This Day in History: 1516-03-26
Conrad Gessner (1516 – 1565) was born on this day. He was a Swiss naturalist and physician. Gessner is best known for his five-volume Historiae animalium (1551 – 1587), a work considered to mark the beginning of modern zoology.
In Historiae animalium Gessner combined data from old sources, such as the Old Testament, Aristotle, Pliny, folklore, and medieval bestiaries, adding his own observations, creating a new, comprehensive description of the Animal Kingdom. This was the first attempt by anyone to describe many animals accurately. Unlike many works of its time it was illustrated with hand-coloured woodcuts drawn from personal observations, the use of which was significant in fixing the accuracy of the data making possible the eventual emergence of the sciences of zoology and botany.