This Day in History: 1799-08-06

Marcus Elieser Bloch (1723 – 1799) died on this day. He was a German naturalist and doctor, generally considered to be the most important ichthyologist of the 18th century. On becoming a M.D. (1747) he settled in Berlin, where he established himself as a physician and began to collect natural history objects. Bloch is best known for his encyclopaedic ichthyological work, Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische (1782 – 1795), a 12-volume, beautifully illustrated comprehensive work on fishes; the first three volumes described German fishes, Oeconomische Naturgeschichte der Fische Deutschlands and the remaining volumes dealt with fishes from the rest of the world, Naturgeschichte der ausländischen Fische. Bloch’s Systema Ichthyologiae (1801), containing descriptions of 1,254 species, was planned as the crowning achievement of his ichthyological work, but he did not live to see it completed, it was revised and published after his death by Johann Gottlob Schneider.

Bloch’s collection of around 1500 specimens, the largest collection of fishes of his time, is held today at the Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt Universität, Berlin.

In the course of his work Bloch described numerous taxa and is honoured in the names of a number of species under blochi(i).