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Robert Brown

1773 - 1858

Robert Brown

Robert Brown was a pioneer of the use of the microscope for botanical and cell research. He discovered the phenomenon of Brownian Motion, the erratic movement of pollen grains in water, which inspired Albert Einstein to predict the discovery of atoms in a 1905 paper.

  • Nationality
  • Scottish

  • Subject
  • Biology, botany

  • Fields
  • paleobotany, cytology, palynology, plant taxonomy

  • Distinctions
  • Several species are named in Brown's honour: the genus Brunonia, the species Eucalyptus brownii and Banksia brownii (all Australian), and a Scottish moss Brown's Tetrodontium Moss (Tetrodontium brownianum).

    Geographical features: Brown's River (Tasmania), Mount Brown and Point Brown (South Australia), Mount Brown (British Columbia).

  • Publications
  • On the natural order of plants called Proteaceae 1809: read to the Linnaean Society.

    Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen 1810: a systematic catalogue of Australian flora.

    Observations, systematical and geographical, on the herbarium collected by Professor Christian Smith, in the vicinity of the Congo 1818.

    1833 paper in which the cell nucleus was named, making reference to Dutch microscopist Leeuwenhoek's 1682 discovery of the cell, and using Franz Bauer's 1802 drawings. Brown failed to surmise the universality of cells in this paper.

  • Theories
  • Description and naming of cell nucleus, and distinction between gymnosperms and angiosperms.

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Pioneering use of microscope in botany

    Cell nucleus, cytoplasmic streaming, Brownian motion, plant pollination, fertilisation

Brown journeyed to Australia, and on an 1800 expedition with Matthew Flinders, was a pioneer in the taxonomy of Australian genera and species.

Brown is credited with identifying and naming the cell nucleus, in 1833. His work advanced the understanding of the flows into and out of cells (cytoplasmic streaming), in addition to his work on plant pollination and fertilisation.






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