Top 15 Famous Marine Biologists

Famous Marine Biologists

Famous Marine Biologists: The sea has been mostly a terra incognitaWhat does Terra Incognita mean?The term Terra incognita originates from Latin, which means unknown or unexplored territory or land. to scientists until the later part of the 19th century. People were using the resources of the sea without really understanding what was going on in its depth.

The previous, 20th century, has seen many inventors and scientists that helped us see behind the curtain of water and has shown us how vulnerable our oceans actually are.

Let us get acquainted with some of them.

15 Famous Marine Biologists


Sir Charles Wyville Thompson (1830 -1882) / Great Britain (Scotland).

Charles Wyville ThompsonCharles Wyville Thompson was a Scottish naturalist, specializing in Zoology, mainly marine invertebrates. He has participated in several marine expeditions.

His first expeditions took place around the northern coasts of Scotland, and their success has led to launching the famous worldwide expedition on HMS Challenger that he led together with a pioneer oceanographer, Sir John Murray. He is often called the ‘father of modern oceanography and Marine biology‘.

Suggested Reading: Fathers of Biology

His principal contributions to marine biology were:

  • Charles Thompson has discovered more than 4,000 new marine species during his travels and research.
  • Thompson was one of the leaders of the HMS Challenger expedition, during which he has plotted ocean currents and temperatures.
  • Thompson has also made several other discoveries – he was the first to describe the mid- Atlantic ridge and Marianic Trench.
  • Thompson was also the author of the earliest deep-sea biology textbooks – “The depths of the Sea“.
More Information: The Challenger Expedition


George Brown Goode – (1851-1896) – USA.

George Brown GoodeGeorge Goode was a biologist and fisheries specialist. He worked as a US Fish Commissioner from 1887-1888, organizing research and performing various administrative duties. His main contributions to Marine Biology were:

  • Goode has established collections of multiple species of fish and other marine life, previously unknown.
  • Goode has Published several crucial books, including “Oceanic Ichthyology“, “American Fishes”, and “The Fisheries and Fishing Industries of United States” (in 7 volumes).
  • Goode contributed significantly to fish research in the USA, organizing multiple expeditions.
More Information: Geroge Brown Goode


Anton Frederik Bruun (1901-1961) – Denmark.

Anton Frederik BruunAnton Frederik Bruun was a Danish oceanographer and ichthyologist. He has suffered polio in his youth, but has still persevered and graduated with a Ph.D. in zoology.

He has participated in several research expeditions on the ship “Dana”.

His trips took to many places around the world. He has published papers on systematic and biology of multiple marine species.

He has also participated in various congresses and committees, and later in life, he was elected as a President of International Commission for Oceanography.

His contributions to marine biology include:

  • Bruun has published a thesis on flying fishes of the Atlantic.
  • Anton Bruun has actively participated in research of deep-sea animals.
  • This Danish scientist has contributed to the knowledge on the physiology of several less studied animals, such as a pelagic squid Spirula Spirula, cephalopods of Iceland and a rare marine snail Conus gloria maris.
  • Bruun was the leader of the expedition of the “Galathea” which studied the coastal waters of West Africa.
More Information: Anton Frederik Bruun


Rachel Carson (1907-1964) – USA.

Rachel CarsonRachel Carson was an ecologist, an environmental activist, a famous writer, and a marine biologist. She is mostly known as the author of “Silent Spring” – the book that condemns humanity’s destructive influence on the environment.

As a marine scientist, she has worked as a writer and editor for US Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, DC. She also exposed the damage to the extensive use of pesticides.

Her main contributions to marine biology were in the education of the public:

  • Carson’s books on sea life – mainly, the “Sea around us (1951)” and “Edge of the Sea” were focused on the history, geology, and ecosystems of the seas and contributed to the public’s interest in the subject.
  • Rachel Carson was one of the first specialists that described the sea from the ecological point of view and have shown that our seas need protecting.
More Information: Rachel Carson


Jacques – Ives Cousteau (1910-1997) – France.

Jacques Yves CousteauJacques Ives Cousteau was a famous ocean explorer and inventor. Together with Emile Gagnan, he has developed the first fully automatic Aqua-lung, which has allowed prolonged sea diving, including diving to considerable depths.

Besides the aqua-lung, Cousteau has also participated in the development of many other tools useful for oceanographic research. After WWII, he has participated in underwater research projects and has also started experimenting with underwater filmmaking.

He has traveled around the world on his famous ship “Calypso”, and made several world-famous movies and TV series popularizing marine research. He has also founded the non-profit organization the Cousteau Society, devoted to ocean conservation.

After his death in 1997, his legacy is continued by his son, Jean-Michel Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau’s main contributions to marine biology were:

  • Cousteau has participated in the development of aqua-lung and several other inventions that have made scuba diving possible.
  • Cousteau has contributed significantly to the popularizing marine and oceanographic research through film and writings.
  • Cousteau has also participated in the development of undersea research laboratories Conshelf I, II, II.
More Information: Jacques – Ives Cousteau


Samuel Stillman Berry (1887-1984) – USA.

Samuel Atillman BerrySamuel Berry was a famous ichthyologist specializing in mollusks, especially cephalopods. He has mostly worked as an independent researcher without having any official position.

He has gathered a considerable collection of mollusks and has written many research publications. His contributions to marine biology were:

  • Berry’s doctoral thesis was devoted to Pacific cephalopods and is considered one of the best works on this subject.
  • He has named 409 mollusk taxa and has published around 209 publications.
  • He was also an editor of his research journal, Leaflets in Malacology.
More Information: Samuel Stillman Berry


Henry Bryant Bigelow (1879-1967) – USA.

Henry Bryant BigelowHenry Bryan Bigelow was a renowned marine biologist and ichthyologist. He has participated in several major science research expeditions.

He also worked at Harvard for 62 years. In 1930, Bigelow organized the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and became its founding director. He was considered a world expert in coelenterates and elasmobranches.

His main contributions to marine biology were:

  • Bigelow was the founding director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
  • Bigelow has described multiple species that were new to science at the time, and 101 of them are still recognized today.
  • He has published a reference book – “Fishes of the Gulf of Maine” still remains useful to scientists worldwide.
More Information: Henry Bryant Bigelow


Eugenie Clark (1922-2015) – USA.

Eugenie ClarkEugenie Clark was a marine scientist and a shark specialist, sometimes known as a “Shark Lady”.

She has been studying various marine species, but her main research interest was the biology of sharks. Eugenie had dived extensively in the Red Sea at the time when this area was virtually unexplored.

Later, she was also continually giving lectures, dismantling various myths about the sharks.

Her main contributions to marine biology are:

  • She has the first person to carry out artificial insemination in fish successfully.
  • She has extensively studied shark biology, dismantling various myths about them.
  • She has also researched shark behavior, proving, among other things, that sharks can be trained.
  • She has discovered a new species – Red Sea Moses sole, that produces the chemical that scares sharks away.
  • Earle has made multiple observations to the life of the Red Sea fish and made several unique discoveries.
  • Eugenie Clarke has written several books based on her research, trying to educate the public about life in the sea.
More Information: Eugenie Clark


Sylvia Alice Earle (1930 -) – USA.

Sylvia Alice EarleSylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, algae specialist, and famous science writer. She was one of the first people who have mastered the scuba diving gear, which was a novelty in the 1950s.

Her initial work was dedicated to the algae of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Later, Earle was actively participating in the deep-sea research and was one of the first testers of the deep-sea submersibles.

She has also published several books, the latest, ‘The World is Blue‘, was released in 2009.

Her main contributions to marine biology are:

  • During her graduate research, Earle has managed to collect more than 20000 samples of algae from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • She was a participant of the all-female team of aquanauts during the project called Tektite II, that was aimed at exploring the possibility of living underwater.
  • During the Tektite II, Earle has documented first hand the effects of pollution on coral reefs.
  • Earle has tested a new type of diving apparatus – the JIM diving suite – and has managed to descend 381 meters beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean in the course of the test.
  • Together with Graham Hawkes, her third husband, she has developed a new submersible called Deep Rover that can reach up to 941 meters under the ocean surface.
More Information: Sylvia Alice Earle


Malcolm Roy Clarke (1930-2013) – Great Britain.

Malcolm Roy ClarkeMalcolm Clarke was a British marine zoologist, mainly specializing in studying whales and squids. After graduation, he was working as a whaling inspector in Antarctica.

Then he moved on to join the National Institute of Oceanography, where he began studying oceanic squids. He has also developed an interest in cephalopods – especially sperm whales.

Later in life, he has settled on Pico Island, Azores archipelago. During this period, he has contributed greatly to studying the marine ecosystem of the region, including whale’s behavior and buoyancy.

His main contributions to marine biology are:

  • He has developed a new approach to studying oceanic ecosystems.
  • Clarke conducted extensive research into the diet of sperm whales (which includes squids) and other predatory species of the Azores.
  • Clarke has studied the ecology of cephalopods associated with the seamounts.
  • Clarke has participated in the development of several wildlife documentaries devoted to the Azores.
More Information: Malcolm Roy Clarke


Nicole Dubilier (1952-) – Germany.

Nicole DubillierNicole Dubilier is a marine microbiologist and the director of the Symbiosis department at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology, Bremen, Germany.

She has obtained her diploma in Zoology, biochemistry, and microbiology in 1985 and has obtained a Ph.D in Marine Biology in 1990. Since then, she has devoted her research to the study of symbiotic relationships between bacteria and other organisms.

She is especially interested in the life of the organisms living in low-energy, extreme habitats, such as deep-sea vents. She has made several unique discoveries and received the Leibniz prize for her achievements.

Her main contributions to marine biology at present are:

  • She has discovered a unique symbiotic relationship between an oligochaete worm Olavius algarvensis and two different bacterial species that can metabolize sulfur compounds.
  • She has studied the bacterial symbionts of the mussels populating the carcasses of whales in the deep sea.
More Information: Nicole Dubilier


Hans Heinrich Romulus Hass (1919-2012) – Austria.

Hans HassHans Hass was one of the early undersea researchers and a diving pioneer. Similar to Jacques Cousteau, he was also a filmmaker, and together with his wife, Lotta Hass has made multiple videos featuring underwater life.

During his life, he has considered Cousteau his main rival. He was also an inventor and developed several devices for diving. He has received multiple awards for his work.

Hass’s main contributions to marine biology are:

  • Hass was the first to conduct research using novel rebreather equipment.
  • Hass has participated in the development of underwater camera.
  • Hans Hass has developed other diving tools, such as swim fins and submersibles.
  • He has published around 30 books on sea life, some of them featuring underwater photography.
  • Films produced by Hass have actively promoted public interest in sea life.
More Information: Hans Heinrich Romulus Hass


Nancy Knowlton (1935 -) – USA.

Bancy KnowltonNancy Knowlton is a professor of marine biology in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

She is also the Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a scientific leader of the Census of Marine Life. Her main research focus is the evolution of sea corals and shrimps.

Knowlton has studied the reefs in the Carribean, as well as along the coast of Panama, Jamaica, and Brazil. She is also actively studying marine diversity.

Her main contributions to marine biology are:

  • Knowlton has participated in the Census of Marine life and published a book based on her work – Citizens of the sea.
  • Her studies have shown that previous estimates of marine diversity are significantly underestimated.
  • She is also an editor at the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal website, promoting marine conservation and studies.
More Information: Nancy Knowlton


Ruth Gates (1962-2018) – Great Britain/USA.

Ruth GatesRuth Gates was a marine biologist, a reef coral specialist, and conservationist. She has graduated from Newcastle University and received her Ph.D. in marine biology there.

Later, she has worked at the University of California and finally at the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology.

She has devoted her studies to the biology of coral reefs, as well as methods to prevent coral bleaching.

Her main contributions to marine biology are:

  • Ruth Gates was actively studying the relationships between corals and their symbiotic algae, trying to understand the mechanisms behind coral bleaching.
  • Gates has proven that some sunscreen components contribute to coral bleaching and had them banned in Hawaii.
  • She has developed an experiment, during which she has managed to breed corals that were more resistant to stress and bleaching.
  • Gates has proven that the resistance to bleaching in corals depends on the type of symbiotic algae they contain.
More Information: Ruth Gates


Patricia Louise Dudley (1929-2004) – USA.

Patricia Louise DudleyPatricia Dudley was a zoologist who has devoted her research to a unique group of crustaceans – copepods.

She was especially interested in copepods that co-existed with ascidians but later has become interested in their relationships with other organisms, such as polychaete worms.

She has taught zoology at the University of Columbia for many years. Her main contributions to marine biology are:

  • She was the first to use electron microscopy to study copepod organs and development.
  • She has extensively researched commensal relationships between copepods and other animals.
  • She has documented various stages of development of copepods and tunicates.
More Information: Patricia Louise Dudley

As you can see, there are many different people in this list, from specialists devoting their lives to virtually unknown organisms, to people who devoted their lives to promoting science with the help of all available means.

The main thing that unites all these famous marine biologists is their love for the sea and the creatures that live there.

Cite This Page

APA7MLA8Chicago (2024, April 14). Top 15 Famous Marine Biologists. Bio Explorer. "Top 15 Famous Marine Biologists" Bio Explorer, 14 April 2024, "Top 15 Famous Marine Biologists" Bio Explorer, April 14 2024.

Key References

  • “The Challenger Expedition – Dive & Discover”. Accessed July 20, 2019. Link.
  • “Sir John Murray – Founder of Oceanography”. Accessed July 20, 2019. Link.
  • “Anton Frederik Bruun”. Accessed July 20, 2019. Link.
  • “Citizens of the Sea by Nancy Knowlton | Books”. Accessed July 20, 2019. Link.



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