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What this does is "cuts" fields (-f) from the input file and puts them to stdout. You redirect to a file using the ">". -d specifies the delimiter, which in this case is the first parenthesis '(' and you wish only the first field prior to that delimiter.
$ cat 1.txt
Nicolaes Tulp (1593–1674), physician, surgeon and mayor of Amsterdam
Gustav de Vries (1866–1934), mathematician
Hugo de Vries (1848–1937), geneticist
$ cut -d ' ' -f1-2 1.txt