Henry Allan Gleason and the individualistic hypothesis: The structure of a botanist’s career

Nicolson, M. (1990) Henry Allan Gleason and the individualistic hypothesis: The structure of a botanist’s career. Botanical Review, 56(2), pp. 91-161. (doi: 10.1007/BF02858533)

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This paper provides a detailed account of Henry Allan Gleason’s career in ecology, paying particular attention to the development of his controversial individualistic hypothesis of the plant community. It is noted that Gleason developed and maintained a high level of skill in floristic botany. The argument is advanced that the individualistic hypothesis embodies a floristic perspective on vegetation. His pioneering papers on the quantitative analysis of vegetation are carefully examined and it is argued that they too reflect floristic and individualistic concerns. The overall shape of Gleason’s career is interpreted in terms of acquired skills, pedagogical inputs, institutional contexts, and professional and social interests. It is suggested that the characteristics of the work of many of his ecological colleagues may likewise be explained in terms of skills and interests, particularly those gained in other fields, such as physiography and physiology. The reasons for the generally hostile initial reaction to Gleason’s individualistic concept are examined. As well as providing historical background to the long and continuing debate over the nature of the plant community, an examination of Gleason’s career sheds important light on the cognitive development of American plant ecology during a formative period for the discipline. Other historians have not fully realised the extent of Gleason’s involvement in ecology during this time.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Nicolson, Professor Malcolm
Authors: Nicolson, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Botanical Review
ISSN (Online):1874-9372

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