Arthur Tansley

Last updated

Sir Arthur Tansley
Arthur-Tansley-1893.jpg
Arthur Tansley in the 1890s.
Born(1871-08-15)15 August 1871
Died
Known for New Phytologist , British Ecological Society, Ecosystem concept
Spouse(s)Edith Chick
Awards Linnean Medal (1941)
Fellow of the Royal Society [1]
Scientific career
Notable students Alexander Watt
Influences Eugenius Warming [2]

Sir Arthur George Tansley FLS, FRS [1] (15 August 1871 – 25 November 1955) was an English botanist and a pioneer in the science of ecology. [3]

Contents

Educated at Highgate School, University College London and Trinity College, Cambridge, Tansley taught at these universities and at Oxford, where he served as Sherardian Professor of Botany until his retirement in 1937. Tansley founded the New Phytologist in 1902 and served as its editor until 1931. [1] He was a pioneer of the science of ecology in Britain, being heavily influenced by the work of Danish botanist Eugenius Warming, [2] and introduced the concept of the ecosystem into biology. [4] Tansley was a founding member of the first professional society of ecologists, the Central Committee for the Survey and Study of British Vegetation, which later organised the British Ecological Society, and served as its first president and founding editor of the Journal of Ecology . [5] [6] Tansley also served as the first chairman of the British Nature Conservancy. [3]

Tansley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1915, and knighted in 1950. [7]

The New Phytologist publishes regular Tansley Reviews, while the New Phytologist Trust awards a Tansley Medal, both named in his honour. [8]

Early life and education

Tansley was born in London to businessman George Tansley [6] and his wife Amelia. Although a successful businessman, George Tansley's passion had been education after he started attending classes at the Working Men's College when he was 19. George Tansley later went on to be a volunteer teacher, retiring from his business in 1884 to dedicate himself to teaching at the college. He married Amelia Lawrence in 1863 and had two children – the older a daughter, [1] Maud, [9] :2 followed by Arthur seven years later, in 1871. [1]

Tansley's interest in science was sparked by one of his father's fellow volunteer-teachers, who was described as "an excellent and enthusiastic field botanist". After attending preparatory school from the ages of 12 to 15, he enrolled in Highgate School. Unhappy with the science teaching, which he considered "farcically inadequate", he switched to University College London in 1889 [1] and studied at the faculty of Biological science,[ citation needed ] where he was heavily influenced by Ray Lankester and F. W. Oliver. In 1890 Tansley attended Trinity College, Cambridge. After completing Part I of Tripos in 1893, he returned to University College London as an assistant to Oliver, a position he retained until 1907. In 1894 he returned to Cambridge and completed Part II of Tripos, [1] and received a degree with first class honours. [9] :44

Professional career

Tansley taught and conducted research at University College London from 1893 until 1907. [10] :12–13 In 1907 he took a Lecturer position at the University of Cambridge. [1] During the First World War, with very little teaching going on at the university, Tansley took a position as a clerk [6] with the Ministry of Munitions. [11] [12] In 1923 he resigned his position at Cambridge and spent a year in Vienna studying psychology under Sigmund Freud. [1] When he returned to Britain in 1924 Tansley was appointed acting chairman of the British Empire Vegetation Committee. [10] :32 After four years away from a formal academic position in botany, Tansley was appointed Sherardian Professor of Botany at the University of Oxford in 1927, where he remained until his retirement in 1937. [1]

Major contributions

Tansley's early publications focused on palaeobotany, especially fern evolution. [1] Tansley founded the botany journal New Phytologist in 1902 to serve as "a medium of easy communication and discussion between British botanists on all matters . . . including methods of teaching and research". It was named after The Phytologist , a botanical magazine published between 1842 and 1863. [13] In establishing this journal, Tansley's aim was to provide a venue for the publication of "notes and suggestions"; existing botanical journals only published records of completed research. [6] He remained editor of the journal until 1931. [13]

Tansley's introduction to ecology came in 1898 when he read Warming's Plantesamfund (in its German translation, Lehrbuch der ökologischen Pflanzengeographie). Reading the book provoked him to "[go] out into the field to see how far one could match the plant communities Warming had described for Denmark in the English countryside". In 1903 he learned of the work done by the Smith brothers in mapping the vegetation of Scotland and Yorkshire. The work was initiated by Robert Smith and continued by his brother, William Gardner Smith (in conjunction with Charles Edward Moss) after Robert's death. [2] In 1904 Tansley suggested the formation of a central body for the systematic survey and mapping of the British Isles. This led to the establishment of the Central Committee for the Survey and Study of British Vegetation by Tansley, Moss, William Smith and T. W. Woodhead, [3] with the support of Marcel Hardy, F. J. Lewis, Lloyd Praeger and W. M. Rankin. These eight formed the original committee, [2] with Tansley as its leader. [3] F. W. Oliver later joined the group as its ninth member. The name of the group was later shortened to the British Vegetation Committee. The aim of the group was to coordinate ongoing studies and standardise the methodology being used. The committee met twice more in 1905 and produced a six-page pamphlet, Suggestions for Beginning Survey Work on Vegetation. [2]

In 1911 Tansley, in conjunction with the British Vegetation Committee, organised the first International Phytogeographic Excursion (IPE). [2] He was inspired by a plant geography tour of Switzerland organised by Swiss botanist Carl Schröter in 1908, which introduced him not only to vegetation types, but also to botanists from other countries. The connections made between Tansley and American ecologists Henry Chandler Cowles and Frederic Clements helped build a philosophical and methodological link between British and American plant ecology. [3] Other attendees included Schröter, Swedish botanist Carl Lindman, and German botanists Oscar Drude and Paul Graebner. Tansley's book Types of British Vegetation was prepared with an eye to serving as a guide to the vegetation for the attendees of the first IPE. [2] The second IPE in 1913 was hosted by Cowles. This brought Tansley to America. [3]

In 1913, the British Vegetation Committee organised the British Ecological Society (BES), the first-ever professional society of ecologists. Tansley served as its first president, and was first editor of the Journal of Ecology , a position he held for 21 years. [3] In 1915 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1923 he was elected president of the Botanical Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. At the Imperial Botanical Congress in 1924 he was appointed chairman of the British Empire Vegetation Committee. He served as president of the BES a second time in 1938. [7]

William S. Cooper considered Tansley's most influential publications synthesised individual studies into a whole. [3] In 1935 Tansley published "The use and abuse of vegetational terms and concepts" [14] in which he introduced the ecosystem concept. [fn 1] [4] In the 1930s ecological thinking was dominated by the work of Clements, who thought of ecological communities as organisms, and associations as superorganisms. [4] Tansley devised the concept to draw attention to the importance of transfers of materials between organisms and their environment, [15] regarding ecosystems as the basic units of nature. [4]

Though the organisms may claim our prime interest, when we are trying to think fundamentally, we cannot separate them from their special environments, with which they form one physical system. [14]

Tansley's interest in teaching led to the production of the Elements of Plant Ecology in 1922, which was followed by Practical Plant Ecology in 1923 and Aims and methods in the study of vegetation in 1926, coauthored with Thomas Ford Chipp. [3] The last book, edited for the British Empire Vegetation Committee, was extremely influential not just in defining ecological methods but in highlighting the need for a complete inventory of the empire's "vegetational assets". With this information, it would be possible to efficiently manage the vast natural resources of the empire. [16] Tansley's most comprehensive work, The British Islands and Their Vegetation was published in 1939. In recognition of this achievement, he was awarded the Linnean Medal in 1941. [3]

During the Second World War Tansley became committed to conservation, and this continued through post-war reconstruction. He chaired a committee of the BES that formulated a policy on nature reserves and led to the formation of the Nature Conservancy, [3] which he also chaired. [7] Tansley's conservation work was the basis cited for his knighthood in 1950. [3]

Tansley was introduced to psychology by a former student, Bernard Hart, who worked as a doctor in mental hospitals near London. While working for the Ministry of Munitions during the First World War, he had a dream which was described as "one of the major turning points in his life" – from this dream came Tansley's interest in Freud and psychoanalysis. [11] In 1920 he published The New Psychology and its Relation to Life, one of the first books that attempted to introduce the ideas of Freud and Carl Jung to a general audience. The book was a bestseller, selling 10,000 copies in the United Kingdom and 4,000 in the United States. In 1922 Tansley spent three months with Freud, and the following year he moved his family to Vienna for a year. Although he later returned to botanical pursuits, Tansley remained in contact with Freud and wrote his obituary. [11] Research by Peder Anker has suggested a close theoretical relationship between Tansley's ecology and his psychology. [10]

Personal life

Memorial plaque at Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve. The Tansley Stone, Kingley Vale. - geograph.org.uk - 1503536.jpg
Memorial plaque at Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve.

In 1903 Tansley married Edith Chick, a former student with whom he coauthored two papers. [1] They had three daughters–Katharine, Margaret and Helen. Lady Edith Tansley died in 1970, [7] at age 100.

Tansley was an atheist. [17]

See also

Notes

  1. The term ecosystem was actually coined by Arthur Roy Clapham, who came up with the word at Tansley's request. (Willis 1997)

Related Research Articles

Climax community

In scientific ecology, climax community or climatic climax community is a historic term for a boreal forest community of plants, animals, and fungi which, through the process of ecological succession in the development of vegetation in an area over time, have reached a steady state. This equilibrium was thought to occur because the climax community is composed of species best adapted to average conditions in that area. The term is sometimes also applied in soil development. Nevertheless, it has been found that a "steady state" is more apparent than real, particularly if long-enough periods of time are taken into consideration. Notwithstanding, it remains a useful concept.

Quadrat A rectangular frame used to demarcate a part of the substrate for detailed analysis

A quadrat is a frame, traditionally square, used in ecology and geography to isolate a standard unit of area for study of the distribution of an item over a large area. Modern quadrats can for example be rectangular, circular, or irregular. The quadrat is suitable for sampling plants, slow-moving animals, and some aquatic organisms.

Eugene Odum

Eugene Pleasants Odum was an American biologist at the University of Georgia known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology. He and his brother Howard T. Odum wrote the popular ecology textbook, Fundamentals of Ecology (1953). The Odum School of Ecology is named in his honor.

Ecology is a new science and considered as an important branch of biological science, having only become prominent during the second half of the 20th century. Ecological thought is derivative of established currents in philosophy, particularly from ethics and politics. Its history stems all the way back to the 4th century. One of the first ecologists whose writings survive may have been Aristotle or perhaps his student, Theophrastus, both of whom had interest in many species of animals and plants. Theophrastus described interrelationships between animals and their environment as early as the 4th century BC. Ecology developed substantially in the 18th and 19th century. It began with Carl Linnaeus and his work with the economy of nature. Soon after came Alexander von Humboldt and his work with botanical geography. Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Möbius then contributed with the notion of biocoenosis. Eugenius Warming’s work with ecological plant geography led to the founding of ecology as a discipline. Charles Darwin’s work also contributed to the science of ecology, and Darwin is often attributed with progressing the discipline more than anyone else in its young history. Ecological thought expanded even more in the early 20th century. Major contributions included: Eduard Suess’ and Vladimir Vernadsky’s work with the biosphere, Arthur Tansley’s ecosystem, Charles Elton's Animal Ecology, and Henry Cowles ecological succession. Ecology influenced the social sciences and humanities. Human ecology began in the early 20th century and it recognized humans as an ecological factor. Later James Lovelock advanced views on earth as a macro-organism with the Gaia hypothesis. Conservation stemmed from the science of ecology. Important figures and movements include Shelford and the ESA, National Environmental Policy act, George Perkins Marsh, Theodore Roosevelt, Stephen A. Forbes, and post-Dust Bowl conservation. Later in the 20th century world governments collaborated on man’s effects on the biosphere and Earth’s environment.

The British Ecological Society is a learned society in the field of ecology that was founded in 1913. It is the oldest ecological society in the world. The Society's original objective was "to promote and foster the study of Ecology in its widest sense" and this remains the central theme guiding its activities today. The Society had, circa 2013 around 4,000 members of which 14% are students. It has always had an international membership and currently 42% are outside the United Kingdom, in a total of 92 countries. The head office is located in London.

Frederic Clements

Frederic Edward Clements was an American plant ecologist and pioneer in the study of vegetation succession.

Sir Harry Godwin, FRS was a prominent English botanist and ecologist of the 20th century. He is considered to be an influential peatland scientist, who coined the phrase "peat archives" in 1981. He had a long association with Clare College, Cambridge.

Phytosociology, also known as phytocoenology or simply plant sociology, is the study of groups of species of plant that are usually found together. Phytosociology aims to empirically describe the vegetative environment of a given territory. A specific community of plants is considered a social unit, the product of definite conditions, present and past, and can exist only when such conditions are met. In phytosociology such as unit is known as a phytocoenosis. A phytocoenosis is more commonly known as a plant community, and consists of the sum of all plants in a given area. It is a subset of a biocoenosis, which consists of all organisms in a given area. More strictly speaking, a phytocoenosis is a set of plants in area that are interacting with each other through competition or other ecological processes. Coenoses are not equivalent to ecosystems, which consist of organisms and the physical environment that they interact with. A phytocoensis has a distribution which can be mapped. Phytosociology has a system for describing and classifying these phytocoenoses in a hierarchy, known as syntaxonomy, and this system has a nomenclature. The science is most advanced in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Henry A. Gleason (botanist) American ecologist (1882-1975)

Henry Allan Gleason (1882–1975) was an American ecologist, botanist, and taxonomist. He was known for his endorsement of the individualistic or open community concept of ecological succession, and his opposition to Frederic Clements's concept of the climax state of an ecosystem. His ideas were largely dismissed during his working life, leading him to move into plant taxonomy, but found favour late in the twentieth century.

Arthur Roy Clapham, CBE FRS, was a British botanist. Born in Norwich and educated at Downing College, Cambridge, Clapham worked at Rothamsted Experimental Station as a crop physiologist (1928–30), and then took a teaching post in the botany department at Oxford University. He was Professor of Botany at Sheffield University 1944–69 and vice chancellor of the university during the 1960s. He coauthored the Flora of the British Isles, which was the first, and for several decades the only, comprehensive flora of the British Isles published in 1952 and followed by new editions in 1962 and 1987. In response to a request from Arthur Tansley, he coined the term ecosystem in the early 1930s.

Charles Henry Gimingham was a British botanist at the University of Aberdeen, patron of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, former president of the British Ecological Society, and one of the leading researchers of heathlands and heathers.

The International Phytogeographic Excursions was a series of international meetings in plant geography that significantly contributed to exchange of scientific ideas across national and linguistic barriers and also to the rise of Anglo-American plant ecology. The initiative was taken by the British botanist Arthur Tansley at the International Geographic Congress in Geneva in 1908. Tansley and another early key figure, Henry C. Cowles, were both much-inspired by the new 'ecological plant geography' introduced by Eugenius Warming and its quest for answering why-questions about plant distribution, as opposed to the traditional, merely descriptive 'floristic plant geography'.

Alexander Watt Scottish botanist

Alexander Stuart Watt FRS(21 June 1892 – 2 March 1985) was a Scottish botanist and plant ecologist.

Plant ecology The study of effect of the environment on the abundance and distribution of plants

Plant ecology is a subdiscipline of ecology which studies the distribution and abundance of plants, the effects of environmental factors upon the abundance of plants, and the interactions among and between plants and other organisms. Examples of these are the distribution of temperate deciduous forests in North America, the effects of drought or flooding upon plant survival, and competition among desert plants for water, or effects of herds of grazing animals upon the composition of grasslands.

<i>New Phytologist</i> Academic journal

New Phytologist is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published on behalf of the New Phytologist Foundation by Wiley-Blackwell. It was founded in 1902 by botanist Arthur Tansley, who served as editor until 1931.

Thomas Ford Chipp

Thomas Ford Chipp was an English botanist who became Assistant Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He played an important role in development of the study of ecology in the British Empire.

William Gardner Smith was a Scottish botanist and ecologist who pioneered the study and mapping of the vegetation of the United Kingdom. He was a founding member of the British Ecological Society.

Michael Charles Faraday Proctor PhD was an English botanist and plant ecologist, lecturer, scientific author based at the University of Exeter. He retired from his post as Reader in Plant Ecology at Exeter University in 1994.

Peter Greig-Smith

Peter Greig-Smith was a British plant ecologist, founder of the discipline of quantitative ecology in the United Kingdom. He had a deep influence across the world on vegetation studies and plant ecology, mostly from his book Quantitative Plant Ecology, first published in 1957 and a must-read for multiple generations of young ecologists.

Richard Henry Yapp English botanist (1871–1929)

Richard Henry Yapp (1871–1929) was an English botanist and an early ecologist, who held the Chair of Botany in Queen's University, Belfast, and the Mason Professorship of Botany at the University of Birmingham.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Godwin, H. (1957). "Arthur George Tansley. 1871–1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . 3: 227–246. doi: 10.1098/rsbm.1957.0016 . JSTOR   769363.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Tansley, A. G. (1947). "The Early History of Modern Plant Ecology in Britain". Journal of Ecology. 35 (1): 130–137. doi:10.2307/2256503. JSTOR   2256503.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Cooper, W. S. (1957). "Sir Arthur Tansley and the Science of Ecology". Ecology. 38 (4): 658–659. doi:10.2307/1943136. JSTOR   1943136.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Willis, A.J. (1997). "The Ecosystem: An Evolving Concept Viewed Historically". Functional Ecology. 11 (2): 268–271. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.1997.00081.x .
  5. Godwin, H. (1958). "Sir Arthur George Tansley, F. R. S. 1871–1955". Journal of Ecology. 46 (1): 1–8. JSTOR   2256899.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Godwin, H. (1977). "Sir Arthur Tansley: The Man and the Subject: The Tansley Lecture, 1976". Journal of Ecology. 65 (1): 1–26. doi:10.2307/2259059. JSTOR   2259059.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Major events in the life of Arthur Tansley". New Phytologist Trust. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  8. Ian Woodward, F.; Hetherington, A. M. (2010). "The New Phytologist Tansley Medal". New Phytologist. 186 (2): 263–264. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03247.x . PMID   20409180.
  9. 1 2 3 Ayres, Peter (2012). Shaping ecology : the life of Arthur Tansley. Wiley InterScience (Online service). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN   9781118290927. OCLC   804860745.
  10. 1 2 3 Peder., Anker (2001). Imperial ecology : environmental order in the British Empire, 1895-1945. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN   9780674020221. OCLC   435528688.
  11. 1 2 3 Tansley, A. G. (1941). "Sigmund Freud. 1856–1939". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society . 3 (9): 246–275. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1941.0002. JSTOR   768889.
  12. Cameron, Laura; Forrestor, John (1999). "'A nice type of the English scientist': Tansley and Freud". History Workshop Journal. 1999 (48): 64–100. doi:10.1093/hwj/1999.48.64.
  13. 1 2 "Tansley and the New Phytologist". New Phytologist Trust. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  14. 1 2 Tansley, AG (1935). "The use and abuse of vegetational terms and concepts". Ecology. 16 (3): 284–307. doi:10.2307/1930070. JSTOR   1930070.
  15. Chapin, F. Stuart; Pamela A. Matson; Harold A. Mooney (2002). Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology. New York: Springer. ISBN   0-387-95443-0.
  16. Joseph Morgan Hodge (2007). Triumph of the expert: Agrarian doctrines of development and the legacies of British colonialism. Ohio University Press. p. 144. ISBN   978-0-8214-1718-8.
  17. "They became correspondents and, surprisingly since Tansley was an avowed atheist, friends." - Peter G. Ayres, Shaping Ecology: The Life of Arthur Tansley, page 139.

Other sources

The standard author abbreviation Tansley is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name. [1]
  1. IPNI.  Tansley.