Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Elton, Charles Sutherland (England 1900-1991)

Photo courtesy of the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Used with permission from Blackwell Publishing.
Charles Elton was among the most important and influential ecologists of the twentieth century. He rebelled early against the training emphases of his time for zoologists--in embryology and anatomy--spending any spare time he had in the field, studying life histories. In the early 1920s, while still a student at Oxford, he took part in three expeditions to the Arctic island of Spitsbergen, which experience would help shape many of his later ideas. His first important book, Animal Ecology, was published in 1927 and soon became a classic, remaining in print in later editions to this day. He became interested in the puzzle of the regular population fluctuations that characterize certain species of Northern mammals, work which led to another classic book in 1942, Voles, Mice and Lemmings: Problems in Population Dynamics. In 1958 his years of study of another important subject, biological invasions, resulted in a third influential title: The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants, generally acknowledged as the cornerstone work in that field. Besides this trio of works, Elton is especially remembered for founding and for nearly twenty years editing the Journal of Animal Ecology, for his studies on animal community patterns (including the community-oriented concepts of the "Eltonian niche," and the pyramid of numbers), and for a number of contributions to economic biology and conservation studies.

Life Chronology

--born in Withington, Manchester, England, on 29 March 1900.
--1913-1918: attends Liverpool College
--1919: studies zoology under E. S. Goodrich and Julian Huxley at New College, Oxford University
--1921, 1923, 1924: involved in Oxford University expeditions to Spitsbergen
--1922: takes first class honors in zoology at Oxford
--1923: appointed departmental demonstrator at Oxford
--1924: publishes "Periodic Fluctuations in the Number of Animals: Their Causes and Effects" in the British Journal of Experimental Biology
--1925: made biological consultant to the Hudson Bay Company
--1927: founding member of the Oxford University Exploration Club
--1927: publishes his Animal Ecology
--1929: receives Royal Geography Society's Murchison grant for three seasons' study in Spitsbergen; appointed University demonstrator
--1930: participates in an Oxford University expedition to Lapland
--1931: made honorary member of the New York Zoological Society
--1932: starts the Bureau of Animal Population; founds the Journal of Animal Ecology
--1936: made University reader in animal ecology and senior research fellow of Corpus Christi College
--1942: publishes his Voles, Mice and Lemmings: Problems in Population Dynamics
--1949-1956: member, Scientific Policy Committee, Nature Conservancy
--1953: elected to the Royal Society
--1954: publishes "The Ecological Survey of Animal Communities" in the Journal of Ecology, with R. S. Miller
--1958: publishes his The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants
--1960: made honorary member, British Ecological Society
--1961: made life member and eminent ecologist, Ecological Society of America
--1966: publishes his The Pattern of Animal Communities
--1967: receives Gold Medal of the Linnean Society
--1970: awarded the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society
--dies at Oxford, England, on 1 May 1991.

For Additional Information, See:

--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 18 (2004).
--Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 45 (1999): 131-146.
--Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 37(1) (1968): 3-8.
--Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 61(2) (1992): 499-502.

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

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