Animals have been the nearest associates of human beings since day one of their creation. The history of animals is traceable to as early as 28000 BC through cave paintings like those of Chauvet. Spanish cave paintings and Mayan as well as Egyptian hieroglyphs also record numerous animals like the mammoth, serpents, vultures, dogs, cats, lizards, fish, and almost all sorts of animals belonging to different classes. Frescoes of the Ajanta Caves in India also reflect the importance of animals for human beings. Animals had a great importance in many ancient religions. The recovery of a cat’s mummy from an Egyptian pyramid adds to what is reflected through Egyptian hieroglyphs. Zoology, the science relating to the study of animals, has been perhaps the earliest of studies undertaken by mankind in order to know about other living beings around it. Skepticism is a side effect of knowledge, and with the advancing knowledge, it became arguable whether certain living beings should be classified as animals or plants or even that their being a living organism, like a yeast cell, is debatable. Starting from their classification and binomial nomenclature, a long distance has been traversed by zoologists to clone Dolly and to arrive at the genome, the entirety of all living beings’ hereditary information.
Aristotle was born in 384 BC and died in 322 BC. He was a gifted, multidimensional scholar best known as one of the few most influential philosophers of all time. He was a renowned student of Plato and a famous teacher of Alexander the Great. He is considered the first zoologist to classify the animal kingdom into two major groups of blooded and non-blooded animals. He further classified the blooded animals into young bearing, four-footed animals; egg laying, four-footed animals, birds, and fish. He subdivided the non-blooded animals into mollusks, crabs, and insects. He wrote Historia Animalium, De Partibus Animalium and De Generatione Animalium. These works laid a solid foundation for the systematic study of animals or zoology for centuries to come.
2. Carl Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus was born in Rashult, Stenbroughult Parish, Sweden on May 23, 1707 and died in Hammarby Estate, Sweden on January 10, 1778 at the age of 70. He was a physician, botanist, and zoologist. He is best known as the father of modern taxonomy. He published his Systema Naturae in the Netherlands. He collected and classified numerous animals in the 1750s. Jean Jacques Rousseau conveyed, ‘Tell him I know no greater man on Earth.’ The famous German writer wrote, ‘With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no-longer-living who has influenced me so strongly.’ He laid down the nomenclature rules according to which man was classified as Homo sapiens.
3. Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin was born in The Mount, Shrewsbury, and Shropshire, U.K. on February 12, 1809 and died at Down House, Downe, Kent, U.K on April 19, 1882. He is known worldwide for his book On the Origin of Species published in 1859. According to his theory, all species descended from a common ancestor, and evolution was the result of natural selection. He studied marine invertebrates in preference to his original medical studies at the University of Edinburgh. His studies at the University of Cambridge notably influenced his trend and caused a vivid inclination towards natural science. It was during his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle that he conceived his remarkable Theory of Evolution.
4. Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace was born in USK Monmouthshire, U.K. on January 8, 1823 and died at Broadstone, Dorset, U.K. on November 1931 at the age of 90. He is famous for his independent theory of natural selection which prompted Charles Darwin to propound his historical Theory of Evolution. He is considered the father of biogeography of the 19th century. He conducted intensive research in the Amazon River Basin and defined the Wallace Line according to which part of the Indonesian archipelago had species of Australian origin while the other part was inhabited with the species of Indian origin. One of his contributions was the Wallace Effect which hypothesized that the development of species was encouraged by the development of barriers against hybridization producing offspring by sexual reproduction.
5. Dame Jane Morris Goodall
Valerie Jane Morris Goodall, better known as Jane Goodall, was born in London, England on April 3, 1934. She is best known for studying wild chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania. She is regarded as the number one expert on chimpanzees the world over. She was also the UN Messenger of Peace. She has also founded the Jane Goodall Institute. Her father gave her a lifelike chimpanzee toy in her early childhood which she adored, and it was the love for this toy which rooted in her the love for animals. She wrote in her book Reason for Hope; ‘My mother’s friends were horrified by this toy, thinking it would frighten me and give me nightmares.’
6. Dian Fossey
Dian Fossey was born on January 16, 1932 in San Francisco, California, USA and died at Volcanoes National Park on December 27, 1985. She was found murdered, and the case remains unsolved until now. Louis Leakey sent her to the mountain forests of Rawanda where she studied gorilla groups for more than 18 years. Along with Goodall and Galdikas, she was known as one of the famous trio of Leakey’s Angels. All the three researchers studied great apes. While Fossey studied gorillas, Goodall studied chimpanzees, and Galdikas researched on orangutans.
7. Stephen Robert Irwin
Stephen Robert Irwin was born in Essendon, Victoria, Australia on February 22, 1962 and died in Bart Reef, Queensland. On account of his performance along with his wife Terri in the TV series The Crocodile Hunter, he gained world renown and was nicknamed ‘The Crocodile Hunter.’ The couple owned and operated Australia Zoo founded by Irwin’s parents. On September 4, 2006, while filming underwater for the documentary Ocean’s Deadliest, he was fatally stung in the chest by a Stingray barb. A ship My Steve Irwin was named after him.
8. Fredrick William Frohawk
Fredrick William Frohawk was born at Brisley Hall, East Dereham, Norfolk on July 16, 1861 and died in December, 1946. He was an English zoological artist and is best known for his exceptional illustrations of butterflies. He authored Natural History of British Butterflies in 1914 and Varieties of British Butterflies in 1938. His work in his field remains unparalleled. He sold his collection of butterflies to Lord Rothschild for £1000 in 1927. The collection is now on display in the Natural History Museum of London.
9. Johan Christian Fabricius
Johan Christian Fabricius was born at Tender on January 7, 1745 and died on April 3, 1808. He was a student of the renowned scholar of the day, Carl Linnaeus, in Uppsala. He is considered one of the greatest entomologists of all time. His famous books include: Systema Entomogiae (1775), Genera Insectorum (1776), Philosophia Entomologica, and Entomolgia Sytematica.
10. Sir Ian Wilmut
Sir Ian Wilmut was born on July 7, 1944 in Humpton Lucy, Warwickshire, England. He is an English embryologist and earned world fame after he cloned a mammal in 1996, the first ever in history. He developed the famous cloned sheep Dolly from the somatic cells taken from the mammary glands of an adult sheep. In recognition of his unique work, he was awarded OBE in 1999. In December, 2007, it was announced that he would be knighted in 2008 in the New Year’s honors.
There has been an undeniable association between human beings and animals, the former gaining control over shaping them at will through genetic engineering and the latter trying to fight back through viruses and mutations. Never in history has it been possible for man to see so many animals under one roof and in such a short time as it is today through a visit to a modern zoo where the animals can be observed in their simulated habitat, and this could not have been achieved without the dedication of famous zoologists.