A History of the Study of Marine Biology
It wasn't until the writings of Aristotle from 384-322 BC that specific references to marine life were recorded.
The modern day study of marine biology began with the exploration by Captain James Cook (1728-1779) in 18th century Britain. Captain Cook is most known for his extensive voyages of discovery for the British Navy, mapping much of the world's uncharted waters during that time.
The voyages of the HMS Beagle were followed by a 3-year voyage by the British ship HMS Challenger led by Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-1882) to all the oceans of the world during which thousands of marine specimens were collected and analyzed. This voyage is often referred to as the birth of oceanography. The data collected during this trip filled 50 volumes and served as the basis for the study of marine biology across many disciplines for many years.
The oldest marine station in the world, Station Biologique de Roscoff was established in Concarneau, France founded by the College of France in 1859. Concarneau is located on the northwest coast of France.
Technology brought the study of marine biology to new heights during the years following the HMS Challenger expedition. In 1934 William Beebe (1877-1962) and Otis Barton descended 923 m/3,028 ft below the surface off the coast of Bermuda in a bathysphere designed and funded by Barton. This depth record was not broken until 1948 when Barton made a bathysphere dive to 1,372 m/4,500 ft.
In 1960, a descent was made to 10,916 m/35,813 ft in the Challenger Deep of the Marianna trench—the deepest known point in the oceans, 10,924 m/35,838 ft deep at its maximum, near 11° 22'N 142° 36'E—about 200 miles southwest of Guam.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Dr. Sylvia Earle (1935-)
Her experience living in an underwater marine habitat earned her celebrity status in the scientific community.
Following her experience aboard the underwater habitat, Earle developed an interest in deep sea exploration, and in 1979 she broke the record for deep diving at 381 m/1,250 ft below the surface in a special suit called the Jim suit designed to withstand the pressure. Her record has not been broken.
Dr. Robert Ballard (1942-)
Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997)
Dr. Hans Hass (1919-)
In spite of ongoing technological advances, it is estimated that only 5% of the oceans have been explored. Surprisingly, we know more about the moon than we do the ocean.
Read more at marinebio.org
Fortunately, thanks to the work of past and present ocean explorers, the public is increasingly aware of these risks which encourage public agencies to take action and promote research. Already the US Commission on Ocean Policy favors multi-disciplinary research to shape ocean policy. The efforts of public agencies using a multi-disciplinary approach, together with the efforts provided by numerous private marine conservation organizations that work on issues such as advocacy, education, and research, will help drive the momentum needed to face the challenges of preserving the ocean.