Development of plant ecology 1790-1960
The thesis charts the development of vegetation science from its beginnings. In the first chapter, particular attention is given to the work of Alexander von Humboldt and to the genesis of the idea that vegetation exists in natural units. A tradition of Humboldtian plant geography is traced to the end of the nineteenth century and the birth of self-conscious plant ecology. The second chapter follows the development of different notions of the plant association, and different forms of scientific practice,by F.E. Clements in Nebraska and J. Braun-Blanquet in Montpelier. Chapter Three describes the career of Henry Allan Gleason and follows the development of his individualistic concept of the plant association. Chapter Four examines the work of J.T. Curtis and R.H. Whittaker which revived the individualistic hypothesis and established it as dominant in the English-speaking world. The changing character of the scientific practice of plant ecology is correlated with interests, both internal and external to the discipline. A short coda indicates that debate over the nature of vegetation continues. The thesis is narrative history, written throughout from a social and relativistic perspective.