History of Biology…
Contributions to the development of biology have come from all over the world. Three groups of biologists, working in the years since the Renaissance, will be studied here. Their contributions are important to the history of biology, and to modern science. The work of one man in each of the three groups will be studied.
The first group of biologists, and the earliest group to be studied here, are the microscopists of the 17th century. These people worked with microscopes. They built them and improved them for use in the study of science. Anthony van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch microscopist who lived from 1632 until 1723, was one of the many important people in this group. Van Leeuwenhoek was interested in improving the lenses that were used in making microscopes. He made some microscopes, and looked at many different things with the help of the magnifying lenses which he made, also. By looking through the lenses, van Leeuwenhoek realized that there was a whole world filled with microscopic living things. Most people were unaware that these small living things existed. The microscope continues to be a very important tool in science today.
A second group of biologists worked in the 18th century to systematize our knowledge in science. They tried to organize all of the information found by many scientists so that everyone could use the same system for talking about discoveries. One system was developed by a Swedish scientist named Carl von Linnaeus, who lived from 1707 until 1778. He classified plants, animals and minerals in a very useful way. His idea was to give each plant, animal, and mineral a two-part Latin name. The first part of the name was a general name. It told what general group of things the plant, animal, or mineral belonged to. This was the name of genus, or group. The second part of the name was the specific name. This was the name of the species, or kind. It told what specific plant, animal, or mineral it was.
This system was extremely popular among scientists, and is still used today. There are several reasons for its popularity. First, the system is simple and clear. Second, Linnaeus used Latin words in his system and, at that time, nearly all scientists knew Latin. Everyone who knew Latin did not have to learn any special words. Also, the two names were a short description and were fairly easy to remember. Linnaeus' system, which is still used today, is sometimes referred to as a system of binomial nomenclature.
A third group of biologists did most of their work in the 19th century. These scientists profited from the interest in world exploration during this time. They went on many expeditions as observers and collectors. Their job was to study the plants and animals of the new lands. One of the best known explorers and observers was the great English biologist Charles Darwin. He lived in England in the years from 1809 until 1882.
Since he was an explorer, Darwin did not spend all of the years of his life at home in England. He left England for five years in the early 1830's to travel on a ship called the Beagle. This trip is famous. For the other people on the Beagle, the purpose of the trip was to draw maps and to explore South America. They also planned to sail all the way around the earth. For Darwin, the purpose of the trip was different. He collected many samples of plants and animals from South America and the South Seas. He also wrote down many of his observations of the living things he found in his explorations. When he returned to England, Darwin wrote a book called Origin of Species, which was about evolution. His theory of evolution was developed as a result of his observations during his trip on the Beagle.
Van Leeuwenhoek, Linnnaeus, and Darwin are three very important men in the history of biology. Each is one of a group of people who made a significant contribution to science. These three men have made important contributions to science, but they are only a few of the important people in the history of biology.