Although we appreciate these inventors, and many more that I did not name, America did not produce as many scientists. To continue my homage to great scientists begun last week, I want to share the stories of five Europeans. (I am saving one American scientist for next week's blog, as his amazing story deserves to be better known.)
I will begin with Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution by natural selection remains well known even today. Born in 1809 and died in 1882, his ideas about the origin of the species would have been known to Isaac Werner. Because I have mentioned him in other blogs and because his name remains familiar today, I will not elaborate on his scientific discoveries.
|Gregor Johann Mendel|
Having begun with Darwin, who was born first among those I will mention, I will continue with Gregor Johann Mendel, born in July of 1822, died in January 1884, a scientist and an Augustinian friar and abbot. From his experiments with pea plants between 1856 and 1863 he established certain rules of heredity caused by invisible "factors" which we now know as genes. Prior to his work, it was thought that characteristics passed from parents in a blended form of inheritance, in which traits were averaged. He began his research using mice, but his bishop disapproved of a friar studying animal sex, so Mendel began using plants as his experimental subjects. His fellow scientists did not immediately appreciate the significance of Mendel's research, but today he is known as the "father of modern genetics."
Louis Pasteur was born December 27, 1822 and died September 28, 1895 and is best known for developing the technique to stop bacterial contamination in milk and wine with a process we know as pasteurization. However, he is also important for his work concerning vaccination, so important in preventing diseases and treating rabies and anthrax victims. Unfortunately, rumors arose concerning his own accounts of discoveries, and when his laboratory notebooks were finally donated to the French National Library in 1971, and made more available for research in 1985 nearly a century after his death, personal traits of this man, who was surely a genius, were not always so admirable.
I find it fascinating to consider history from a broad perspective. While the struggles of Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors on the prairie are the center of my research, I am also interested in understanding those homesteaders within the larger context of other places and events. The late 1800s were also the Golden Age for wealthy Americans, and as we see from this brief summary of scientists in Europe, it was a time of great scientific discovery. What might Isaac Werner's creative mind have discovered if his education and tools had been those of the European scientists discussed in this blog?
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Next week's blog will focus on an American scientist working during Isaac Werner's lifetime. His name is probably known to you, but the story of his life may surprise you!