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who or whom started herpetology

As in many subject areas, a multitude of people contributed to the general knowledge base which led to the development of the study of herpetology. Herpetology does not have a clear beginning and it is somewhat up to an individual's interpretation as to what constitutes the start of herpetology. In the interest of brevity, here are a few important landmarks in herpetology. Of note are the works of John Ray, the Dumerils and Gariel Bibron, and John Edward Holbrook.

1693, John Ray (1628-1705) - an English naturalist. Published "Synopsis Methodica Animalium Quadrupedum et Serpentini Generis." loosely translating to a Methodical Synopsis of Four-Legged Animals and Snakes Genuses. John Ray was the first to use the term species in the biological sense and was also the first to group amphibians and reptiles together because of their similarity in structure of the heart. John Ray's work preceded publications by the great Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus.

1834 - 1854 famous French anatomist Andre Marie Constant Dumeril (1764-1860) and Gabriel Bibron (1806-1848) published a 10-volume series plus atlas titled "Erpetologie Generale ou Histoire Naturelle Complete des Reptiles," essentially translating to General Herpetology or Complete Natural History of Reptiles. Auguste H. A. Dumeril (1812-1870), son of the senior author, aided in the preparation of volumes 7 and 9 after the death of Bibron. Gabriel Bibron was a zoologist who worked at the Musee National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris with the Dumerils. This work was a major summary of the field of herpetology, and included all of the information on reptiles and amphibians known at the time. The Erpetologie Generale contained a comprehensive account of the structure, physiology, and systematics of amphibians and reptiles, a general account of each of the orders recognized at the time, descriptions of many species of reptiles and amphibians, and an atlas of 120 colored plates. The French were the recognized leaders in the field of herpetology during the early 19th century.

1873-1890 Christian Karl Hoffmann (1841-1903) of the University of Leyden in the Netherlands compiled the first general compendium of data on the morphology of amphibians and reptiles in Bronn's publication Klassen und Ordnungen des Thierreichs.

Franz Steindachner (1834-1919) was a prominent ichthyologist and herpetologist who founded an Austrian school of herpetologists in Vienna. Steindachner joined the staff of the Naturhistorisches Museum in 1860 and published many papers on amphibians and reptiles from trips he made to Africa, Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, and southwestern Asia.

Thomas Say (1787-1843), son of the "fighting Quaker" of the Revolutionary War, was one of the first American naturalists to publish on amphibians and reptiles. Say was active in founding the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelpia.

John Edward Holbrook (1794-1871) was a practicing physician, herpetologist, and ichthyologist who received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1818. Holbrook traveled in Europe and established lifelong friendships with the Frenchmen Dumerils and Bibron. Holbrook helped to establish the Medical College of South Carolina and was chosen as Professor of Anatomy, a position he held for 30 years while retaining his medical practice. Holbrook was financially able to hire the Italian artist J. Sera to prepared colored figures from living specimens of all the American reptiles he could obtain. The colored plates and an accompanying text were published in "North American Herpetology." The first volume appeared in 1836 and two more volumes were completed in 1838. Holbrook re-organized the volumes to provide a more systematic and scientific publication and in 1842 published five quarto volumes under the same name. The 1842 volume gained the respect of the Europeans, and Holbrook became regarded as the leading American zoologist of his day.

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