This Day in History: 1928-08-13

Emily Arnesen (1867 – 1928) died on this day. She was a Norwegian zoologist known for her work on sponges (likely the first Norwegian to study sponges), and the second Norwegian woman to receive a doctoral degree. Arnesen attended the Royal Frederick University, Kristiania, studying zoology under Johan Hjort. She taught at various schools while studying coastal fauna at Norwegian coastal biological stations during the summer. Arnesen spent four months at the zoological museum in Amsterdam with responsibility for the sponge collection (1903) then became conservator of the Kristiania zoological museum (1905 – 1926), also lecturing on invertebrates at the Royal Frederick University (1906 – 1913). Outside of her biological interests, Arnesen was also active in political life, especially concerning the rights of women and suffrage. Arnesen published her first paper on the anatomy of corals (1898), but is best known for her work on sponges published between 1901 and 1920 including a paper on their geographical distribution (1903), she carried out systematic work on the sponges of the Michael Sars expedition (1920), other publications included a high school text book on zoology (1902) and the first guidebook for the zoological museum (1912).

Arnesen described around 30 species of Porifera and is honoured in the names of two species of sponges under arnesenae and arneseni.