Teaching Science through Historical Inquiry

Abraham Trembley & the Creature that Defies Classification

by Filipe Faria Bercot & Maria Elice de Brzezinski Prestes

Trembley collecting polyps, 1740 In 1740, Dutch naturalist Abraham Trembley began investigations of what we now know as hydra (H. viridissima). He ultimately received the Royal Society's presitigious Copley Medal for his exemplary series of observations and experiments. Here, the dilemma of classifying zoophytes as either animals or plants serves as an occasion to invigorate the often dry topic of taxonomy—not nearly so simple as it may seem to the novice.

Hydra viridissima Scientific Practices and NOS features include:

  • the role of interpreting observations
  • the role of theory in interpreting evidence
  • the role of experiments
  • the role of unexpected results
  • response to criticism
  • the material culture of science
  • ethics in scientific conduct
  • the role of gender and access to science

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