8 Wildly Influential Hispanic Zoologists and Their Contributions to Animal Science
Are there any famous Hispanic Zoologists? As a matter of fact, yes there are!
While they are not as famous as those who have contributed to medicine, a lot of Latino scientists and Hispanic ecologists have left their mark in the world helping us to understand it better and making it a better place to live for humans and other creatures alike!
Let’s learn about 8 of the most influential Hispanic zoologists and their work and contribution to animal science.
8 Most Influential Hispanic Zoologists of All Time
La zoología, or zoology, is the branch of biology that studies animal life. For that reason, it is also called: animal science.
It is really important to understand the world that surrounds us and let us understand how to live in it. Zoology is a descriptive and analytical science and it can be studied just for the sake of learning something or to acquire knowledge to apply in other fields.
The following Hispanic zoologists are great examples of this application: of learning to acquire knowledge just to enjoy it and to apply it for a greater good.
Let’s check them out!
1. José Sanchez Labrador (1717-1798)
“We are especially interested in highlighting and analyzing the descriptions that the missionary Sánchez Labrador made, both of the indigenous people and of their traditional knowledge and therapeutic practices, in the four volumes of the work.”—Mariana Alliatti Joaquim and Eliane Cristina Deckmann Fleck.
Born in the province of Toledo in Spain, Jose Francisco Sánchez Labrador y Hernández, best known as father José Sánchez Labrador, was a zoologist, botanical naturist, explorer, philologist, and missionary priest.
He is one of the most important Hispanic zoologists of all time.
While he has an extensive and impressive list of feats under his name, his most outstanding work was his mission and descriptive work on El Gran Chaco in South America. You can learn about this interesting territory in our blog post about Paraguay.
He traveled all around the Gran Chaco region during his time as a missionary, which gave him the opportunity to understand and experience at first hand all the different characteristics, animals, and nature that make up this area.
Father José wrote about everything he was able to observe, which made his manuscripts a highly detailed work, full of knowledge and natural descriptions that helped others have an idea of what is in that vast area of South America.
2. Marcos Jiménez de la Espada (1831-1898)
“In him, a meticulous scientific spirit is noted, imbued with a culture of precision forged in his studies of comparative anatomy, as well as a romantic sensitivity that is inserted in the Humboldtian tradition.”—Elena Quiroga de Abarca
Marcos Jiménez de la Espada was born in Cartagena, Spain. He was one of the most famous Hispanic zoologists, herpetologist, writer and explorer.
He traveled to America, where he collected many species of animals to study, and later sent them to Spain and Europe as zoo species.
Before traveling to America, he studied and trained in Spain, which helped him to excel at sorting all the different species of mammals, birds, and reptiles.
He published several scientific articles about his work, Vertebrados del viaje al Pacífico and Batracios (Batrachians: Vertebrates from the trip to the Pacific) among them. In 1871 he founded, along with other colleagues, the Society of Natural History in Spain.
3. Angel Cabrera (1879-1960)
“Dr. Angel Cabrera Latorre was one of the foremost Spanish zoologists of his era.”—Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson.
Born in Madrid, Angel Cabrera is one of the most important and relevant zoologists in Spain,
He published his first scientific article at 18, which opened opportunities for him to work in the National Museum of Natural Sciences of Madrid, where he was a naturalist and later a recolector.
His most important work was published in 1907, where he proposed the Iberian wolf was a separate subspecies from other wolves. He also wrote a book called Genera Mammalium and a Manual on Mastozoology.
He traveled several times to Morocco, and later in his life moved to Argentina, where he lived until he died. There he worked as the head of the Vertebrate Paleontology Department of the Museum of La Plata.
He was the head of several excursions to La Patagonia and Catamarca, where he discovered important fossils.
Angel Cabrera was an incredible researcher and a talented illustrator, which can be observed in his work.
4. Jesús Sánchez
“The value of studying the animal kingdom, within which exists a vast variety that can offer both benefits and diseases.”—Jesús Sánchez
Jesús Sánchez is one of the most prominent examples of Zoology in Mexico and one of the most prominent Hispanic zoologists of all the region.
Dr. Sanchez was a physician, a member of the Academy of Medicine in Mexico, and a professor in Zoology and Biology at the National High School and National School of Agriculture in Mexico.
He believed that science should be studied and used for practical ends in mind. For that reason, he gave a lot of importance to the study of the human benign, as well as those organisms that surround humans, like animals, insects, and arachnids, especially those that could be harmful to humans.
His most important work is Datos para la zoología médica mexicana (Data for Mexican medical zoology) where he describes in a really detailed manner 9 different orders of arachnids, scorpions, and 5 orders of a whole lot of other insects. If you read it, you can find detailed explanations and illustrations of every species described in this book.
5. Enrique Rioja (1895-1963)
“I made several explorations along the Mexican Pacific coast, as a result of which I recorded more than 300 species of marine worms known as ‘polychaetes’.”—CONABIO
Born in Santander, a city in the north of Spain, Enrique Rioja Lo Bianco, a Spanish professor, zoologist, hydrogeologist, and biologist.
Because his dad was a zoologist and one of his uncles worked in the Napoli Aquarium he had access to that world from a young age.
He studied in Madrid, and he spent his summers at the Santander sea station, where he dedicated his time to recollect polychaetes—which are marine worms—a species that became his specialty later. He became the head of the Malacology and Lower animals section of the Spanish National Natural Science Museum.
He fled Spain when the Spanish civil war broke out, and went to Mexico, where he kept working as a researcher for the UNAM—Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México—and he also worked with the Mexican Institute of biology, here he organized the consolidation of a Hydrobiology Laboratory.
He later joined the Natural History Mexican Society and worked as a Mexican representative in natural matters.
6. Isabel Pérez Farfante (1916-2009)
“Despite the difficulties Isabel Pérez Farfante faced, having to relocate to different countries many times throughout her life and being among the first Hispanic female students in her higher education institution, she always pursued her love of learning while feeding her unending curiosity.”—María Robles Gonzalez and Liz Boatman.
Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Isabel Perez Farfante was the daughter of Spanish immigrants and to this day, is one of the most important Hispanic zoologists of all time.
She finished her high school studies in Spain, and began her bachelor’s degree there, but had to flee after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and for that reason, she finished her studies at the University of Havana, where she became a professor after graduating.
She studied her Doctorates at Radcliffe College in Cambridge and later worked at the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Harvard. She later came back to Cuba, where she took a position at El centro de investigaciones pesqueras (Fisheries research center) where she focused on shrimp.
She went back to Massachusetts when Fidel Castro ascended to power in Cuba, where she came back to the Museum to keep working, until 1966 where she moved to work in the Smithsonian Institution and in 1986 she changed her focus from shrimps to carcinology, the study of crustaceans.
Isabel Pérez published several articles and papers about all her discoveries, but one of the most important things she did was pave the way for Hispanics and women to be able to achieve recognition in STEM fields.
7. Zuleyma Tang-Martinez (1945- )
“Research in my lab focuses on the social behavior of animals, with an emphasis on the mechanisms, development, and function of vertebrate social behavior.”—Zuleyma Tang-Martinez.
Born in Venezuela in 1945, Zuleyma Tang- Martinez is one of the top influential Hispanic academics in Animal behaviorism.
She has a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley and was the first Latin American president of the International Animal Behavior Society and was the first Hispanic Woman to receive tenure and became a full professor in the University of Missouri.
She has taught courses in Mexico and Venezuela and researches as well. You can learn more about her on her UMSL page.
8. Stephen M. Baca (1985- )
“As a kid growing up a part of a proud Hispanic-American family in New Mexico, Baca had always been interested in anything that crawled.”—Catalina Gonella.
Stephen M. Baca is a Hispanic-American entomologist— a zoologist branch that centers around insects— that has a great reputation as a world authority on the evolution and history of a family of water beetles known as Noteridae.
He is a living example of helping to create spaces and representation for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.
You can read more about his work here
Learn Spanish and Leave Your Mark on the World
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In whatever field you work or study in, like zoology or science, you might find Hispanics and Latinos. There are approximately 53 million people who speak Spanish in the United States, making it the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US who speak Spanish in their homes.
That means that during your whole life and career, there is a great possibility you may encounter Latino and Hispanos and you can make a difference along with them to change the world, just like the stories we learned about today.
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