Monthly Archives: January 2015

Nicolas Steno and the Principles of Modern Geology

Nicolas Steno and the Principles of Modern Geology

In January, 1638, Danish Catholic bishop and scientist Nicolas Steno was born. He was both a pioneer in both anatomy and geology, and seriously questioned accepted knowledge of the natural world. Importantly he questioned explanations for tear production, the idea that fossils grew in the ground and explanations of rock formation. By some he is considered the founder of modern stratigraphy and modern geology. Nicolas Steno was born as Niels Stensen,…
The Watches of Abraham-Louis Bréguet

The Watches of Abraham-Louis Bréguet

On January 10, 1747, Swiss horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet was born. In his lifetime he was considered the leading watchmaker of his day because of his artistic as well as technical skill. His innovations included a self-winding or “perpétuelle” watch (1780), the gong spring which decreased the size of repeater watches, and the first anti-shock device or “pare-chute”, which improved the reliability of his watches while making them less fragile. Of…
Elizabeth Gertrude Britton Knight and the Study of Mosses

Elizabeth Gertrude Britton Knight and the Study of Mosses

On January 9, 1858, American botanist, bryologist, and educator Elizabeth Gertrude Britton (née Elizabeth Gertrude Knight) was born. She and her husband, Nathaniel Lord Britton played a significant role in the fundraising and creation of the New York Botanical Garden. She is best known for her lasting contributions to bryology, the study of mosses. Elizabeth Gertrude Knight was born in New York City, one of five daughters, to James and…
Alfred Russel Wallace and the Natural Selection

Alfred Russel Wallace and the Natural Selection

On January 8, 1823, British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace was born. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin’s writings in 1858. This prompted Darwin to publish his own ideas in On the Origin of Species. Alfred Russel grew up in Kensington Cottage near Usk, Monmouthshire,…
Johan Christian Fabricius and his Classification System for Insects

Johan Christian Fabricius and his Classification System for Insects

On January 7, 1745, Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius was born. He was a student of Carl Linnaeus, and is considered one of the most important entomologists of the 18th century, having named nearly 10,000 species of animal, and established the basis for modern insect classification. Johan Christian Fabricius was born in Tønder in the Duchy of Schleswig, where his father was a doctor. Already while still a child, Johann…
The famous illustrations of Gustave Doré

The famous illustrations of Gustave Doré

On January 6, 1832, French artist, printmaker, illustrator and sculptor Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré was born. Doré is primarily known for his wood engravings and illustrations of literary works such as Dante’s inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Cervantes’ Don Quixote or the Bible. Gustave Doré’s earliest dated drawings were from the age of five and by 1844, he started carving lithographic stones and made first sets of engravings. He grew…
Francois Villon –  Rogue, Vagrant and Poet

Francois Villon – Rogue, Vagrant and Poet

On January 5, 1463, the Death sentence to Francois Villon, best known French poet of the late Middle Ages, was remitted by a pardon from King Charles VII into 10 years of banishment. Villon is best known as a ne’er-do-well who was involved in criminal behavior and got into numerous scrapes with authorities. Nevertheless, Villon wrote about some of these experiences in his poems and became famous. Villon was born…
Vivant Denon and the Science of Egyptology

Vivant Denon and the Science of Egyptology

On January 4, 1747, French artist, writer, diplomat, author, and archaeologist Dominique Vivant, Baron Denon was born. He was appointed as the first Director of the Louvre Museum by Napoleon. His two-volume Voyage dans la basse et la haute Egypte (“Journey in Lower and Upper Egypt“, 1802), was the foundation of modern Egyptology. It is believed that Vivant Denon studied law in Paris, but later turned his interest to art and…
Marcus Tullius Cicero – a Homo Novus

Marcus Tullius Cicero – a Homo Novus

On January 3, 106 BC, Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist Marcus Tullius Cicero was born. Besides his work as politician, he is widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists. His influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose in not only Latin but European languages up to the 19th century was said to be either a…
Rudolf Clausius and the Science of Thermodynamics

Rudolf Clausius and the Science of Thermodynamics

On January 2, 1822, German physicist and mathematician Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius was born. He is considered one of the central founders of the science of thermodynamics, who introduced the concept of entropy in 1865. Rudolf Clausius’ father founded a school and became its Principal. However, Rudolf Clausius moved to Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland), where he attended a grammar school. He entered the University of Berlin around 1840, being mostly…
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