Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 03 Issue 02

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Volume 03, No. 2
Pages 61 - 62


Biological Oceanography: An Early History, 1870 to 1960

David J. Carlson
First Paragraph

In the mid-nineteenth century, biologists studying the oceans were mostly interested in discovering deep-sea organisms. Today biological oceanographers pay most attention to processes in the surface ocean. In his latest volume of oceanographic history, published by Cornell University Press in its History of Science Series, Eric Mills describes the period from 1870 to 1960 during which focus shifted from deep-sea natural history to upper ocean plankton dynamics and when, as a result, biological oceanography evolved and separated from marine biology. Although the history is titled Biological Oceanography, the book” s primary topic is the progressive understanding of plankton dynamics in relation to chemical and physical oceanographic factors, a topic relevant, perhaps instructive, to many present day oceanographers. Dr. Mills also touches on historical patterns of promotion and remuneration of oceanographers, of ship availability, and of private, federal and institutional support for oceanography, issues that provoke and perplex us still.


Carlson, D.J. 1990. Review of Biological Oceanography: An Early History, 1870 to 1960, by E.L. Mills. Oceanography 3(2):61–62, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.1990.12.

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