William Stimpson bigraphy, stories - American marine biologist

William Stimpson : biography

February 14, 1832 - May 26, 1872

William Stimpson (February 14, 1832 – May 26, 1872) was a noted American scientist. He was interested particularly in marine biology. Stimpson became an important early contributor to the work of the Smithsonian Institution and later, director of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.


Stimpson was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Herbert Hathorne Stimpson and Mary Ann Devereau Brewer. The Stimpsons were of the old colonial and Revolutionary stock of Massachusetts, the earliest known member of the family being James Stimpson, who was married in 1661, in Milton. His mother died at an early age. William Stimpson's father was an ingenious inventor, and a leading merchant of Boston in the mid decades of the nineteenth century. It was he who invented the "Stimpson range" famous in its day throughout New England. He also made improvements in rifles, devised the first sheet-iron cooking stove, and suggested the placing of the flange on the inside of railway car wheels instead of on the outside, as had been the custom. His son was to inherit his energy, love of social life, enthusiasm, arid brilliant wit.

Stimpson's father moved from Roxbury and built a house in the village of Cambridge. When fourteen years of age he read with delight Edwin Swett's work upon geology, and soon after this a copy of Augustus Addison Gould's filled him with exultant enthusiasm.

He graduated from the Cambridge High School in 1848, winning the gold medal, the highest prize of the school. In September, 1848, he entered the Cambridge Latin School, and that he did well in his studies we have good evidence in the mastery he displays in the use of Latin in the description of marine animals in his Prodromus of 1857-60.

He studied under the great naturalist Louis Agassiz.

He focused most of his studies on marine biology, particularly invertebrates. Starting when he was 21 years old, from 1853 to 1856, he collected various specimens in the Pacific Northwest. He then settled in Washington, D.C., where he founded the Megatherium Club at the Smithsonian Institution. At the Smithsonian, he was named the director of the department of invertebrates. When fellow club member Robert Kennicott left his post as director of the Academy of Science in Chicago, Stimpson went to that city to take his place. There he gathered one of the most extensive natural history collections in the United States. The academy was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (later rebuilt), and almost all of Stimpson's works and specimens were lost. He died the following year of tuberculosis in Ilchester (Maryland).

Species named for him

  • Rare Hawaiian Goby Fish Sicydium stimpsoni Gill, 1860
  • Eel Bathycongrus stimpsoni Fowler, 1934
  • Sun Starfish Solaster stimpsoni
  • Stimpson coastal shrimp Heptacarpus stimpsoni
  • Fossil - small aquatic arthropod Acanthotelson stimpsoni Meek & Worthen
  • Striped sunstar Solaster stimpsoni
  • Clam Mercenaria stimpsoni
  • Yellow Cone Conus stimpsoni Dall, 1902
  • Eyespot Rock Shrimp Sicyonia stimpsoni Bouvier, 1905
  • Nudibranch mollusc Coryphella stimpsoni (Verrill 1879)
  • Gastropod Pteropurpura stimpsoni (A. Adams, 1863)
  • Gastropod Turritellopsis stimpsoni (Dall, 1919)
Living octopus

Living octopus

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