History of Pre Darwin Zoology

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle took a significant step in the development of zoology as a science when he complied his “History of animals” somewhere around 350 BC. He was the first to classify animals and he did this by dividing them into two groups; animals with blood and animals without. There were other Greek writers that compiled information on animals and published them in their own works.

With the rise of the Roman Empire, a biologist by the name of Pliny the Elder published a book, Historia Naturalis, which was a fairly comprehensive compilation of known natural history at the time.

At the demise of the Romans, Christianity became dominant. The study of animals and the natural world took a back seat to the obsession with the Bible and its teachings. A book titled “Physiologis” surfaced. The author is unknown, but it was written in Greek and the subject was a list of animals. Apparently, not all of these animals actually existed and some, like the unicorn, are still known today.

Europeans then started to explore the world and the study of science and nature received an influx of interest. In the 1400’s, Leonardo da Vinci studied the human anatomy and the first steps towards modern biology.

In 1555 another book was published. This one by Conrad Gesner. Titled “Historia Animalum”, it was a series of books providing information on the animal and natural world. Other scholars were also studying and books on specific subjects such as fish and birds were written.

About 200 years later, in the 1700’s, a system was needed to classify the species being discovered. This system was developed by Carl Linnaeus and is still in use today. He developed the process by which scientific names were used. This consisted of using two Latin names, the species and the genus.

Although interest and discovery of all things natural persisted, there was no real understanding of biological and zoological systems until in the 1860’s, Charles Darwin devised the theory of evolution. This remains the most significant turning point in zoology.