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Forbes, Edward

natural history marine british

(1815–54) British naturalist: showed that marine life existed at great depths.

Forbes studied medicine at Edinburgh but soon became more interested in natural history. He became curator and later palaeontologist to the Geological Society and subsequently professor of natural history at Edinburgh and at the Royal School of Mines.

Travelling widely in Europe and in the region bordering the Eastern Mediterranean (he joined a naval expedition as naturalist in 1841), Forbes collected much fauna and flora, particularly molluscs (which he classified systematically), studying their migration habits and the inter-relationships between animals. He divided British plants into five groups and proposed that Britain had once been joined by land to the continent, whence the plants had migrated in three distinct periods. He also discounted the contemporary belief that marine life existed only near the sea surface by dredging a starfish from a depth of 400 m in the Mediterranean. His Natural History of European Seas (1859) was the first general study of oceanography.

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