Daily Archives: 5 February 2014

February 5, 1770 (a Monday)

Alexandre Brongniart

On this date, the French mineralogist, geologist, and naturalist Alexandre Brongniart was born. He was the first person to arrange the geologic formations of the Tertiary Period (from 66.4 to 1.6 million years ago) in chronological order and describe them. He made the first systematic study of trilobites, an extinct group of arthropods that became important in determining the chronology of Paleozoic strata (from 540 to 245 million years ago). He also helped introduce the principle of geologic dating by the identification of distinctive fossils, called index fossils, found in each stratum and noted that the Paris formations had been produced under alternate freshwater and saltwater conditions. [Notice that the use of index fossils for the relative dating of rocks and fossils was established long before the use of radioisotopes for their absolute dating, contrary to what some “creationists” would have you believe.]

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February 5, 1799 (a Tuesday)

On this date, the English botanist and horticulturist John Lindley was born. His attempts to formulate a natural system of plant classification greatly aided the transition from the artificial system (considering single or few characters of a plant species) to the natural system (considering all characters of the plant).

Illustration from Lindley’s book entitled "Sertum orchidaceum: A Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers" (1837-41).

Illustration from Lindley’s book entitled “Sertum orchidaceum: A Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers” (1837-41).

In 1818 0r 1819, Lindley went to London, where he was engaged by J. C. Loudon to write the descriptive portion of the Encyclopaedia of Plants. In his labors on this undertaking, which was completed in 1829, he became convinced of the superiority of the “natural” system of A. L. de Jussieu, as distinguished from the “artificial” system of Linnaeus followed in the Encyclopaedia; the conviction found expression in A Synopsis of British Flora, arranged according to the Natural Order (1829) and in An Introduction to the Natural System of Botany (1830).