Famous Biologists

A history of biology in biography

famous biologists


This section, Famous Biologists, offers biographies describing the lives, contributions, and discoveries of renowned biologists from all eras of biology.

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 Lives of

Agassiz >>
Aldrovandi >>
Anning >>
Aristotle >>
Von Baer >>
Chargaff >>
Cuvier >>
Dart >>
Darwin >>
Gesner >>
De Vries >>
Goldschmidt >>
Humboldt >>
Ingenhousz >>
Kelsey >>
Lamarck >>
Leakeys >>
Linnaeus >>
Lyell >>
Mendel >>
Pliny >>
Sedgwick >>
Smith >>
Wallace >>
Xantus >>

Hugo de Vries (1848-1935). The most influential post-Darwinian saltationist up to the time of Eldredge and Gould, de Vries dominated evolutionary thought during the early twentieth century. Read more >>

Renato Dulbecco (1914-). Italian virologist. Shared the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Howard Temin and David Baltimore for their discovery of reverse transcriptase. Read more >>


Niles Eldredge (1943-). American paleontologist, who, along with Stephen Jay Gould, revived the saltationist tradition in biology by pointing out that the typical fossil form comes into being rapidly and remains largely the same thereafter, right up to the time of extinction ("punctuated equilibrium"). Read more >>

Conrad Gesner (1516-1565). Renaissance Swiss naturalist, called the "German Pliny." Both Gesner and his longer-lived contemporary Ulisse Aldrovandi belonged to the generation of scholars who revived the ancient practice of studying the natural world. Read more >>

Richard Goldschmidt (1878-1958) German-born American geneticist. First biologist to integrate genetics, development, and evolution. Although one of the most prominent geneticists of his era, Goldschmidt was rejected by his colleagues when he proposed a saltational theory of evolution. Read more >>

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002). American paleontologist, who, along with Niles Eldredge, revived the saltationist tradition in biology by pointing out that the typical fossil form comes into being rapidly and remains largely the same thereafter, right up to the time of extinction ("punctuated equilibrium"). Read more >>

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Prussian naturalist and scientific explorer. As a public personification of science, Humboldt was to the nineteenth century, what Einstein was to the twentieth.
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Jan Ingenhousz (1730-1799). Showed light is essential to plant respiration and further demonstrated that the gas released by plants is oxygen. Read more >>


Frances Oldham Kelsey (1914-). The FDA reviewer who single-handedly prevented marketing of Thalidomide in the U.S. Savior of thousands of children and a leader of the modern American movement toward more stringent regulation of the distribution of drugs. Read more >>


Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829). Early evolutionary theorist. Long before Darwin, Lamarck proposed that human beings had evolved from apes. Read more>>

Louis and Mary Leakey The paleoanthropologist team that convinced the world that humans first evolved in Africa. Read more >>

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778). Swedish botanist, zoologist, and taxonomist. Creator of the modern system of scientific nomenclature. Early evolutionary theorist. Read more >>

Charles Lyell (1797-1875). Scottish geologist and paleontologist. Gave the Pliocene Epoch its name. A friend and supporter of Charles Darwin, Lyell, established uniformitarianism as a scientific principle. Read more >>


Barbara McClintock (1902-1992). American cytogeneticist. One of the foremost biologists of the twentieth century. During her research on color mosaicism in maize in the early 1940s, she discovered transposons, mobile genetic elements that can move from one location to another within the genome. McClintock produced the first genetic map for maize. Also a pioneer in theory, she proposed the idea of gene regulation — and showed how it could be affected by transposition — long before such a notion was accepted or even considered by other biologists. She also demonstrated many basic genetic phenomena, such as meiotic crossing over, and the roles of telomeres and centromeres. Other scientists had trouble understanding her conceptually difficult papers and rejected her claims about transposition and gene regulation. It was more than twenty years before they realized she had been right. For her discovery of transposition she received the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. No other woman biologist has ever been awarded the unshared prize in that category.

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