biology

Edward Drinker Cope and the Neo-Lamarckian School of Thought

Edward Drinker Cope and the Neo-Lamarckian School of Thought

On July 28, 1840, American paleontologist and comparative anatomist Edward Drinker Cope was born. Being s well as a noted herpetologist and ichthyologist, he was a founder of the Neo-Lamarckism school of thought. This school believed that changes in developmental (embryonic) timing, not natural selection, was the driving force of evolution. Cope thought that groups of species that shared similar developmental patterns could be grouped into more inclusive groups (i.e. genera, families,…
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Gilbert White – England’s First Ecologist

Gilbert White – England’s First Ecologist

On July 18, 1720, pioneering English naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White was born. He is best known for his work Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), in which over the course of 20 years of his observations and two colleagues’ letters, he studied a wide range of flora and fauna seen around his hometown of Selborne, Hampshire. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne was adored by Charles Darwin, has been read by…
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James Smithson’s Last Will and its Remarkable Consequences

James Smithson’s Last Will and its Remarkable Consequences

On June 27, 1829, English chemist and mineralogist James Smithson passed away, whose bequest of substantial funds in his will established the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”, despite having never visited the United States. James Smithson was the illegitimate son of Sir Hugh Smithson, later known as Sir Hugh Percy, Baronet, First Duke of Northumberland, K.G., and Elizabeth Hungerford Keate. Elizabeth Keate was the wealthy widow…
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Mikhail Tsvet – the Father of Chromatography

Mikhail Tsvet – the Father of Chromatography

On June 26, 1919, Russian-Italian botanist Mikhail Semyonovich Tsvet passed away. Tsvet is credited with the invention of the adsorption chromatography, separating plant pigments by extracting them from leaves with ether and alcohol and percolating the solution through a column of calcium carbonate. Mikhail Tsvet was born 14 May 1872 in Asti, Italy. His mother was Italian, and his father was a Russian official. His mother died soon after his birth, and…
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David Douglas and the Douglas Fir

David Douglas and the Douglas Fir

On June 25 1799, Scottish botanist David Douglas was born. Douglas was one of the most successful of the great 19th century plant collectors. Today, he is best known as the namesake of the Douglas fir. He worked as a gardener, and explored the Scottish Highlands, North America, and Hawaii, where he died. David Douglas was apprenticed to the head gardener at Scone Palace, the seat of the Earl of Mansfield and spent several years…
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The Wonderful World of Thomas Pennant, Zoologist

The Wonderful World of Thomas Pennant, Zoologist

On June 14, 1726, Welsh naturalist, traveller, writer and antiquarian Thomas Pennant was born. As a naturalist he had a great curiosity, observing the geography, geology, plants, animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish around him and recording what he saw and heard about. He wrote acclaimed books including British Zoology, the History of Quadrupeds, Arctic Zoology and Indian Zoology although he never travelled further afield than continental Europe. Thomans Pennant – Early…
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Henry Faulds and the Forensic Use of Fingerprints

Henry Faulds and the Forensic Use of Fingerprints

On June 1, 1843, Scottish physician and missionary Henry Faulds was born. Faulds became a missionary in Japan, where he worked as a surgeon superintendent at a Tokyo hospital, taught at the local univeristy, and founded the Tokyo Institute for the Blind. He is probably best known for his study of fingerprints, where he became convinced that each individual had a unique pattern. Historic Use of Fingerprints It is believed that fingerprints…
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Julius Richard Petri and the Petri Dish

Julius Richard Petri and the Petri Dish

On May 31, 1852, German microbiologist Julius Richard Petri was born. Petri is generally credited with inventing the device known as the Petri dish after him, while working as assistant to bacteriologist Robert Koch. Julius Richard Petri studied medicine at the Kaiser Wilhelm Academy for Military Physicians from 1871-1875 and worked for a short time as a military doctor. He completed his doctorate as a physician at the Charité in Berlin, which he obtained in…
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Gregory Pincus and the Contraceptive Pill

Gregory Pincus and the Contraceptive Pill

On April 9, 1903, American biologist and endocrinologist Gregory Goodwin Pincus was born. Pincus’ work on the antifertility properties of steroids led to the development of the first effective oral contraceptive: the birth-control pill. Gregory Pincus – Youth and Education Gregory Pincus was born in Woodbine, New Jersey and received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Cornell University. He became an instructor in zoology at Harvard University while also working toward his…
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The Botanical Collections of José Celestino Mutis

The Botanical Collections of José Celestino Mutis

On April 6, 1732, Spanish priest, botanist and mathematician José Celestino Mutis was born. Between 1783 and 1808, Mutis tirelessly led an extraordinary endeavor to collect and illustrate the plants of Colombia, assembling one of the richest botanical collections in the world of his time. José Celestino Mutis – Becoming a Botanist José Celestino Mutis began studying medicine at the College of Surgery in Cádiz. There, Mutis also studied physics, chemistry, and…
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