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Thread: Influential who's and what's in Biology

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    Member Ludvik's Avatar
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    Influential who's and what's in Biology

    Quick question for all:

    Who is arguably the most influential biologist from the 18th century onwards? Why so?

    An alternative question: what is arguably the most influential idea / theory in biology, formulated in / after the 18th century? Why so?

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    Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    I think you're prejudicing the question with your selection of the time frame.

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    know nothing pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    Is it Darwin? I don't know anything about biology.

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    E.O. Wilson or Linnaeus, depending on what you're after. I prefer Wilson. His writing has made fairly complex ideas about biology and ecology accessible to the masses and quite a few of his theories have found broad appeal, influencing an entire generation of biologists, ecologists, and other jerks.

    Linnaeus because taxonomy, for better or worse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pathogenetic_peripatetic View Post
    Is it Darwin? I don't know anything about biology.
    I would say Darwin because he propounded fundamental concepts that pervade all of biology, not to mention some of chemistry and even a branch of computer science. Darwin is to biology what Newton and Einstein are to physics, Freud is to psychiatry, and Gauss, Ramanujan, Erdos, et al. are to mathematics.

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    Member Dynamic's Avatar
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    Well, Darwin is, of course, one of the most important thinkers in biology, but it is hard to say he is THE most important. I would argue that Louis Pasteur belongs up there on the same level. I mean, he, nearly single handedly, disproved spontaneous generation and demonstrated biogenesis. He is the father of microbiology, and is responsible for many of the breakthroughs that lead to modern medicine. While he didn't invent the vaccine, you can thank him for the relative safety of vaccines today, as he was the one responsible for discovering how to create vaccines from weakened\dead forms of microorganisms.

    Then again, I studied microbiology in school, so I may be a bit biased.
    Last edited by Dynamic; 03-03-2014 at 06:03 AM.

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    /me kicks the historical narrative in the dick.

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    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    What's important in biology seems to depend on what organizational level you're looking at. I'd say Darwin just because and I read his book. Influenced me anyway. But then after careful research I realized the most influential biologist had to be Walter Rothschild. Because he was a Rothschild and he drove this sweet rig.


  9. #9
    Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dynamic View Post
    Well, Darwin is, of course, one of the most important thinkers in biology, but it is hard to say he is THE most important. I would argue that Louis Pasteur belongs up there on the same level. I mean, he, nearly single handedly, disproved spontaneous generation and demonstrated biogenesis. He is the father of microbiology, and is responsible for many of the breakthroughs that lead to modern medicine. While he didn't invent the vaccine, you can thank him for the relative safety of vaccines today, as he was the one responsible for discovering how to create vaccines from weakened\dead forms of microorganisms.

    Then again, I studied microbiology in school, so I may be a bit biased.
    Yo, man, I'm really happy for Pasteur, Imma let you finish, but Darwin had one of the best theoretical contributions to biology of all time.

    Seriously, though you raise an excellent point. It is a little misconstructed to ask who the most influential person is in any given field (especially one as broad as "biology"). If we were to ask who the most influential figure in evolutionary biology was, the answer is a little easier. But if you narrow the scope to something like "Who are the most influential thinkers in evolutionary biology today?" then the discussion becomes more interesting, because there's a potential for a lot of variation. Better yet would be a question about which ideas in evolutionary biology today have the potential to have the greatest lasting impact. Personally, I think that the evo-devo stuff is one of the most promising areas of research, while multi-level selection theory has more of a profoundly revolutionary aspect. That said, I'm currently not working in evolutionary biology, so my opinion probably should be appropriately discounted.

    In any case, such a discussion would likely have little participation and would bore everyone. In that sense, maybe it is better to have a bunch of people with foam #1 fingers shouting for Darwin or Mendel (or even Pasteur).

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    Member Penguinhunter's Avatar
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    Maybe not the MOST important (who cares about superlatives anyway) but Fleming and Waksman deserve mentions for their contribution to us not dying from minor infections and TB.

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