A Romantic Natural History Timeline: 1750-1859

1750: Thomas Gray, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”; Johann Tobias Mayer, Map of the Moon

1751: Linnaeus, Philosophia Botanica

1752: Thomas Chatterton b. (d.1770); Benjamin Franklin invents lightning conductor

1753: Linnaeus, Species Plantorum; charter granted to British Museum

1755: Benjamin Franklin, “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind”; Sebastian Menghini (Italy) studies effect of camphor on animals

1756: Edmund Burke, “Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful”

1757: William Blake b. (d. 1827); John Dyer, “The Fleece”

1759: Robert Burns b. (d. 1796); Franz Aepinus, Testamen theoriae electricitas et magnetesmi

1760: Kew Botanical Gardens open

1761: Rosseau, Julie, ou La Nouvelle Heloise; B. G. Morgagni, On the Causes of Diseases

1763: J. G. Kolreuter (Germany) studies fertilization of plants by animal pollen carriers

1764: Charles Bonnet, Contemplation de la Nature

1767: Joseph Priestley, The History and Present State of Electricity

1768: Captain James Cook sails to Pacific (ret. 1771); P. S. Pallas on Transit of Venus

1769: G. L. Cuvier b. (d. 1832), Alexander von Humboldt b. (d. 1859)

1770: William Wordsworth b. (d. 1850)

1771: Encyclopedia Brittanica, first edition; Luigi Galvani (Bologna) records “animal” electricity

1772: Samuel Taylor Coleridge b. (d. 1834); Rutherford and Priestley discover nitrogen; John Walsh experiments on electric torpedo fish

1774: Goethe, The Sorrows of Werther; Robert Southey b. (d. 1843); F. A Mesmer (Austria) introduces “animal magnetism” (later “hypnosis”) for health

1775: Captain Cook returns from second voyage, J. C. Fabricus, Systema entomologiae classifies insects; digitalis (foxglove plant) used to treat dropsy

1776: America declares independence (based on natural rights)

1777: Priestley, Disquisition Relating to Matter and Spirit; John Aikin, An Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry

1778: G. L. L. Buffon, Époques de la Nature

1779: David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Captain Cook murdered in South Pacific; Spallanzani proves semen necessary for fertilization of egg

1781: Rousseau, Confessions; Herschel discovers Uranus; Fontana uses microscope to describe the axon of a brain cell

1782: William Cowper, Poems; Montgolfier brothers air balloon; Oliver Goldsmith, A History of the Earth and Animated Nature

1784: Bernardin de Saint-Pierrre, Etudes de la Nature; Goethe discovers intermaxillary bone

1785: Thomas de Quincey b. (d. 1859); Salsano develops seismograph to measure earthquakes

1786: Buffon, Histoire naturelle des oiseaux; first ascent of Mont Blanc; Herschel, Catalogue of Nebulae; Linnaeus, Dissertation on the Sexes of Plants (English translation)

1788: Lord Byron (George Gordon) b. (d. 1824); Laplace, Laws of the Planetary System; Hutton , New Theory of the Earth

1789: French Revolution begins; Blake, Songs of Innocence; Antoine Jussieu, Genera plantarumErasmus Darwin, The Botanic Garden (-1791)

1790: Goethe, Versuch, die metamprphose der Pflanzen zu erklaren; Lavoisier, Table of Thirty-One Chemical Elements

1791: Michael Faraday b. (d. 1867); William Bartram, Travels through North and South Carolina; Luigi Galvani describes electrical stimulation of frog nerves; Buffon‘s Natural History (English translation)

1792: Percy Bysshe Shelley b. (d. 1822); Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women

1793: John Clare b. (d. 1864)

1794: Blake, Songs of  Experience; Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia, or the laws of Organic Life

1795: John Keats b. (d. 1821); Mungo Park explores Niger River

1796: G. L. C. Cuvier develops comparative zoology; Edward Jenner vaccinates against smallpox

1797: Schelling, Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur; Thomas Bewick, British Birds; Nicholas de Saussure, Recherches chimiques sur la végétation; Lamarck, Mémoires de physique et d’histoire naturelle

1798: Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads; Thomas Malthus, “Essay on the Principle of Population”

1799: preserved mammoth discovered in Siberia

1800: Humphry Davy, Researches, Chemical and Philosophical, Concerning Nitrous Oxide; F. G. Gall (Germany) develops phrenology; Royal College of Surgeons founded in London, Alessandro Volta develops wet cell battery

1801: Linnaeus, Elements of Natural History; M. F. X. Bichat, Anatomie générale; Robert Fulton (U. S.) develops first submarine in Brest; Lalande catalogues 47,390 stars

1802: William Paley, Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature; John Dalton introduces atomic theory; Gottfried Treviranus (Germany) coins term “biology”

1803: Ralph Waldo Emerson b. (d. 1882); Lamarck, Recherches sur l’organisation des corps vivants; Giovanni Aldini publishes attempts to revive corpses using electricity

1804: Lewis and Clark expedition begins (-1806)

1807: Byron, Hours of Idleness; Wordsworth “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”; von Humboldt and Bonpland, Voyage aux régions équinoxiales

1808: Goethe, Faust, (part I); F. J. Gall publishes on phrenology

1809: Alfred, Lord Tennyson b. (d. 1892); Charles Darwin b. (d. 1882); K. F. Gauss, Theoria motus corporum coelestium; Lamarck, Système des animaux sans vertèbres; Luigi Rolnado uses a galvanic current to stimulate brain cortex

1810: Gall and Spurzheim, Anatomie et physiologie du système nerveux

1811: Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; Charles Bell, New Idea of the Anatomy of the Brain

1812: Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; Cuvier, Recherches sur les ossements fossiles de quadrupèdes; Davy, Elements of Chemical Philosophy; Robert Browning b. (d. 1889)

1813: Shelley, Queen Mab

1814: Wordsworth, The Excursion; Berzelius, Theory of Chemical Proportions and the Chemical Action of Electricity

1815: Wordsworth, “The White Doe of Rylstone”; Lamarck, Histoire naturelle des animaux

1816: Charlotte Brontë b. (d. 1855); Shelley, “Alastor”; Coleridge, “Kubla Khan” (written 1797); Laënnec develops stethoscope; Frankenstein “summer” in Geneva

1817: Byron, “Manfred”; Henry David Thoreau b. (d. 1862)

1818: Byron, Don Juan; Keats, Endymion; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein; Bessel catalogues 3,222 stars

1819: Keats, Hyperion; Shelley, The Cenci; Hans C. Oersted (Denmark) discovers electromagnetism

1820: Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”, Shelley, Prometheus Unbound; Thomas Brown, Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind; André Ampère, Laws of Electrodynamic Action; galvanometer invented to measure electrical current through a conductor; whale ship Essex rammed by a sperm whale in South Pacific

1821: Keats dies of tuberculosis; Shelley, “Adonais”; Faraday discovers electromagnetic rotation

1822: Shelley drowns off Viareggio, Italy, in a summer squall; he had never learned to swim. Copies of Sophocles and Keats were found in his pockets.

1824: Byron dies of “fever” in the swamps of Missolonghi during the Greek war for independence. His body is shipped home in a wine-cask full of port; the Greek revolutionaries demand that his lungs (the source of his poetry: the “breath”) be left in Greece. Prevost and Dumas prove that sperm is necessary for fertilization.

1826: Leopoldo Nobili invents the galvanometer.

1827: J. J. Audubon, Birds of North America; Karl von Baer, Epistola de Ova Mammalium et Hominis Generis

1829: Tennyson, “Timbuctoo”; James Smithson founds Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

1830: Emily Dickinson b. (d. 1886); William Cobbett, Rural Rides; Robert Brown (Scotland) discovers cell nucleus; Cuvier and E. G. Saint-Hilaire debate “unity of plan” in organic structures; Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology

1831: Darwin sails on H. M. S. Beagle voyage (-1836); James Clark Ross determines location of magnetic North Pole

1832: Goethe, Faust, part II (posth.)

1834: Charles Babbage invents first computer (“analytical engine”); C. L. von Buch, Theory of Volcanism

1835: Wordsworth, Poems; Browning, “Paracelsus”; Halley’s comet reappears

1836: Emerson, Nature; Asa Gray, Elements of Botany

1837: John Burroughs b. (d. 1921)

1838: Audubon, final vol. of The Birds of America

1840: Louis Agassiz (Switzerland), Etudes sur les Glaciers

1842: Matthew F. Maury (U.S.) develops oceanography; J. R. von Mayer (Germany), On the Forces of Inanimate Nature; Crawford Long uses ether on humans

1843: Wordsworth named poet laureate

1844: Horace Wells uses nitrous oxide for a tooth extraction; Robert Chambers, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation

1845: Spencer Fullerton Baird becomes professor of natural history at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. A graduate of the school, he goes on to become the second director of the Smithsonian Institution. When he leaves Carlisle to go to Washington, D.C., in 1850, he takes two boxcars full of specimens he has collected in the Cumberland Valley which form an important part of the Smithsonian’s early collection.

1846: Herman Melville, Typee; H. von Mohl (Germany) describes protoplasm

1847: Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; I. T. Semmelweis (Hungary) establishes link between maternal mortality and infection

1848: Alfred Russell Wallace sails to Amazonia (-1852)

1850: Tennsyon, In Memoriam; Wordsworth dies; H. von Helmholtz measures speed of nervous impulses in frogs; E. Du Bois-Reymond invents galvanometer for nerves

1851: Melville, Moby Dick (based on the sinking of the Essex in 1820); Helmholtz develops opthalmoscope

1852: Herbert Spencer coins term “evolution” in The Development Hypothesis

1854: Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods

1855: Browning, Men and Women; Longfellow, Song of Hiawatha; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; Spencer, Principles of Psychology; Alexander Bain, Senses and Intellects

1857: Pasteur proves that fermentation is biological

1858: William Morris, Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems; T. H. Huxley, The Theory of Vertebrate Skulls; Darwin‘s and Wallace’s findings presented to Linnean Society

1859: Thomas de Quincey dies; Leigh Hunt dies; Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

—(Link to Bibliography for individual works arranged by author’s name)—

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