Philip Henry Gosse - Encyclopedia

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PHILIP HENRY GOSSE (1810-1888), English naturalist, was born at Worcester on the 6th of April 18ro, his father, Thomas Gosse (1765-1844) being a miniature painter. In his youth the family settled at Poole, where Gosse's turn for natural history was noticed and encouraged by his aunt, Mrs Bell, the mother of the zoologist, Thomas Bell (1792-1880). He had, however, little opportunity for developing it until, in 1827, he found himself clerk in a whaler's office at Carbonear, in Newfoundland, where he beguiled the tedium of his life by observations, chiefly with the microscope. After a brief and unsuccessful interlude of farming in Canada, during which he wrote an unpublished work on the entomology of Newfoundland, he travelled in the United States, was received and noticed by men of science, was employed as a teacher for some time in Alabama, and returned to England in 1839. His Canadian Naturalist (1840), written on the voyage home, was followed in 1843 by his Introduction to Zoology. His first widely popular book was The Ocean (1844). In 1844 Gosse, who had meanwhile been teaching in London, was sent by the British Museum to collect specimens of natural history in Jamaica. He spent nearly two years on that island, and after his return published his Birds of Jamaica (1847) and his Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica (1850. He also wrote about this time several zoological works for the S.P.C.K., and laboured to such an extent as to impair his health. While recovering at Ilfracombe, he was attracted by the forms of marine life so abundant on that shore, and in 1853 published A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, accompanied by a description of the marine aquarium invented by him, by means of which he succeeded in preserving zoophytes and other marine animals of the humbler grades alive and in good condition away from the sea. This arrangement was more fully set forth and illustrated in his Aquarium (1854), succeeded in1855-1856by A Manual of Marine Zoology, in two volumes, illustrated by nearly 700 wood engravings after the author's drawings. A volume on the marine fauna of Tenby succeeded in 1856. In June of the same year he was elected F.R.S. Gosse, who was a most careful observer, but who lacked the philosophical spirit, tempted to essay work of a more ambitious order, publishing in 1857 two books, Life and Omphalos, embodying his speculations on the appearance of life on the earth, which he considered to have been instantaneous, at least as regarded its higher forms. His views met with no favour from scientific men, and he returned to the field of observation, which he was better qualified to cultivate. Taking up his residence at St Marychurch, in South Devon, he produced from 1858 to 1860 his standard work on sea-anemones, the Actinologia Britannica. The Romance of Natural History and other popular works followed. In 1865 he abandoned authorship, and chiefly devoted himself to the cultivation of orchids. Study of the Rotifera, however, also engaged his attention, and his results were embodied in a monograph by Dr C. T. Hudson (1886).(1886). He died at St Marychurch on the 23rd of August 1888.

His life was written by his son, Edmund Gosse.

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