Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Cowles, Henry Chandler (United States 1869-1939)
ecology, botany

Henry Cowles was strongly influenced as a graduate student by the writings of Eugenius Warming (especially his ground-breaking book Plantesamfund) and by the Chicago school of physical geography as espoused by workers such as Rollin Salisbury and Thomas Chamberlin. Cowles worked on the ecology of the Indiana Dunes for his dissertation project, and what emerged was the theory of ecological succession. This concept of directional change in the composition of community structure over short to medium length periods of time proved an irresistible unifying concept for plant ecology, and dominated thinking within the field for much of the first half of the twentieth century. Cowles published his dissertation in Botanical Gazette in 1899, then followed it up with a related analysis just two years later--but wrote very little further on the subject. The initial impact of the model was strong enough to permanently sustain his reputation, however, and over the next thirty years plus Cowles's became the central professional influence within the field of ecology (both through his efforts as a teacher/advisor, and as an advocate for professional ecological studies).

Life Chronology

--born in Kensington, Connecticut, on 27 February 1869.
--1893: A.B., Oberlin College
--1894-1895: teaches natural science at Gates College, Nebraska
--1895: begins graduate studies in geology at the University of Chicago
--1897: begins his studies on the Indiana Dunes
--1898: Ph.D. in botany, University of Chicago; joins the botany faculty there
--1899: publishes "The Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan" in
Botanical Gazette
--1901: publishes "The Physiographic Ecology of Chicago and Vicinity" in Botanical Gazette
--1910-1911: president, Association of American Geographers
--1910-1911: publishes his A Textbook of Botany for Colleges and Universities in two volumes, with J. M. Coulter and C. R. Barnes
--1911-1925: professor of botany, University of Chicago
--1914: helps found the Ecological Society of America
--1917: president, Ecological Society of America
--1922: president, Botanical Society of America
--1923: receives honorary D.Sc. from Oberlin College
--1925-1934: chair of the botany department, University of Chicago; editor of the Botanical Gazette
--1930: president of the phytogeography and ecology section, International Botanical Congress, Cambridge, U. K.
--1934: retires from the University of Chicago; is made life member of the British Ecological Society
--dies at Chicago, Illinois, on 12 September 1939.

For Additional Information, See:

--American National Biography, Vol. 5 (1999).
--Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 22 (Supplement Two) (1958).
--Ecology, Vol. 16(3) (1935): 281-283.
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 39 (1954).
--Journal of Ecology, Vol. 28(2) (1940): 450-452.
--Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 30(1) (1940): 39-43.
--Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, Vol. 81 (1993): 12-22.
--Taxonomic Literature, Supplement IV (1997).
--Henry Chandler Cowles: Pioneer Ecologist (2007).

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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