Scientist of the Day - Otto Müller
Otto Frederik Müller, a Danish naturalist, was born Mar. 11, 1730. Around 1760, Müller invented a tool that would be indispensable for future marine biologists: the dredge. His dredge was a square made of four stiff iron scrapers; the contraption was attached to a ring and a line on one side and a mesh bag on the other (first image). It could be dragged along the ocean floor, filling up the bag with all sorts of bottom dwellers that could not otherwise be collected. There was not much further interest in dredging until 50 years after Müller's death in 1784, but in the 1830s, dredging was rediscovered, and there ensued an explosion in invertebrate zoology. Dredges also got larger and more elaborate (second image)
Müller discovered a number of invertebrates with his own dredge, although he seems to have used it mainly in fresh-water ponds rather than the deep sea. In 1781, he published a book on water mites, or Hydrachnae, which had a number of attractive hand-colored engravings of his aqueous arachnids (third, fourth, and fifth images). We exhibited his book on water mites in our 2009 exhibition, The Grandeur of Life.
We have two other Müller books on invertebrates in our History of Science Collection.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to email@example.com.