Portal:Ecology/Selected biographies

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Selected biographies 1

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Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919), also written von Haeckel, was an eminent German biologist and philosopher. He promoted Charles Darwin's work in Germany and developed the theory that the organism's biological development, or ontogeny, parallels its species' evolutionary development, or phylogeny.

The published artwork of Haeckel includes over 100 detailed, multi-color illustrations of animals and sea creatures (see: Kunstformen der Natur, "Art Forms of Nature"). As a philosopher, Ernst Haeckel wrote Die Welträtsel (1895–1899, in English, The Riddle of the Universe, 1901), the genesis for the term "world riddle" (Welträtsel); and Freedom in Science and Teaching to support the teaching of evolution.


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Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin (February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882) FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.

He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species. By the 1870s the scientific community and much of the general public accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.


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Johannes Eugenius Bülow Warming (November 3, 1841 – April 2, 1924), known as Eugen Warming, was a Danish botanist and a main founding figure of the scientific discipline of ecology. Warming wrote the first textbook (1895) on plant ecology, taught the first university course in ecology and gave the concept its meaning and content. Warming wrote a number of textbooks on botany, plant geography and ecology, which were translated to several languages and were immensely influential at their time and later. Most important were Plantesamfund and Haandbog i den systematiske Botanik.

The book Plantesamfund was based on Warming’s lectures on plant geography at the University of Copenhagen. It gives an introduction to all major biomes of the world. Warming’s aim, and his major lasting impact on the development of ecology, was to explain how nature solved similar problems (drought, flooding, cold, salt, herbivory, etc.) in similar way, despite using very different ‘raw material’ (species of different origin) in different regions of the world. This was a remarkably modern view – completely different from the merely descriptive floristic plant geography prevailing during his time.


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Aziz Nacib Ab'Sáber (born October 24, 1924) is an environmentalist and one of Brazil´s most respected scientists, honored with the highest awards of Brazilian science in geography, geology, ecology and archaeology. Graduated in geography, he is a former president and current honororary president of the SBPC (Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science), Emeritus Professor of the University of São Paulo and member of the highest rank - Order Grão-Cruz in Earth Sciences - of the Academy of Science.

The contributions of Ab`Saber to science range from the first research of oil camps in Brazil's northeast to surveys of Brazil's natural realms and the restoration of the history of forests, camps and primitive humans over geologic time in South America. He made central contributions to biology, South American archaeology, and to Brazilian ecology, geology and geography.

Ab'Sáber was the first person to classify scientifically the Brazilian and South-America territory in morphoclimatic domains. He also contributed to the "Pleistocene refuge hypothesis", an attempt to explain the distribution of Neotropical taxa as a function of their isolation in forest fragments during glacial periods, which allowed populations to speciate.


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Sergei Nikolaievich Winogradsky (September 14, 1856 – February 25, 1953) (or Vinogradskyi) was a Ukrainian-Russian microbiologist, ecologist and soil scientist who pioneered the cycle of life concept. He discovered the first known form of lithotrophy during his research with Beggiatoa in 1887. He reported in Winogradsky S (1887). "Über Schwefelbakterien". Bot. Zeitung (45): 489–610.  that Beggiatoa oxidized hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as an energy source and formed intracellular sulfur droplets. This research provided the first example of lithotrophy, but not autotrophy. His research on nitrifying bacteria would report the first known form of chemoautotrophy, showing how a lithotroph fixes carbon dioxide (CO2) to make organic compounds.

Winogradsky is best known for discovering chemoautotrophy, which soon became popularly known as chemosynthesis, the process by which organisms derive energy from a number of different inorganic compounds and obtain carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.


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Leonty Grigoryevich Ramensky June 16 [O.S. June 6] 1884 – January 27, 1953) was a Russian plant ecologist. He was a proponent of the view that biotic communities consist of species behaving individualistically (much like Henry Gleason in the U.S.A.). This was in strong contrast to the prevailing view of communities as super-organisms, held by the powerful V.N.Sukachov and his consorts (much like Frederic Clements in the U.S.A.). Hence, Ramensky was marginalized within the Russian scientific community and was only posthumously rehabilitated by Russian ecologists. Much later, the significance of his ideas was discovered by ecologists in the West.

In his 1929 scientific publication On methods for comparative analysis and ordering of plant lists and other objects determined by multiple factors, Ramensky criticized the use of hierarchical classifications of plant communities and advocated ordination ("Ordnung") of communities (and other complex objects with multiple determining factors, such as soil profile and weather data) instead. He was explicit about assuming unimodal responses of species to underlying gradients in the environment. This was long before Correspondence analysis was first used (1952), the now classic applications of ordination to plant communities by J. Roger Bray and John T. Curtis and David W. Goodall and the theoretical foundations of gradient analysis was developed by Whittaker and others (1970s onwards).


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Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948) was an American author, scientist ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1949), which has sold over two million copies. He was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation. His ethics of nature and wildlife preservation had a profound impact on the environmental movement, with his biocentric or holistic ethics regarding land. He emphasized biodiversity and ecology and was a founder of the science of wildlife management.

Early on Leopold was assigned to hunt and kill bears, wolves, and mountain lions in New Mexico. Local ranchers hated these predators because of livestock losses. However, Leopold came to respect the animals. He developed an ecological ethic that replaced the earlier wilderness ethic that stressed the need for human dominance. Rethinking the importance of predators in the balance of nature resulted in the return of bears and mountain lions to New Mexico wilderness areas.

By the 1930s Leopold was the nation's foremost expert on wildlife management. He advocated the scientific management of wildlife habitats by both public and private landholders rather than a reliance on game refuges, hunting laws, and other methods intended to protect specific species of desired game. Leopold viewed wildlife management as a technique for restoring and maintaining diversity in the environment rather than primarily as a means of producing a shootable surplus.


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Eugene Pleasants Odum (September 17, 1913 – August 10, 2002) was an American scientist known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology. He wrote and published, along with his brother, Howard T. Odum, the first ecology textbook: Fundamentals of Ecology. They continued to collaborate, in research as well as writing, for the rest of their lives.

Life depend on adequate conditions of food, water, and shelter from inclement elements and also that weather, geological, and biological factors (among others) are involved in the web of life that affords this environment. In the 1940s and 1950s, "ecology" was not yet a field of study that had been defined as a separate discipline. Even professional biologists seemed to Odum to be generally under-educated about how the Earth's ecological systems interact with one another. Odum brought forward the importance of ecology as a discipline that should be a fundamental dimension of the training of a biologist.

Odum adopted and developed further the term "ecosystem". Although sometimes said to have been coined by Raymond Lindeman in 1942, the term "ecosystem" first appeared in a 1935 publication by the British ecologist Arthur Tansley, and had in 1930 been coined by Tansley's colleague, Roy Clapham. Before Odum, the ecology of specific organisms and environments had been studied on a more limited scale within individual sub-disciplines of biology. Many scientists doubted that it could be studied on a large scale, or as a discipline in itself. Odum wrote a textbook on ecology with his brother, Howard Thomas Odum, a graduate student at Yale. The Odum brothers' book (first edition, 1953), Fundamentals of Ecology, was the only textbook in the field for about ten years. Among other things, the Odums explored how one natural system can interact with another. Their book has since been revised and expanded.

In 2007 the Institute of Ecology, which Odum founded at the University of Georgia, became the Odum School of Ecology, the first stand-alone academic unit of a research university dedicated to ecology.


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Howard Thomas Odum (1924 – 2002) (also known as 'Tom' or 'H.T.') was an American ecologist. He is known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology, and for his provocative proposals for additional laws of thermodynamics, informed by his work on general systems theory. Odum was the third child of the American sociologist Howard W. Odum, and the brother of ecologist Eugene Odum.

In 1950 Howard earned his Ph.D. in zoology at Yale University, under the guidance of G. Evelyn Hutchinson. His dissertation was titled The Biogeochemistry of Strontium: With Discussion on the Ecological Integration of Elements. This step took him from his early interest in ornithology and brought him into the emerging field of systems ecology. Through this a meteorologist "analysis of the global circulation of strontium, anticipated in the late 1940s the view of the earth as one great ecosystem."

While at Yale, Howard began his life-long collaborations with his brother Eugene Odum. In 1953, they published the first English-language textbook on systems ecology, Fundamentals of Ecology. Howard wrote the chapter on energetics which introduced his energy circuit language. They continued to collaborate, in research as well as writing, for the rest of their lives. For Howard, his energy systems language (which he called "energese") was itself a collaborative tool.

The Center for Wetlands at the University of Florida, founded in 1973 by Howard T. Odum, is the first of its kind in the world to especially study wetlands. From 1956 to 1963, Odum worked as Director of the Marine Institute of the University of Texas. During this time, he became aware of the interplay of ecological-energetic and economic forces. He then taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was in the Department of Zoology, and one of the professors in the new Curriculum of Marine Sciences until his move to the University of Florida in 1970. He then taught at the Environmental Engineering Sciences Department for 26 years until his retirement in 1996. He also started and directed the Center for Environmental Policy at the University of Florida and founded the University's Center for Wetlands in 1973, the first of its kind in the world that is still in operation today.


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Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

Carson began her career as a biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her financial security and recognition as a gifted writer. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the republished version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. Together, her sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life, from the shores to the surface to the deep sea.

In early 1953, Carson began library and field research on the ecology and organisms of the Atlantic shore. In 1955, she completed the third volume of her sea trilogy, The Edge of the Sea, which focuses on life in coastal ecosystems (particularly along the Eastern Seaboard). It appeared in The New Yorker in two condensed installments shortly before the October 26 book release. By this time, Carson's reputation for clear and poetical prose was well established; The Edge of the Sea received highly favorable reviews, if not quite as enthusiastic as for The Sea Around Us.

Starting in the mid-1940s, Carson had become concerned about the use of synthetic pesticides, many of which had been developed through the military funding of science since World War II. It was the USDA's 1957 fire ant eradication program, however, that prompted Carson to devote her research, and her next book, to pesticides and environmental poisons. The fire ant program involved aerial spraying of DDT and other pesticides (mixed with fuel oil), including the spraying of private land. Landowners in Long Island filed a suit to have the spraying stopped, and many in affected regions followed the case closely. Though the suit was lost, the Supreme Court granted petitioners the right to gain injunctions against potential environmental damage in the future; this laid the basis for later successful environmental actions.

Silent Spring was written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin on 27 September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement.


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William Skinner Cooper (August 25, 1894 – October 8, 1978) was an American ecologist.

Cooper received his B.S. in 1906 from Alma College in Michigan. In 1909, he entered graduate school at the University of Chicago, where he studied with Henry Chandler Cowles, and completed his Ph.D. in 1911. His first major publication, "The Climax Forest of Isle Royale, Lake Superior, and Its Development" appeared in 1913.

Cooper served briefly in 1914-1915 as a lecturer in plant ecology at Stanford University before beginning his long career in the botany department at the University of Minnesota, where he taught from 1915 to 1951. Among his students at Minnesota was Frank Edwin Egler and Arnold M. Schultz; the latter went on to teach "Ecosystemology" at U.C. Berkeley, and received U.C. Berkeley's "Distinguished Teaching Award" in 1992. Cooper was the president of the Ecological Society of America in 1936 and the president of the Minnesota Academy of Science in 1937. Other professional accolades included receipt of the Botanical Society of America's Merit Award in 1956 and the Eminent Ecologist Award from the Ecological Society of America in 1963.


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Pierre Dansereau, CC GOQ FRSC (born 1911) is a Canadian ecologist known as one of the "fathers of ecology".

Born in Outremont, Quebec (now part of Montreal), he received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (B.Sc.A.) in 1936 and a PH.d. in Science in 1939 from the University of Geneva. From 1939 until 1942 he worked at the Montreal Botanical Garden. From 1943 until 1950 he taught at the Université de Montréal. From 1950 until 1955 he worked at the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens. From 1955 until 1961 he worked in the Faculty of Science and as the director of the Botanical Institute at the Université de Montréal. In 1961 he returned to the United States as the assistant director of the New York Botanical Garden and as a professor of botany and geography at the Columbia University. From 1972 until 1976 he was the Director of the Research Centre for Sciences and the Environment at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). In 1976 he was made a Professor Emeritus at UQAM.

He is the subject of a 2001 documentary An Ecology of Hope by his cousin, Quebec filmmaker Fernand Dansereau.


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Edward Smith Deevey, Jr. (December 3, 1914 – November 29, 1988) born in Albany, New York, was a prominent American ecologist and paleolimnologist, and an early protégé of G. Evelyn Hutchinson at Yale University. He was a creative pioneer in several areas, including quantitative palynology, cycling of natural isotopes, biogeochemistry, population dynamics, systematics and ecology of freshwater zooplankton, and he promoted the use of life tables in ecology.


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William Dwight Billings (December 29, 1910 – January 4, 1997) was an American ecologist. Billings was one of the foundational figures in the field of physiological ecology and made major contributions to desert ecology and arctic ecology.

Billings served as President of the Ecological Society of America from 1978 to 1979. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1979, and awarded the Eminent Ecologist Award in 1991.


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John Burroughs (April 3, 1837 – March 29, 1921) was an American naturalist and essayist important in the evolution of the U.S. conservation movement. According to biographers at the American Memory project at the Library of Congress,

John Burroughs was the most important practitioner after Thoreau of that especially American literary genre, the nature essay. By the turn of the century he had become a virtual cultural institution in his own right: the Grand Old Man of Nature at a time when the American romance with the idea of nature, and the American conservation movement, had come fully into their own. His extraordinary popularity and popular visibility were sustained by a prolific stream of essay collections, beginning with Wake-Robin in 1871.

In the words of his biographer Edward Renehan, Burroughs' special identity was less that of a scientific naturalist than that of "a literary naturalist with a duty to record his own unique perceptions of the natural world." The result was a body of work whose perfect resonance with the tone of its cultural moment perhaps explains both its enormous popularity at that time, and its relative obscurity since.


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