Henry Chandler Cowles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Henry Chandler Cowles
Born(1869-02-27)February 27, 1869
DiedSeptember 12, 1939(1939-09-12) (aged 70)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
Oberlin College
Known forEcological succession
SpouseElizabeth Waller[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Chicago
Thesis The Ecological Relations of the Vegetation on the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan  (1898)
Doctoral advisorJohn Merle Coulter
Doctoral studentsVictor Ernest Shelford
William Skinner Cooper
Paul Sears
Henry C. Cowles in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, 1913

Henry Chandler Cowles (February 27, 1869 – September 12, 1939) was an American botanist and ecological pioneer. A professor at the University of Chicago,[2] he studied ecological succession in the Indiana Dunes of Northwest Indiana.[3][4] This led to efforts to preserve the Indiana Dunes.[3][5] One of Cowles' students, O. D. Frank continued his research.[6]

Life and work[edit]

Born in Kensington, Connecticut, Cowles attended Oberlin College in Ohio. He studied at the University of Chicago with the plant taxonomist John M. Coulter and the geologist Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin as main teachers. He obtained his PhD in 1898 for his study of vegetation succession on the Lake Michigan sand dunes. The inspiration to these studies came from reading Plantesamfund by the Danish botanist and pioneer ecologist Eugen Warming.[7][8] Cowles studied Danish to be able to read the original[9] and later (1905) visited Warming in Copenhagen. The translation of Warming's term into English as "Oecology" led to Cowles becoming one of the primary popularizers of the term ecology in the United States. Cowles was one of the founding members of the Ecological Society of America in 1915.[10]

Cowles married Elizabeth Waller in 1900, and their daughter Harriet was born in 1912.[1]


One of Cowles's field study locations is now named Cowles Bog in his honor; Cowles Bog and nearby dune locations were later preserved for the public as part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (national park as of February 2019). Cowles Bog is located west of Mineral Springs Road in the Town of Dune Acres, Indiana.

Among Cowles's students who advanced American ecology were Victor E. Shelford, William Skinner Cooper, Paul B. Sears, George Damon Fuller, Walter P. Cottam, Arthur G. Vestal and May Theilgaard Watts.[11] Cowles also served as a special field assistant of the United States Geological Survey.


His publications include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Guide to the Henry C. Cowles Collectioncirca 1860s-1985". University of Chicago Library. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  2. ^ "Ecology and the American Environment". Library of Congress. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2009). The Historical Roots of the Nature Conservancy in the Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland Region: From Science to Preservation Archived 2016-01-01 at the Wayback Machine. The South Shore Journal, 3.
  4. ^ Schons, Mary. "Henry Chandler Cowles". National Geographic. Archived from the original on February 21, 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  5. ^ Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2006). Alice Gray, Dorothy Buell, and Naomi Svihla: Preservationists of Ogden Dunes Archived 2012-09-13 at the Wayback Machine. The South Shore Journal, 1.
  6. ^ Smith, S. & Mark, S. (2007). The cultural impact of a museum in a small community: The Hour Glass of Ogden Dunes Archived 2012-11-30 at the Wayback Machine. The South Shore Journal, 2.
  7. ^ A Letter from Henry A. Gleason, written 1952, printed in Brittonia 39: 2 (1987), pp. 205-209.
  8. ^ Prytz, S. (1984) Warming – botaniker og rejsende. Lynge, Bogan; p. 127 quotes a letter from Cowles to Warming: "The reading of it (i.e. Plantesamfund) in the summer of 1896 turned the current of my life, which is now devoted to ecology".
  9. ^ Cassidy, V.M. (2007) Henry Chandler Cowles – pioneer ecologist Archived 2007-06-30 at the Wayback Machine. Kedzie Sigel Press, Chicago.
  10. ^ ESA history
  11. ^ Sprugel DG (1980) A 'pedagogical genealogy' of American plant ecologists. Bulletin ESA 64: 197-200
  12. ^ Ganong, W. F. (July 1912). "Reviewed Work: A Textbook of Botany. by Coulter, Barnes, Cowles". Botanical Gazette. 54 (1): 73–75. doi:10.1086/330866. JSTOR 2468394. S2CID 85670840.
  13. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Cowles.

External links[edit]