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Edward Tyson

Episode 2 of 10

Richard Sabin explores the life of the physician, scientist and 'father of comparative anatomy', Edward Tyson. From 2015.

Edward Tyson, a physician and scientist, is regarded as the father of the study of comparative anatomy. Tyson was one of an early group of scientists who started to look inside animals in order to understand them and therefore learn more about ourselves. In a time before the category 'mammal' even was recognised Tyson's anatomy of a porpoise described an animal more similar to a pig than a fish without resorting to mythical explanations for this incongruity.

Later Tyson was the first to note that a chimpanzee is physically more in akin to a human than to a monkey. These observations were only made possible due to Tyson's incredible dissection skills and knowledge of anatomy.

Richard Sabin curator of large mammals at the Natural History Museum explains why Edward Tyson is his Natural History Hero.

First heard on BBC Radio 4 in September 2015.

Available now

15 minutes

Richard Sabin

Richard Sabin
Richard Sabin is Principal Curator in the Department of Life Sciences at the Natural History Museum, specialising in the study of the form and function of marine mammal skeletal anatomy.

He is special advisor to the NHM’s UK Strandings Project, carries out endangered species identification work for UK and international law enforcement, and develops internationally recognised protocols and techniques for the extraction of genetic material from the Museum's research specimens.

Edward Tyson

Edward Tyson
Edward Tyson (1650-1708) was an English physician and pioneer of comparative anatomy whose study of a chimpanzee in 1669 provided an empirical basis for the study of man.

He demonstrated for the first time the probability of a relationship between the anatomy of man and other animals, which was not established more clearly until Charles Darwin published 'The Descent of Man', 150 years later.

'The Anatomy of a Pygmie compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape and a Man', was the first work to study tailless apes and for the first time distinguished them as a separate group to monkeys and man.

Picture: © Royal College of Physicians

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