History of Phycology - 18th Century

18th Century

Before Carl von Linné (1707–1778) animals and plants had names, but it took him to arrange the names and group the plants of this Earth in some sort of order. Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) was a Swedish botanist, the son of a pastor of the Lutheran church, a physician and zoologist. He laid the foundations of modern biological systematics and nomenclature in his Species Plantarum (1753). He adopted and popularized a binomial (or binary) system of designation (Morton, 1981) using one name as the genus and a second name as the species name both in Latin or Latinised. This specific name he referred to as a trivial name nomen triviale consisting of a single word, normally a Latin adjective, but any single word would suffice, to identify a particular species, but not intended to describe it. He developed a coherent system for naming organisms and divided the plant kingdom into 25 classes (according to Smith p. 1 and p. 24 according to Dixon, 1973) (Smith, 1955 p. 1), one of which, the Cryptogamia, included all plants with concealed reproductive organs. He divided the Cryptogamia into four orders: Filices, Musci (mosses), Algae — which included lichens and liverworts and fungi (Smith, 1955 p. 1).

Examination for the reproductive structures had already started. In 1711, R.A.F de Réaumur gave an account of Fucus in which noted the two types of external openings in the thallus: the non-sexual cryptostromata (sterile surface cavities) and the conceptacles (fertile cavities, immersed but with a surface opening) containing the sexual organs, which he thought were female flowers. With a lens he was able to see the oogonoa (the female sex organs) and the antheridia (the male sex organs) within the conceptacles, but he interpreted these as seeds (Morton, 1981 p. 245). Johann Hedwig (1730–1799) provided further evidence of the sexual process in algae, and figured conjugation in Spirogyra Hedwig in 1797. He also illustrated Chara (Charales) and identified the antheridia and oogonia as male and female sexual organs (Morton, 1981 p. 323 & 357).

Harvey commented on ...motion, apparently spontaneous, among the seeds at the period of germination. Some found it difficult...to account for these anomalous motions. ...that the seeds becomes (how is not said) a perfect nimalcule, which after enjoying an animal existence for a time ceases to live animally, and, reverting to its original nature, gives birth to a vegetable. Thus, this seed was first vegetable, then animal, and then again vegeable,... . During the 18th Century there was a stormy controversy as to whether coralline algae were plants or animals. Up to the mid-18th century coralline algae (and coral animals) were generally treated as plants. By 1768 many, but by no means all authorities, considered them animal. Five years later, Harvey concluded that they were certainly of vegetable material he noted: "The question of the vegetable nature of Corallines, among which the Melobesia take rank, may now be considered as finally set at rest, by the researches of Kützing, Phillipi and Decaisne." (Harvey,1847, pl. 73).

The first scientific species description of a South African seaweed accepted for most nomenclatural purposes is that of Ecklonia maxima, published in 1757 as Fucus maximus (Stegenga et al., 1997).

Knowledge of North American Pacific algae begins with the 1791–95 expedition of Captain George Vancouver (Papenfuss,1976 p. 21).

Archibald Menzies (1754–1842) was the appointed botanist on the expedition led by Captain George Vancouver in the ships Discovery and Chatham of 1791–1795 to the Pacific coast of North America and south-western Australia. The algae collected by Menzies were passed to Dawson Turner (1775–1858) who described and illustrated them in a four-volumed work published in 1808–1819. However Turner only referred to the taxa referable to Fucus; either Menzies collected very few or he gave only a few to Turner. Three of these species described by Turner later became the types of new genera (Papenfuss, 1976) and (Huisman, 2000) Turner also received plants from Robert Brown (1773–1858) the botanist who accompanied Captain Matthew Flinders on the Investigator (1801–1805). This collection also included many plants from Australia (Huisman, 2000).

The real awakening of interest in American algae resulted from a visit by William Henry Harvey in 1849–1850 when he visited areas from Florida to Nova Scotia and produced three volumes of Nereis Boreali-Americana. These gave an incentive to others to study algae (Taylor, 1972 p. 21).

The first collector of marine algae in Greenland waters seems to have been J.M.Vahl who lived in Greenland from 1828 to 1836. Vahl's East Greenland species were not recorded until 1893 when Rosenvinge included them in his work of 1893 together with the species collected by Sylow (Lund, 1959). F.R.Kjellman records only 12 species from East Greenland 4 of which are doubtful, these records are based on Zeller's list (Lund, 1959).

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18th Century

18th century

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