Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Rensch, Bernhard (Carl Emmanuel) (Germany 1900-1990)
evolutionary biology, systematics

One of the main architects of the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis, Bernhard Rensch held a position in twentieth century German biology not unlike that his contemporary Ernst Mayr did in the United States: both men were primarily ornithologists by training, both were centrally interested in evolutionary theory, and both took the philosophy of systematics--and science in general--quite seriously. Rensch's early studies concentrated on the zoogeographical characteristics of speciation, finding in the geographic range patterns of polytypic and incipient species clues that shed light on how climate and other factors influenced evolution. He became a pioneer in the use of allometric methods, analyzing Bergmann's rule and working out and naming Allen's and Gloger's rules. Rensch then looked into whether such forces could explain the origin of the more general taxonomic levels, the results of which study are related in his book Neuere Probleme der Abstammungslehre: Die Transspezifische Evolution, one of the primary documents of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. Rensch's studies touched on many additional subjects; he became especially interested, however, in the relation of animal behavior to physiology and morphology and published work on learning and memory, the brain, sensory physiology, and ethology (which he referred to as "animal psychology").

Life Chronology

--born in Thale, Germany, on 21 January 1900.
--1917-1920: serves in the German army
--1922: Ph.D., University of Halle
--1923-1925: research assistant, Institute for Plant Breeding, University of Halle
--1925-1937: research assistant/head of department at the zoological museum, University of Berlin
--1927: takes part in expedition to the Lesser Sunda Islands
--1929: publishes his Das Prinzip Geographischer Rassenkreise und das Problem der Artbildung
--1936: publishes his Die Geschichte des Sundabogens; Eine Tiergeographische Untersuchung
--1937-1944: head of the Westphalian Regional Natural History Museum
--1938-1943: lecturer in zoology at the University of Münster
--1938: receives the Leibniz medal of the Prussian Academy of Science
--1940-1942: serves in the German army
--1947: publishes his Neuere Probleme der Abstammungslehre: Die Transspezifische Evolution (translated into English and published in 1959 as Evolution Above the Species Level)
--1947-1968: chairman of the zoology department and director of the zoological institute, University of Münster
--1953: takes part in expedition to India
--1957: honorary Ph.D., University of Uppsala
--1958: receives the Darwin-Wallace medal of the Linnean Society
--1968: made professor emeritus at the University of Münster
--1975: made an honorary fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union
--1977: elected a foreign member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences
--1979: publishes his autobiography: Lebensweg eines Biologen in einem Turbulenten Jahrhundert
--dies on 4 April 1990.

For Additional Information, See:

--McGraw-Hill Modern Scientists and Engineers, Vol. 3 (1980).
--Contemporary Authors, Vol. 102 (1981).
--The Auk, Vol. 109(1) (1992): 188.
--Biologisches Zentralblatt, Vol. 111(3) (1992): 145-149.
--History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Vol. 30(2) (2008): 207-226.
--American Anthropologist, Vol. 63(4) (1961): 880-881.
--Biological Theory, Vol. 1(4) (2006): 410-413.
--100 Jahre Bernhard Rensch: Biologe--Philosoph--Künstler (2000). [in German]

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

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