5 Famous Biologists and Their Contributions in Biology
Biology is a science with many deviations. Famous biologists, like Jane Goodall, may focus on the social world of other mammals or work tirelessly to save wild animals harmed by human development. This makes the world of biology full of interesting characters who have each achieved fame in their areas of study. Here we look at a few of the stand out and famous biologists in recent history.
Born in 1933, George Schaller began his career as a biologist by researching gorillas in Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At the time, the prevailing beliefs about gorillas said they were unintelligent and belligerent creatures. His study showed that they were more like humans than anyone at that time ever thought possible.
After his first remarkable contribution to field research and wildlife biology, he focused on saving endangered species worldwide, while also studying them to increase global awareness and understanding of those species. He studied snow leopards, pandas, gorillas, lions, chiru, and a type of sheep known as the Marco Polo sheep. During his study of the Marco Polo sheep, he was into his 70s trekking all over mountainous terrain in Afghanistan many hours each day. His passion and intelligence has served the animals of the world well and gives him a place on any famous biologists list.
Born in 1934, Jane Goodall made a name for herself as one of the most famous female biologists, both among her colleagues and the average person, for her extensive study of chimpanzees, both in groups and alone. She began her groundbreaking study in 1960 in Gombe National Park in Africa. She had initially thought her study might last three years, but it ended up lasting roughly 20 years. When she began studying the chimpanzees she was living among them, observing and studying. This was a new and different type of approach from previous studies, a method typically considered unscientific. However, her method is believed to be a large part of why her analysis was so much more insightful into the lives and social structure of chimpanzees. Remarkably, when she began studying in Africa, she hadn’t even received a college undergraduate degree. She later went on to receive her doctorate.
After decades of study in Africa, during which Goodall created relationships with her subjects that allowed her to even sit with them at times, she focused her study and advocacy on chimpanzees imprisoned and used as test subjects in modern countries. With her help there have been reductions in how many chimpanzees are allowed to be used by such research groups and what types of experiments can be done on these primates that are so similar to humans.
As the Executive Director of International Bird Rescue, formerly named the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), for over 20 years, Jay Holcomb committed his life’s work to developing sound and proven methods for rehabilitating oiled wildlife. Holcomb said that the oceans are the “lifeblood of life on earth” stressing that if they are not taken care of, the world will not be the same. Like Goodall, Holcomb didn’t get an undergraduate science degree, instead focusing on his passion of directly caring for animals and learning new and better ways to reduce the effects of oil spills on wildlife. You can see Jay Holcomb and the work of wildlife rehabbers like him in the 2011 documentary Saving Pelican #895
While the infamous and famous biologist Charles Darwin is known for his work proving evolution, it all started with his observations as a wildlife biologist. He noticed that finches from each of the Galapagos Islands had different features, making each different species suited to its environment. Darwin used this work as a biologist to support his research and hypothesis regarding evolution.
So many people equate Darwin only with evolution, but his true passion was biology, so much so that he accepted a job requiring he travel nearly half way around the world to study different species of birds. Only an exceptionally passionate scientist would do so, and his findings will live much longer than he ever could.
Eugenie Clark earned the nickname shark lady the old-fashioned way. As a preeminent shark expert, she has found she was too interested in the behaviors of sharks to be afraid of them. She has studied sharks for decades and helped found several research facilities that specialize in studying sharks. During her career she went on 71 underwater dives using various types of underwater vehicles.
And if sharks aren’t enough, Clark also specialized in studying poisonous fish. During her dives, she had several mishaps, which she wrote about in various publications. One such adventure involved becoming trapped in the claws of a giant crab. Her career exploits prove that being a scientist can be adventurous and gives back to natural world at the same time. And it just might add your name to the list of famous biologists.