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Darwin-L Message Log 8:21 (April 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<8:21>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Thu Apr  7 22:40:57 1994

Date: Fri, 08 Apr 1994 00:40:50 -0500 (EST)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: History of systematics
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

William Kimler mentions a student of his who is working on the history
of systematics:

>I have a graduate student, Randy Jackson, working on the history of fish
>systematics, in particular comparing the work of Cope, Gill, and
>Guenther.  He tells me that the system developed by Gill in 1871 uses
>principles or technique that we would today call cladistic.

I don't know Gill's work (great name for an ichthyologist, ay?), but
the claim is plausible.  In my experience, however, one must be very
careful in making such judgments about past systematists.  Arthur Garrod,
for example, a nineteenth-century ornithological systematist, published
a diagram that looks an awful lot like a modern cladogram, but when you
study his text carefully you can see that it is not.  He was, however,
trying to figure out how one should go about reconstructing trees, and
made many interesting theoretical proposals.  The earliest work that I
have seen which I would be comfortable calling cladistic in the modern
sense (i.e., one that recognizes clearly the distinction between ancestral
and derived character states, and recognizes that only derived character
states [innovations] identify clades) is that of Peter Chalmers Mitchell
around 1900.  If there are other such works I would be most interested to
hear about them.  One highly recommended paper is:

  Craw, Robin.  1992.  Margins of cladistics: identity, difference and
  place in the emergence of phylogenetic systematics, 1864-1975.  Pp. 65-107
  in: Trees of Life: Essays in Philosophy of Biology (Paul Griffiths, ed.).
  Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 11.

(Paul Griffiths is a Darwin-L member!)  You could also check the "Trees of
History" bibliography on the Darwin-L gopher, which lists several papers
on the history of systematics that cover the evolutionary transition period
of the mid- to late-1800s.

Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

Robert J. O'Hara (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology
100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

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