Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Clements, Frederic Edward (United States 1874-1945)
plant ecology

Photo courtesy of Ecology.
F. E. Clements was, during his prime, the most influential ecologist in the world. During ten year periods at the University of Nebraska and University of Minnesota he developed and refined the theory for which he is best known: ecological succession. The notion that community systems might go through a dynamic and orderly (and almost organic) set of stages leading to a stable assemblage of species known as the climax was the first attempt at a universal understanding within ecology, and proved an irresistible unifying force among its workers even as an increasing number of studies demonstrated various limitations to the theory. Clements left academia in 1917 to join the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington as a research associate; from this point on he moved in an increasingly Neo-Lamarckian direction, including attempting to demonstrate that acquired traits could be passed on to descendants. This work isolated him from the mainstream (and ended up unsubstantiable), but it did provide a target for workers involved in the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. The Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997), p. 157, succinctly lists Clements' major contributions as "development of formal theoretical framework for plant ecology, creation of system of ecological nomenclature, introduction of quantitative methods to the study of vegetation," and "extensive field research in plant ecology."

Life Chronology

--born in Lincoln, Nebraska, on 15 September 1874.
--1894: B.Sc., University of Nebraska
--1896: M.A., University of Nebraska
--1897-1907: teaches botany and plant physiology at the University of Nebraska
--1898: Ph.D., University of Nebraska
--1898: publishes his The Phytogeography of Nebraska, with Roscoe Pound
--1900: establishes the Alpine Laboratory at Pikes Peak, Colorado
--1902: member of the American nomenclature commission
--1904: publishes his The Development and Structure of Vegetation
--1905: publishes his Research Methods in Ecology; member of the International nomenclature commission
--1906-1907: president, Nebraska Academy of Science
--1907-1917: head of botany department, University of Minnesota
--1908: president, Minnesota Mycological Society
--1910: general secretary of the AAAS
--1911: member of the international botanical excursion to Great Britain
--1913: director of the international botanical excursion in the U. S.
--1916: publishes his Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation
--1917-1925: spends winters working at the Carnegie Institution's Desert Laboratory in Tucson, AZ
--1917-1941: research associate in charge of ecological research, Carnegie Institution of Washington
--1925-1941: conducts research at the Carnegie Institution's Coastal Laboratory at Santa Barbara, CA
--1928: publishes his Plant Succession and Indicators
--1934: publishes "The Relict Method in Dynamic Ecology" in the Journal of Ecology
--1934-1945: consultant to the U. S. Soil Conservation Service
--1935: consultant to the National Highway Research Board
--1936: publishes "Nature and Structure of the Climax" in the Journal of Ecology
--1939: publishes his Bio-Ecology, with Victor Shelford
--1940: honorary LL.D., University of Nebraska
--1941: retires from the Carnegie Institution but continues his research at Pikes Peak and Santa Barbara
--dies at Santa Barbara, California, on 26 July 1945.

For Additional Information, See:

--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 3 (1973).
--American National Biography, Vol. 5 (1999).
--Taxonomic Literature Suppl. IV (1997).
--Journal of Ecology, Vol. 34(1) (1947): 194-196.
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 34 (1948).
--Ecology, Vol. 26(4) (1945): 317-319.
--Osiris, Vol. 8 (1993): 178-195.
--American Development of Biology (1988): 257-280.

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Copyright 2007 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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