Edward S. Morse bigraphy, stories - Zoologists

Edward S. Morse : biography

June 18, 1838 - December 20, 1925

Edward Sylvester Morse (June 18, 1838 – December 20, 1925) was an American zoologist and orientalist.

Early life

Morse was born in Portland, Maine as the son of a Congregationalist preacher. His mother, who did not share her husband's religious beliefs, encouraged her son's interest in the sciences. An unruly student, Morse was expelled from every school he attended in his youth — the Portland village school, the academy at Conway, New Hampshire, in 1851, and Bridgton Academy in 1854 (for carving on desks). He preferred to explore the Atlantic coast in search of shells and snails, or go to the field to study the fauna and flora. However, despite his lack of formal education, the collections formed during adolescence soon earned him the visit of eminent scientists from Boston, Washington and even the United Kingdom. He was noted for his work with land snails, and before the age of twelve when he had discovered two new species: Helix Milium and H. astericus.

As a young man, he worked as a mechanical draftsman at the Portland Locomotive Company and a wood engraver attached to a Boston company. Morse was recommended by Philip Pearsall Carpenter to Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University for his intellectual qualities and talent at drawing, and served as his assistant in charge of conservation, documentation and drawing collections of mollusks and brachiopods until 1861. 

During the American Civil War, Morse attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but was turned down due to a chronic tonsil infection. On June 18, 1863, Morse married Ellen (“Nellie”) Elizabeth Owen in Portland. The couple had two children, Edith Owen Morse and John Gould Morse.


Morse rapidly became successful in the field of zoology, specializing in malacology or the study of seashells. In March 1863, along with three other students of Agassiz, Morse co-founded the scientific journal The American Naturalist, and he became one of its editors. The journal included a large number of his drawings. In 1864, he published his first work devoted to shellfish under the title Observations On The Terrestrial Pulmonifera of Maine, Including a Catalogue of All the Species of Terrestrial Mollusca and Fluvial Known to Inhabit the State. In 1870 he published The Brachiopods, a Division of the Annelida wherein he reclassified brachiopods as worms rather than mollusks. The work attracted the attention of Charles Darwin. From 1871 to 1874, he Morse was appointed to the chair of comparative anatomy and zoology at Bowdoin College. In 1874, he became a lecturer at Harvard University. In 1876, Morse was named a fellow of the National Academy of Science.


In June 1877 Morse first visited Japan in search of coastal brachiopods. His visit turned into a three year stay when he was offered a post as the first Professor of Zoology at the Tokyo Imperial University. He went on to recommend several fellow Americans as o-yatoi gaikokujin (foreign advisors) to support the modernization of Japan in the Meiji Era. In order to collect specimens, he established a marine biological laboratory at Enoshima in Kanagawa Prefecture. While looking out of a window on a train between Yokohama and Tokyo, Morse discovered the Ōmori shell mound, the excavation of which opened the study in archaeology and anthropology in Japan, and shed much light on the material culture of prehistoric Japan. He returned to Japan in 1881 to present a report of his findings to Tokyo Imperial University.

While in Japan, he authored a book Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings illustrated with his own line drawings. He also made a collection of over 5,000 pieces of Japanese pottery. He devised the term "cord-marked" for the sherds of Stone Age pottery, decorated by impressing cords into the wet clay. The Japanese translation of this, "Jōmon", now gives its name to the whole Jōmon period as well as Jōmon pottery.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine