of taxonomy, and may have inspired Audubon’s later work when they met in 1810.
From Today in Science History:
Paul Kammerer (Born 17 Aug 1880; died 23 Sep 1926). Austrian biologist, he claimed to have produced experimental evidence that acquired traits could be inherited. Almost all of Kammerer’s experiments involved forcing various amphibians to breed in environments that were radically different from their native habitat to demonstrate Lamarkian inheritance. (This is the idea that what one acquires during one’s lifetime is passed on to that person’s offspring. If you play guitar, your children will have nimble fingers. Each generation builds upon the past and continues to improve.) When later accused of faking exceptional results with the midwife toad, during a time of depression, he shot himself.
Bernard de Jussieu (Born 17 Aug 1699; died 6 Nov 1777). French botanist whose method of plant classification was based on anatomical characteristics of the plant embryo. Although he first studied medicine, in 1722 he became subdemonstrator of plants in the Jardin du Roi, Paris. In 1758, Louis XV made him superintendent of his royal garden at Trianon near Paris, which was to contain specimens of all plants cultivated in France. It was here that he devised his system to arrange and catalogued the plants of Trianon. He did not arrange the genera systematically in groups according to a single characteristic, but after consideration of all the characteristics, which, however, are not regarded as of equal value. His brothers, Antoine and Joseph, and nephew Antoine-Laurent, were also botanists.
From Today in Science History:
John Torrey (Born 15 Aug 1796; died 10 Mar 1873). American botanist and chemist known for his extensive studies of North American flora. The first professional botanist in the New World, Torrey published extensively on the North American flora, advocated the “natural system” of classification that was replacing Linnaeus’ artifical system, and collaborated for many years with his student Asa Gray (who was to become an important botanist). Torrey never was able to make a living from botany and worked (among other things) as a freelance chemical analyst. Unidentified plants collected on government expeditions to the western states were sent to him for study, however, as a foremost authority of his time. A genus of evergreen trees, Torreya, is named for him.
Elias Fries (Born 15 Aug 1794; died 8 Feb 1878). Elias (Magnus) Fries was a Swedish botanist, one of the fathers of mycology, who developed the first system used to classify fungi, which had been an area of difficulty and confusion in the pre-Darwin era. His interest in the subject began as a school-boy. His three-volume work, Systema mycologicum (1821-32) remains an important source for nomenclature. The major taxonomic characteristics he applied were spore color and arrangement of the hymenophore (such as smooth surfaces, lamellae, folds, tubes, or toothlike). He also investigated algae and lichens, and published works to educate lay persons.
Sir Edwin Ray Lankester (Died 15 Aug 1929; born 15 May 1847). 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 anthropology, his activities included the discovery of flint implements, evidence of early man, in Pliocene sediments, Suffolk. He was Director of the British Museum of Natural History (1898-1907).
William Buckland (Died 15 Aug 1856; born 12 Mar 1784). English pioneer geologist and minister, known for his effort to reconcile geological discoveries with the Bible and anti-evolutionary theories.
A few weeks ago, on a hike to History Rock in Hyalite Canyon just south of Bozeman, I noticed this rock in the trail. I said to my friend who was with me that it looked like a whale, and she replied that it could also look like a fish. I thought that little exchange ironic considering that I was near finishing D. Graham Burnett’s Trying Leviathan(Princeton, 2007), a book that revolves around a historical investigation of the question, “Is a Whale a Fish?” It took me a while to read this interesting (but densely erudite!) book – mostly 10 to 15 minutes during my lunch break everyday working at the campus library since January. If given the time, however, I probably could have polished it off in a few weeks, but time is always limited, and I am not as prolific a reader as a fellow blogger, who has also read this book (and hopefully planning to review, Brian?). So, that said, I am happy to finally post my review of Burnett’s book about” The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature” (this is its subtitle), and I thank Princeton University Press for their patience.
From Today in Science History:
Pierre Lyonnet (Born 22 July 1708; died 10 Oct 1789). Dutch naturalist and engraver who skillfully dissected insects and made detailed illustrations of their anatomy. He also had a career as an official codebreaker. In 1738 he entered the service of the States General as an administrator of secret expenses and as a code-clerk. In his leisure he turned to natural history. He believed that nature was a cipher that could be interpreted by tracing every detail of its perfect design. He designed a simple microscope which had each lens suspended at the end of a series of ball and socket joints over a small mahogony dissecting table mounted on a post above a wooden base with small drawers containing his instruments. After preparing engravings for several books written by others, he produced his own treatises.
George Shaw (Died 22 July 1813; born 10 Dec 1751). George Shaw was a naturalist and an anatomist. In 1792, at the Royal Zoological Society in London, he received and was the first to preserve and classify an Australian echidna specimen. Spines and hair on the animal suggested a new genus of porcupine. But it was “captured in New Holland on an anthill,” had a naked, elongated snout and long, cylindrical tongue. Thus, he mistakenly classified it in the taxonomic scheme as related to the South American ant bear. What had he missed? Not until 1884 was there verification (of the observations passed on from native aboriginal Australians many decades before) that this mammal laid eggs!
Jean Senebier (Died 22 July 1809; born 6 May 1742). Swiss naturalist and botanist who demonstrated that green plants consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen under the influence of light. In 1788, Jean Senebier, in his Expériences sur l’action de la lumière solaire dans la végétation established the relationship between the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the production of oxygen by plants. His studies built on the work of Ingenhousz who showed that plants produce oxygen in sunlight and carbon dioxide in darkness. Neither scientist fully understood the puzzle of photosynthesis, but they provided steps to the solution by others after them.