Scientist of the Day

Tomitaro Makino

April 24, 2018

Tomitaro Makino, a Japanese botanist, was born Apr. 24, 1862. Makino is usually referred to as the father of Japanese botany, because he named and described so many plants, and because he applied Linnaean principles in his taxonomic work. He published the Illustrated Flora of Japan in 1940, an encyclopedic work that describes and illustrates over 6000 plants, six to a page for over 1000 pages. We have a second edition (1955) in the Library, from which the above images were taken, and we would like to add a first edition to our collections…

Julius Caesar Scaliger

April 23, 2018

Julius Caesar Scaliger, an Italian physician and classical scholar, was born Apr. 23, 1484. Scaliger came into the world with the last name Bordone, but somewhere along the line he decided that his family was descended from the noble house of La Scala of Verona. Scholars now universally dismiss this, but the adopted name Scaliger, fashioned from La Scala, has stuck…

Johann Jakob Kaup

April 20, 2016

Johann Jakob Kaup, a German paleontologist, was born Apr. 20, 1803, in Darmstadt. In 1829, in a place called Eppelsheim, about 40 miles from Darmstadt, Kaup uncovered the fossil remains of a huge, elephant-like animal. Its most distinguishing features were its gigantic size–bigger than a mastodon–and a pair of enormous downward-facing tusks that grew out of the lower jaw, making it kind of a pachydermal backhoe. He called the extinct creature Dinotherium giganteum, “terrible gigantic beast”, and announced it in several publications before 1836. William Buckland in England picked up on it right away; he included a picture of the lower jaw in his Bridgewater treatise, Geology and Mineralogy considered with reference to Natural Theolory (1836), and in later editions, he added a life restoration and an image of the entire skull…

Michael Stifel

April 19, 2018

Michael Stifel, a German mathematician and clergyman, died Apr. 19, 1567; his birthdate is unknown. Stifel started out as a monk at an Augustinian monastery in Esslingen, and then was caught up in the German Reformation, taking the side of Martin Luther, who became a good friend. Stifel spent 12 years as a minister in a town near the University of Wittenberg, a school presided over by Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s right-hand man. These 12 years of relative peace and quiet allowed Stifel to develop his understanding of mathematics, especially algebra. He published a book in Latin on algebra, Arithmetica integra (1544), and then another in German two years later, Rechenbuch von der Welschen und Deutschenn Practick (1546), and several others. We have the two named books in our History of Science Collection.

Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran

April 18, 2018

Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran, a French chemist, was born Apr. 18, 1838. De Boisbaudran was a pioneer in spectroscopic chemistry, by which new elements can be identified in compounds when unfamiliar lines show up in the compound’s spectra. De Boisbaudran published the first French book on chemical spectroscopy, Spectres lumineux, in 1874. Putting his methods to good use, De Boisbaudran discovered four new elements in all, including samarium and europium. But his most famous discovery was gallium, which he detected spectroscopically in 1875 and isolated later that year…

Karl Friedrich von Martius

April 17, 2018

Karl Friedrich von Martius, a German botanist, was born Apr. 17, 1794. As a young man, Martius became a favorite of the King of Bavaria, and was sent by him in 1817 on a collecting expedition to Brazil. His companion was a zoologist, Johann von Spix. When they returned three years later, Martius had enough plants, seeds, and descriptions to occupy him for the rest of his life. The living plants went into the Bavarian Botanic Garden in Munich, but the dried specimens became the fodder for the truly monumental Flora Brasiliensis, which Martius began in 1840. By the time of his death, he had issued 46 fascicles; the entire work, comprising of 130 fascicles, was completed in 1906…