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Charles Wyville Thomson was a Scottish naturalist born in 1832. His experiences as a naturalist studying invertebrates, and stories he'd heard from seafarers, of life forms brought up from great ocean depths, had led him to disbelieve and dispute Forbes's azoic theory, and he determined to challenge it scientifically. Calling upon the influence of a friend, William Carpenter, who was a senior member of the Royal Society, he was given use of the navy ship Lightning in 1868 to survey the ocean bottom around the British Isles. On this successful endeavor and two subsequent ones aboard HMS Porcupine, he discovered sufficient evidence of life forms at much greater depths than postulated in Forbes's theory, and made several other discoveries of great significance.

When Wyville-Thomson was elected to the Regius Chair of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh, the same post once held by Forbes, he set about convincing the Royal Society and the Admiralty to cooperatively fund and organize an extensive and ambitious voyage of scientific study. In a previously unseen collaboration between the Admiralty and the Royal Society, a statement of purpose was defined, a ship was found, the Challenger voyage was organized and would depart England to circumnavigate the globe in the winter of 1872.

Born in Scotland, near Linlithgow, Thomson studied at the University of Edinburgh. He held professorships at Belfast (1854-68) and Cork (1868-70) before returning to Edinburgh to take the Regius Chair of Natural History in 1870. He famously led a 110,224 km (68,890 mile) scientific expedition in HMS Challenger (1872-6) which circumnavigated the globe and trawled the depths of the oceans for new forms of life.

He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1877 and is remembered by a memorial window in St. Michael's Parish Church, Linlithgow.