Sir John Murray: (1841-1914) the Founder of Modern Oceanography, John Murray Pioneered Research on the Ocean Depths and Oceanic Sediments and Was a Leading Light in Marine Biology

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What was his background?

John Murray was born on 3 March 1841 in Coburg, Ontario, Canada, to Scottish parents. He travelled to Scotland to study at Stirling High School before entering Edinburgh University to study medicine. However, he soon left to join a whaling expedition to Spitsbergen as ship's surgeon. He then returned to Edinburgh to complete his studies, this time in geology under Sir Archibald Geikle and natural philosophy under Sir Peter Guthrie Tait.

What did he achieve?

While still at Edinburgh, Murray joined the crew of naturalists aboard HMS Challenger, a steam assisted corvette, which sailed from Portsmouth in December 1872 for a three-year expedition to explore the world's deep oceans. At the end of the voyage, expedition leader Charles Wyville Thomson appointed him assistant in drawing up the scientific results, which were to lay the foundations of almost every branch of modern oceanography. Murray took over from his colleague when the stress of producing the report became too great, and went on to edit and publish more than 50 volumes, completed in 1896.

The survey set out to answer many of the basic questions about the physical and biological characteristics of the open oceans--indeed Murray coined the term 'oceanography' Depth soundings mapped the shape of the ocean floor, revealing the existence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and of oceanic trenches.

Evidence was also obtained of a rich and varied fauna in the very deepest regions, and samples taken led to the discovery of 4,000 new animal species. Analysis of temperature variation and specific gravity at depth revealed a complex system of sub-surface currents. …


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