When did the fascination with phylogenetic trees begin?

warren frank lamboy wfl1 at NYSAES.CORNELL.EDU
Tue Feb 25 09:46:29 CST 1997

To Taxacomers:  I am trying to determine how and when the great emphasis on
constructing (implicitly or explicitly) evolutionary or phylogenetic trees
of (plant) taxa came about.  One might expect that it would have begun soon
after Darwin's publication of "On the Origin of Species . . . " in 1859.
But it seems there was an (understandable) delay in his ideas being
accepted and incorporated into botanical thought.  [And since previous
(e.g., de Candolle's and others') plant classifications were already
"natural" in the sense that they were based on a multiplicity of
characters, no immediate and dramatic modification of classification was
needed in light of
evolutionary ideas.]  As far as I can tell from my reading, although
Eichler and Engler and Prantl were aware of Darwin's work, it was really
Bessey who first explicitly utilized evolutionary ideas in his
classification of the angiosperms.  Is this correct?

So when did the current fascination with evolutionary trees and phylogenies
arise?  I am baffled by this.  My sense is that it has crept up on us
little by little over the years, and that it did not really 'begin' at any
particular point in time.  Did the "New Systematics" of J. Huxley, ed.,
(1940) and/or the "Evolutionary Synthesis" of the 1940's have any effect?
Did the tree construction boom really get rolling with Numerical Taxonomy
of the 1960's, and then, and with the advent of cheap computing time, gain
additional momentum with the development of cladistic methods and all the
different types of data that can be "input" into those procedures?  Have
there been any review articles published on the history of the use of
trees and phylogenies?  Thanks for any light you
shed.  -  Warren

Dr. Warren Frank Lamboy
Vitis (Grape) Curator / Biometrician / Plant Taxonomist
Computer Programmer / Molecular Biologist
USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit and
   Dept. of Horticultural Sciences
Cornell University
Geneva, New York  14456-0462

phone:  315-787-2359
FAX:    315-787-2339
email:  warren_lamboy at cornell.edu

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