Natural history pioneers

Over the centuries, revolutionary scientists, explorers and artists have opened our eyes to the natural world. Charles Darwin gave us insight into the fantastic diversity of life on Earth and our own distant origins. Joseph Wolf used his paint brush to reveal wild animals as they had never been seen before. And the vision of pioneers such as Sir Hans Sloane culminated in the collection of natural wonders that comprises the Natural History Museum.

  • Portrait of Mary Anning
    Mary Anning

    Despite poverty and little education, Mary Anning found some of the most important fossils ever discovered, all on her home coastline in Dorset. Find out how.

  • Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820).
    Sir Joseph Banks

    Joseph Banks was a man of science, international affairs and letters. How did his pioneering work in botany change the face of our planet?

  • Portrait of Dorothea Bate
    Dorothea Bate

    Learn about a pioneering female palaeontologist who discovered hundreds of fossil mammals at a time when few women were involved in science.

  • Evelyn Cheesman
    Evelyn Cheesman

    Find out about the remarkable woman who supplied over 70,000 specimens to the collections of the Natural History Museum, after her expeditions to New Guinea.

  • Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882).
    Charles Darwin

    Charles Darwin transformed the way we understand the natural world with his revolutionary ideas. But why wasn't everyone convinced?

  • Thomas Huxley (1825-1895)
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    Thomas Huxley was a pioneering biologist and educator. Why does history remember him as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’?

  • Carl Linnaeus
    Carl Linnaeus

    Carl Linnaeus was one of the most influential scientists of his time. He made it his life’s work to develop and refine a way to classify and name all life on Earth.

  • William MacGillivray (1796-1851).
    William MacGillivray

    William MacGillivray was an exceedingly talented man. So why have most people today never heard of him?

  • Richard Owen
    Richard Owen

    Richard Owen gave the dinosaurs their name and brought us the Natural History Museum. Although celebrated for his scientific achievements, he's also remembered as a controversial figure.

  • Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753).
    Sir Hans Sloane

    Hans Sloane was a doctor who collected curiosities with a passion. Although he always hoped society would benefit, he'd be astonished at the scale of the enterprise he started.

  • Portrait of William Smith
    William Smith

    Find out about the trials and successes of the first man to map the geology of the British Isles and to use fossils as a way of identifying layers of rock.

  • Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913).
    Alfred Russel Wallace

    An intrepid explorer and brilliant naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace co-published the theory of evolution by natural selection with Charles Darwin. So why isn't he as well known?

  • Gilbert White (1720 - 1793) © British Museum
    Gilbert White

    Gilbert White transformed the way we look at the natural world. He is recognised as one of the fathers of ecology.

  • Portrait of Joseph Wolf (1820-1899).
    Joseph Wolf

    Joseph Wolf was the finest wildlife illustrator and painter of the Victorian era. His work transformed the portrayal of animals in nature and inspired a new generation of artists.