Essays on Science and SocietyPERCEPTIONS OF SCIENCE

Deep-Sea Biology: Living with the Endless Frontier

Science  07 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5647, pp. 991
DOI: 10.1126/science.1090808

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The beginnings of deep-sea biology in the 19th century illustrate an occupational hazard faced by many scientists: the temptation to tame a vast frontier by denying its vastness or its interest. In his essay, Kunzig describes how Edward Forbes gave deep-sea biology its initial impetus by claiming that nothing lived on the deep-sea floor at all. C. Wyville Thomson, leader of the Challenger expedition, proved Forbes wrong--but then shifted the "azoic zone" to the middle depths of the ocean. Most of the seafloor and the middle depths remain unexplored today.