Hennig XVIII

Tom DiBenedetto tdib at UMICH.EDU
Thu May 13 11:03:09 CDT 1999

John Grehan wrote:
>Regarding Tom DiBenedetto's comment that he has heard that Croizat
> was prone to rather intemparate remarks I think that the remarks should
>be directly evaluated case by case. The difficulty with Hennig explicitly
>denying the charge by Croizat (where is this published?  - I was not aware
>of it) is that Rosa preceeded Hennig, so a denial as such is not
>very informative.

I am not aware of a published source; I recall being told this story by
a certain cladist who had known and published with Croizat and who also
knew Hennig personally, and who discussed this issue with him. I dont
know why you find this uninformative. If Hennig denied knowledge of
Rosa's work, or any influence from Rosa, then either he was lying or he
developed his ideas independently.
I recognize that major scientific advances are not made in a vacuum;
new ideas must be pieced together from the raw materials of other ideas
current at the time. I agree that this is a fascinating subject for
study, and I also am one who tends to resist the deification of certain
individuals at the expense of other contributors. But on the other
hand, this can also unfairly denigrate real accomplishments. The little
light bulb going off in the head is only the first step on the road to
a major contribution. I doubt that Lamarck was the first biologist to
conceive of life evolving, nor was Wegener the first scientist to
notice that South America and Africa fit so neatly together.
The issue under discussion here has been whether Hennig deserves to be
considered the "founder" of phylogenetic systematics. Given the extent
to which he developed and implemented the ideas, and the fact that
nearly all cladists today identify his work as the crucial foundation
of the uniqueness of the cladistic approach, I think the title is
richly deserved.

>It still remains an open question in my mind, however, of how much cladistics
>comprised background knowledge for Hennig.

Since the term "cladistics" was coined to refer to Hennigian
systematics several decades after Hennig first wrote, it might be
helpful to specify a more precise term.

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