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Ecology - Origins

haeckel term german allee

The undisputed source of the term ecology is the eminent German zoologist, Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), who coined it in 1866. It is well to revert to Haeckel's expanded definition in 1869 as translated by Allee and others:

By ecology we mean the body of knowledge concerning the economy of nature—the investigation of the total relations of the animal both to its inorganic and to its organic environment; including above all, its friendly and inimical relations with those animals and plants with which it comes directly or indirectly into contact—in a word ecology is the study of all those complex interrelations referred to by Darwin as the conditions of the struggle for existence. (Allee, 1949)

Haeckel's definition illustrates the continuing tendency to distinguish animal and plant ecology. His emphasis on Darwinian evolution was echoed by numerous early ecologists, and later historians, and persists as evolutionary ecology.

The term ecology appeared sparingly in the scientific literature until the 1890s. In 1893 the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science described ecology as a branch of biology coequal with morphology and physiology and by far the most attractive. Also in 1893, the Madison Botanical Congress, a large meeting of professional botanists, formally adopted the term ecology. A chair of ecological botany was established at Uppsala University in Sweden in 1897, and in 1904 Oscar Drude, a German plant geographer, described the sudden recognition of ecology in a talk at a Congress of Arts and Sciences at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis. Charles E. Bessey, a prominent American botanist, commented in 1902 that ecology had become a fad—a slight exaggeration, as the "fad" was largely confined in America to a few Midwestern universities and state agencies. The first named textbook of ecology was published in Danish by a Danish botanist, Johannes Eugenius Bülow Warming, in 1895; and the first doctorate in ecology in the United States was granted to Henry Chandler Cowles in 1898 by the University of Chicago for his work on the dunes of Lake Michigan.

Ecology - Institutionalization [next]

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