Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Tansley, Arthur George (England 1871-1955)
plant ecology

Photo courtesy Special Collections Research Center,
University of Chicago Library

Tansley ranks among the twentieth century's most important ecologists, and as a major force in the professionalization of the discipline during his lifetime. He was the founder of three of the field's most influential institutions--the British Ecological Society, and the journals New Phytologist and Journal of Ecology--and beyond this fact served as their president or editor for a total of close to fifty years. Although not an effective field biologist, he was a logical and inventive thinker, and clear, lucid writer. Beyond his strictly scientific activities he played active roles in educating students and the masses as to the importance of botany and ecology, and was a persistent champion of conservation efforts. Last but not least, and in part a legacy of his interest in the writings of Warming and Schimper, he introduced the term "ecosystem" in his landmark paper "The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts and Terms." His delineation of the concept, incorporating both living and inert elements, helped move plant ecology away from the more loosely defined, "organismal-by-analogy" approach of Clements and in the direction of today's understandings.

Life Chronology

--born in London, England, on 15 August 171.
--1889, 1893-1895: takes classes at University College, London
--1890: enters Trinity College, Cambridge; passes final exams in 1894
--1900-1901: visits Ceylon and Malaya
--1902: founds The New Phytologist and is its editor for thirty years (1902-1931)
--1907: becomes lecturer in botany at Cambridge
--1911: edits/publishes Types of British Vegetation
--1913: founds, and is first president of, the British Ecological Society
--1915: admitted to the Royal Society
--1917: founds, and is first editor of, the Journal of Ecology; continues as editor for twenty-one years
--1923-1924: resigns from Cambridge and studies with Sigmund Freud
--1927-1937: professor of botany at Oxford University
--1929: attends the International Congress of Plant Sciences at Ithaca, New York
--1935: publishes "The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts and Terms" in Ecology
--1937: retires
--1939: publishes his The British Islands and Their Vegetation
--1939: president, British Ecological Society
--1941: awarded gold medal of the Linnean Society of London
--1947: president of the Council for the Promotion of Field Studies
--1949-1953: chairman of the Nature Conservancy Council
--1950: knighted
--dies at Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, England, on 25 November 1955.

For Additional Information, See:

--Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 53 (2004).
--Taxonomic Literature, Vol. 6 (1986).
--Ecosystems, Vol. 5(7) (2002): 611-613.
--Journal of Ecology, Vol. 46 (1958): 1-8.
--Journal of Ecology, Vol. 65 (1977): 1-26.
--Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 3 (1957).

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

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