Charles Wyville Thomson
Wyville Thomas Charles Thomson
5 March 1830
Linlithgow, Scotland 
|Died||10 March 1882 52) (aged|
|Known for||Challenger expedition|
Sir Charles Wyville Thomson FRSE FRS FLS FGS FZS (5 March 1830 – 10 March 1882) was a Scottish natural historian and marine zoologist. He served as the chief scientist on the Challenger expedition; his work there revolutionized oceanography and led to his being knighted.
Thomson was born at Bonsyde, in Linlithgow, West Lothian, on 5 March 1830, the son of Andrew Thomson, a surgeon in the service of the East India Company, and his wife Sarah Ann Drummond Smith. He was baptised Wyville Thomas Charles Thomson, but changed his name formally upon being knighted in 1876.  
He was educated under Charles Chalmers at Merchiston Castle School, then from 1845 studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh graduating with an MD. However, his focus turned from medicine to natural science, and he joined the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in 1847, and soon after became secretary to the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh. In 1850 he was attending the botany class of John Hutton Balfour at the University.
In 1850 he was appointed lecturer of botany, and in 1851 professor of botany, at the University of Aberdeen. In 1853 he became a professor of natural history in Queen's College, Cork, Ireland, succeeding Professor Hincks. A year later he was nominated to the chair of mineralogy and geology at the Queen's University of Belfast. 
In 1855 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his proposer being his former tutor, John Hutton Balfour. He served as the society's vice president from 1877 to 1882. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1869. 
In 1860 was transferred to the chair of natural history at the same institution. In 1868 he assumed the duties of professor of botany at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, and finally in 1870 he received the natural history chair at the University of Edinburgh.  Here he taught Arthur Conan Doyle. 
In 1871–72 he served as President of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. 
Thomson is remembered for his studies of the biological conditions of the deep seas. Being interested in crinoids, and prompted by the results of the dredgings of Michael Sars in the deep sea off the Norwegian coasts, he persuaded the Royal Navy to grant him use of HMS Lightning and HMS Porcupine for deep sea dredging expeditions in the summers of 1868 and 1869. They showed that animal life existed down to depths of 650 fathoms (1200 m), that all marine invertebrate groups are present at this depth, and that deep-sea temperatures are not as constant as had been supposed, but vary considerably, and indicate oceanic circulation. These results were described in The Depths of the Sea, which he published in 1873. 
The remarkable hydrographic and zoological results which Thomson had demonstrated, in addition to the growing demands of ocean telegraphy, soon led to the Royal Navy to grant use of HMS Challenger for a global expedition. Wyville Thomson was selected as chief scientist, and the ship sailed on 23 December 1872. 
The Challenger expedition was deemed a great success, and on his return Thomson received a number of academic honours, as well as a knighthood. In 1877 he published in two volumes The Voyage of the Challenger –The Atlantic, a preliminary account of the results of the voyage. He spent the next two years working on administrative duties connected with the publication of the full monograph of the voyage. Thomson had a highly strung mentality, and his health was generally poor throughout his life. He found dealing with publishers in the course of completing the full reports of the voyage to be enormously stressful. In 1879 he ceased to perform his university duties, gave up overseeing the reports of the expedition in 1881 (after publishing the introduction to the zoological series in 1880),  then took to his bed and died a broken man at Bonsyde on 10 March 1882.  Thomson's friend and colleague Sir John Murray took over the publication of the reports; they eventually spanned 50 volumes, the last of which was issued in 1895. 
Thomson is commemorated in the stained glass window above the altar in St. Michael's Parish Church, Linlithgow and his headstone is in the churchyard. In addition the Wyville-Thomson Ridge in the North Atlantic Ocean is named after him.
Thomson had criticised natural selection, stating it was not enough to explain the evolution of species. Replying in the Nature journal, Charles Darwin commented that "I am sorry to find that Sir Wyville Thomson does not under stand the principle of natural selection, as explained by Mr. Wallace and myself... Can Sir Wyville Thomson name any one who has said that the evolution of species depends only on natural selection?" 
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In 1853 he married Jane Ramage Dawson. They were parents to Frank Wyville Thomson FRSE (1860–1918).
The Pallid sculpin, Cottunculus thomsonii (Günther, 1882) is named after him. 
The Challenger expedition of 1872–1876 was a scientific programme that made many discoveries to lay the foundation of oceanography. The expedition was named after the naval vessel that undertook the trip, HMS Challenger.
Francis (Frank) Maitland Balfour, known as F. M. Balfour, was a British biologist. He lost his life while attempting the ascent of Mont Blanc. He was regarded by his colleagues as one of the greatest biologists of his day and Charles Darwin's successor.
Vice-Admiral Sir George Strong Nares was a Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer. He commanded the Challenger Expedition, and the British Arctic Expedition. He was highly thought of as a leader and scientific explorer. In later life he worked for the Board of Trade and as Acting Conservator of the River Mersey.
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was a British botanist and explorer in the 19th century. He was a founder of geographical botany and Charles Darwin's closest friend. For 20 years he served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, succeeding his father, William Jackson Hooker, and was awarded the highest honours of British science.
HMS Challenger was a steam-assisted Royal Navy Pearl-class corvette launched on 13 February 1858 at the Woolwich Dockyard. She was the flagship of the Australia Station between 1866 and 1870.
Sir John Murray was a pioneering Canadian-born British oceanographer, marine biologist and limnologist. He is considered to be the father of modern oceanography.
Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour, KBE, FRS, FRSE was a Scottish botanist. He was Regius Professor of Botany at the University of Glasgow from 1879 to 1885, Sherardian Professor of Botany at the University of Oxford from 1884 to 1888, and Professor of Botany at the University of Edinburgh from 1888 to 1922.
Sir William Abbott Herdman FRS FRSE FLS was a Scottish marine zoologist and oceanographer.
Thomas Henry Tizard was an English oceanographer, hydrographic surveyor, and navigator.
Rudolf von Willemoes-Suhm was a German naturalist who served aboard the Challenger expedition.
The Botanical Society of Scotland (BSS) is the national learned society for botanists of Scotland. The Society's aims are to advance knowledge and appreciation of flowering and cryptogamic plants, algae and fungi. The Society's activities include lectures, symposia, field excursions, field projects and an annual Scottish Botanist's Conference, held jointly with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland for exchange of information between botanists working in different areas. Its publications include a twice-yearly newsletter, BSS News, and a scientific journal, Plant Ecology & Diversity. The society is closely linked to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Scottish universities.
The era of European and American voyages of scientific exploration followed the Age of Discovery and were inspired by a new confidence in science and reason that arose in the Age of Enlightenment. Maritime expeditions in the Age of Discovery were a means of expanding colonial empires, establishing new trade routes and extending diplomatic and trade relations to new territories, but with the Enlightenment scientific curiosity became a new motive for exploration to add to the commercial and political ambitions of the past. See also List of Arctic expeditions and List of Antarctic expeditions.
Ocean dredging was an oceanography technique introduced in the nineteenth century and developed by naturalist Edward Forbes. This form of dredging removes substrate and fauna specifically from the marine environment. Ocean dredging techniques were used on the HMS Challenger expeditions as a way to sample marine sediment and organisms.
Marine biology is a hybrid subject that combines aspects of organismal function, ecological interaction and the study of marine biodiversity. The earliest studies of marine biology trace back to the Phoenicians and the Greeks who are known as the initial explorers of the oceans and their composition. The first recorded observations on the distribution and habits of marine life were made by Aristotle.
John Robertson Henderson CIE FRSE FZS FLS was a Scottish zoologist who specialized in the taxonomy of marine crustaceans, particularly the decapods, and worked on specimens collected by the oceanic research vessels Investigator and Challenger. From 1892 until 1911 he was Professor of Zoology at Madras Christian College in India. From 1908 to 1920 he was Superintendent of the Government Museum in Madras. He also took an interest in numismatics and Indian history.
Flabellum angulare is a species of deep sea coral belonging to the family Flabellidae. It is found in the northern Atlantic Ocean at depths of between 2,000 and 3,186 m.
George A. Panton FRSE was a 19th-century British botanist.
Lt Colonel Frank Wyville Thomson FRSE IMS was a 19th/20th century Scottish military surgeon and expert on tropical medicine who advanced public health in India and a noted amateur naturalist.
HMS Lightning, launched in 1823, was a paddle steamer, one of the first steam-powered ships on the Navy List. She served initially as a packet ship, but was later converted into an oceanographic survey vessel.
Edward Killwick Calver was a Captain in the Royal Navy, and hydrographic surveyor. He is particularly noted for his surveying work in the east of Britain, and as the captain of HMS Porcupine, in oceanographic voyages in 1869 and 1870.
They were remarkable men, however, some of these professors, and we managed to know them pretty well ... There was Wyville Thomson, the zoologist, fresh from his Challenger expedition, ...