Scientist of the Day - Phillip Henry Gosse
Phillip Henry Gosse, an English invertebrate zoologist, was born Apr. 6, 1810. It is not clear who invented the aquarium, but Gosse certainly was its great popularizer in the 1850s. The terrarium, a closed glass box, had been devised in the 1830s, and was used in Victorian England primarily for growing ferns. Gosse essentially turned the terrarium upside down and filled it with sea water, and made it possible to maintain and view all sorts of aquatic life in the comfort of one’s parlour. Gosse was particularly fond of sea-anemones, which come in a variety of colors and become quite active, swirling their tentacles about, when placed in an aquarium. In 1860, Gosse published Actinologia Britannica: A History of the British Sea-anemones and Corals, which has a number of beautiful plates, printed in color, of various species of anemones. The images above are taken from this book, and were all drawn by Gosse himself. We displayed the book in our 2009 exhibition: The Grandeur of Life; the online version shows two more of Gosse’s stunning plates, different from the ones above.
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