Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Thomson, C(harles) Wyville (Scotland 1830-1882)
oceanography, natural history


Thomson rose rapidly through the ranks despite never completing a college degree, eventually securing the chair of natural history at the University of Edinburgh (he was also elected to the Royal Society at the young age of thirty-nine, and knighted at forty-six). He had rather wide interests early on, but eventually came to concentrate on the study of marine invertebrates. Several deep sea dredging operations he involved himself with circa 1868-1870 produced striking results (including disproving Edward Forbes's theory that the deep oceans were lifeless), and he was able to secure larger-scale funding for what became known as the Challenger expedition. This yielded a cornucopia of specimens and data that kept an army of specialists busy for nearly twenty years; Thomson himself, however, had already lost his health to the experience and died long before most of the results were published (he was forced to delegate responsibility for seeing everything through to his assistant, John Murray). Thomson, along with Murray, deserve recognition as the founders of modern deep-sea oceanographic studies.

Life Chronology

--born in Bonsyde, Linlithgow, Scotland, on 5 March 1830.
--1845-1848: studies medicine at the University of Edinburgh
--1850-1851: lecturer in botany, University of Aberdeen
--1853: made professor of natural history at Queen's College, Cork
--1854-1862: professor of mineralogy and geology, Queen's College, Belfast
--1862: made professor of natural history at Queen's College, Belfast
--1868, 1869, 1870: involved in dredging cruises around the British Isles and Mediterranean
--1868-1869: professor of botany, Royal College of Science, Dublin
--1869: made a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--1870-1882: chair of natural history, University of Edinburgh
--1872: appointed scientific director for the H. M. S. Challenger expedition
--1872-1876: oversees operations on the Challenger expedition
--1873: publishes his The Depths of the Sea, with W. B. Carpenter and J. G. Jeffreys
--1876: knighted
--1877-1878: publishes his The Voyage of the "Challenger": The Atlantic, in two volumes
--1878: honorary LL.D, Trinity College
--dies at Bonsyde, Linlithgow, Scotland, on 10 March 1882.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 13 (1976).
--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 54 (2004).
--Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, Vol. 14 (1882): 278-282.
--Founders of Oceanography and Their Work (1923): 37-67.
--Earth-Science Reviews, Vol. 8(2) (1972): 255-266.
--Scottish Naturalist, N.S. Vol. 1 (1883-1884): 44-46.
--Journal of the History of Collections, Vol. 11 (1999): 51-70.

*                 *                 *                 *                 *

Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

Return to Home/Alphabetical Listing by Name
Return to Listing by Country
Return to Listing by Discipline