Born this day in 1860: Mary Jane Rathbun, (1860–1943), eminent marine zoologist, known for establishing the basic taxonomic information on Crustacea.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Rathbun’s formal education ended with high school. But, her own keen mind, curiosity, and passion for zoology engendered a self-education that would make her preeminent in her field.
Her interest in sea life began when her brother, who shared her childhood passion for zoology and who at the time worked at the U.S. Fish Commission, asked her to volunteer at the Woods Hole Marine Research Center. She was later hired by Spencer Baird, head of the Fish Commission, where she organized and catalogued the commission’s vast collection held at the National Museum’s Division of Marine Invertabrates in Washington, D.C., and served as defacto head of the department. She was officially named assistant curator in 1907.
Over a career that spanned more than five decades, she published 158 scientific studies, describing and classifying both fossil and living marine life (Crustacea) and establishing a fixed nomenclature. Her work has been indispensible to ecologists and zoologists.
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