Famous Ecologist and their Contribution

Antony van Leeuwenhoek is best known for discovering bacteria and creating more than 500 simple microscopes. He also discovered sperm cells, blood cells, protists and microscopic nematodes. He was made one of the first recorded observations of bacteria when he studied the plaque from his teeth and the teeth of several other people. He noticed “animalcules” swimming in the saliva sample. His simple microscopes were very different from the compound microscopes used today. They had one lens and a brass plate, and the lens was adjusted by turning two screws. Only about 10 of these simple microscopes are still in existence today. Although van Leeuwenhoek never received a degree or any formal scientific training, he was elected a member of the Royal Society of London in 1680.

Antony Van Leeuwenhoek

Carl Linnaeus classified living organisms as being from either the plant or animal kingdom. Each kingdom was divided into smaller groups referred to as classes. Each class was divided into orders. Every order was split into genera. Each genus divided into species, and each division was made based upon specific features. He described 4,300 species of animals in his 1735 book “Systema Naturae” and 5,000 species of plants in his 1737 book, “Geenera Plantarum” This classification system, with its many additions, revisions and modifications, is used worldwide.

Linnaeus’ other significant scientific contribution was his system of binomial nomenclature. This system gives a scientific name consisting of two words to every plant and animal species. The first word describes the name of the genus, while the second word denotes the name of the species. Scientists throughout the world continue to use this system.

Linnaeus was born in Sweden on May 23, 1707, and he died on Jan. 10, 1778 in Uppsala. He studied botany at Uppsala University. He later explored the Swedish Lapland and studied medicine in Holland. It was during his studies in Holland that Linnaeus first developed his classification system and binomial nomenclature.

Carl Linnaeus

Alexander Humboldt who was first to describe ecological gradient of latitudinal biodiversity increase toward the tropics in 1807.

Alexander Humboldt

Charles Darwin was a British naturalist best known for his work establishing the theory of organic evolution by means of natural selection. Based on his early training, his circle of mentors and colleagues, and most importantly the many observations that he made aboard the celebrated five-year voyage of the HMS Beagle, Darwin formulated a theory of species change he termed descent with modification through the primary means of natural selection. The first hints of this theory began to appear in 1837 and were recorded in his private notebooks, but only after over twenty years of additional research, the collection of many examples, extensive reading, and much reflection did he publish it in 1859, and then only after learning that the younger British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had independently formulated a similar understanding of species change. With the support of a small circle of colleagues, an abbreviated version of his theory was first presented, and it was then published in conjunction with Wallace in 1958. He then turned to writing what was intended to be an abstract of a planned longer series of works in support of his theory, but which became instead On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published in 1859. His scientific oeuvre is dominated by this book, but he subsequently published a number of important books that either extended or supported the theory set forth in 1859 including his reflections on human evolution set forth in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex published in 1871. Though he is best known for his theory of species change, Darwin had a number of other interests. He was a keen experimentalist, performing a series of small but elegant studies involving plants and other organisms that reflected a grasp of the complex interactions between organisms at a time when ecological thinking was only just emerging. Indeed, Darwin is considered one of the first ecological thinkers, using the phrase “economy of nature,” on multiple occasions in his On the Origin of Species. His many botanical studies as laid out in no less than six books are now considered both pathbreaking but also imaginative and crucial to laying the foundations of what is now plant evolutionary biology, plant ecology, and invasion biology, and his examination of the behavior of humans as shown in his The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals published in 1872 is considered foundational in behavioral studies and in the field called evolutionary psychology. With the help of many commentators, furthermore, his influence spread well outside scientific circles and shaped prevailing social and political views, as well as challenging belief in a purposive, anthropocentric universe.

Charles Darwin

Herbert Spencer likening society to an organism, Spencer emphasized that it should be permitted to develop organically, without the intervention of the State. Spencer argued in favor of natural rights that would allow individuals to do as they thought best. His political philosophy of decreased state power continues to influence libertarians and other political thinkers critical of the government’s impact on individual rights.

Herbert Spencer

Karl Möbius was trained for elementary teaching at a private college in Eilenburg, and from 1844 to 1849 he taught at Seesen in the Harz Mountains. He went to the University of Berlin to study in the natural sciences under Johannes Muller (1849–53), then took up teaching again at the Johanneum Grammar School in Hamburg. There his continuing studies in the natural sciences gained him a reputation that led to a post at the Hamburg Museum of Natural History. His research on corals and foraminiferans (i.e., protozoans of the rhizopodan order Foraminiferida) led to the discovery of symbiosis in marine invertebrates. He also proved that Eozoon canadense, long thought to be a species of living marine organisms, was actually an aggregate of minerals. Interested in fishery biology, Möbius investigated mussel and oyster breeding as well as the artificial cultivation of pearls. He helped to develop various impressive zoological collections. In 1863 he cofounded the Hamburg Zoo and was chief designer of Germany’s first public aquarium. While professor of zoology at the University of Kiel, he created a museum for its zoological institute (1881), which became a model for such establishments for years to come. Later, as director of the newly founded Natural History Museum in Berlin (1887), Möbius succeeded in setting the groundwork for its large and impressive collection.

Karl Mobius

Ernst Haeckel Invented the term ecology, popularized research links between ecology and evolution.

Ernst Haeckel

Victor Hensen invented term plankton, developed quantitative and statistical measures of productivity in the seas.

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Victor Hensen

Eugenius Warming: Early founder of Ecological Plant Geography.

Eugenius Warming

Ellen Swallow Richards: Pioneer and educator who linked urban ecology to human health.

Ellen Swallow Richards

Stephen Forbes an entomologist and naturalist, was the son of Isaac Sawyer and Agnes (Van Hoesen) Forbes. Forbes was born at Silver Creek, Ill. His father was a farmer, and died when Stephen was 10 years old. An older brother, Henry, then 21 years old, had been independent since he was 14, working his way toward a college education, but on his father’s death he abandoned his career, took the burden of his father’s family on his shoulders, and supported and educated the children. He taught Stephen to read French, sent him to Beloit to prepare for college; and when the Civil War came he sold the farm and gave the proceeds (after the mortgage was paid) to his mother and sister for their support. Both brothers then joined the 7th Illinois Cavalry, Henry having retained enough money to buy horses for both. Stephen, enlisting at 17, was rapidly promoted, and at 20 became a captain in the regiment of which his brother ultimately became colonel. In 1862, while carrying dispatches, he was captured and held in a Confederate prison for four months. After liberation and three months in the hospital recuperating, he rejoined his regiment and served until the end of the war. He had learned to read Italian and Spanish in addition to French, before the war, and studied Greek while in prison. He was a born naturalist. His farm life as a boy and his open-air life in the army intensified his interest in nature . After the close of the war, he began at once the study of medicine, entering the Rush Medical College where he nearly completed the course. His biographers have not as yet given the reason for the radical change in his plans which caused him to abandon medicine at this late stage in his education; but the writer has been told by his son, that it was “because of a series of incidents having to do mainly with operations without the use of anesthetics which convinced him that he was not temperamentally adapted to medical practice.” His scientific interests, however, had been thoroughly aroused, and for several years while he taught school in southern Illinois, he carried on studies in natural history. In 1872 through the interest and influence of Dr. George Vasey, the well-known botanist, he was made curator of the Museum of State Natural History at Normal, Ill., and three years later was made instructor in zoology at the normal school. In 1877 the Illinois State Museum was established at Springfield; and the museum at Normal, becoming the property of the state, was made the Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History. Forbes was made its director. During these years he had been publishing the results of his researches rather extensively, and had gone into a most interesting and important line of investigation, namely the food of birds and fishes. He studied intensively the food of the different species of fish inhabiting Illinois waters and the food of the different birds. This study, of course, kept him close to entomology, and in 1884 he was appointed professor of zoology and entomology in the University of Illinois. The State Laboratory of Natural History was transferred to the university and in 1917 was renamed the Illinois Natural History Survey. He retained his position as chief, and held it up to the time of his death. He was appointed state entomologist in 1882 and served until 1917, when the position was merged in the survey. He retired from his teaching position as an emeritus professor in 1921. He served as dean of the College of Science of the university from 1888 to 1905. All through his career Forbes had been publishing his writings actively. As early as 1895, Samuel Henshaw, in his Bibliography of the more Important Contributions to American Economic Entomology, listed 101 titles. It is said that his bibliography runs to more than 500 titles. And the range of these titles is extraordinary; they include papers on entomology, ornithology,limnology , ichthyology, ecology , and other phases of biology. All of his work was characterized by remarkable originality and depth of thought. Forbes was the first writer and teacher in America to stress the study of ecology, and thus began a movement which has gained great headway. He published 18 annual entomological reports, all of which have been models. He was the first and leading worker in America on hydrobiology. He studied the fresh-water organisms of the inland waters and was the first scientist to write on the fauna of the Great Lakes . His work on the food of fishes was pioneer work and has been of very great practical value. Forbes was a charter member of the American Association of Economic Entomologists and served twice as its president. He was also a charter member of the Illinois Academy of Science; a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society; and in 1928 was made an honorary member of the Fourth International Congress of Entomology. Indiana University gave him the degree of Ph.D., in 1884, on examination and presentation of a thesis.


Stephen Forbes

Vito Volterra Independently pioneered mathematical populations models around the same time as Alfred J. Lotka.

Vito Volterra





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