History of ecology: Frank Edwin Egler

When it comes to mainstream ecology, I rarely encounter something that’s entirely new to me. There’s plenty that I don’t know a whole lot about, but usually when I come across something that I’ve never heard of, it’s merely a new name for a concept I’m already familiar with (macroecology and metacommunity ecology being two terms that I still remember encountering for the first time). Even when a concept is new to me, it’s generally built from pieces with which I’m already familiar.

The same cannot be said about the history of ecology. It seems like everywhere I turn I come across a new and important figure that I’ve never heard of before. Today on Wikipedia, for example, I encountered Frank Edwin Egler. A student of William S. Cooper, he went on to play a role in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. And his property in Connecticut now forms a protected area, Aton Forest.

There’s also this bit in the article that intrigues me. Like too much in Wikipedia, it’s written by someone who failed to include much back-story or context:

A consequence was that a passage in Silent Spring having some of Egler’s sarcasm received the most criticism from Ian Baldwin in his famously negative review in Science ([13]). Egler rose to defend Carson’s (and his) views in a series of publications that led to his censure by the Entomological Society of America—and censure of a journal that published his views. That incident helped both to focus and to polarize the issues of professionalism and environmentalism in the science of ecology ([14][15]).

Like much of the article, this passage refers back to the Aton Forest website, which contains a long biography of Egler. But without reading it, much of the article is obscure. (Ian Baldwin’s famously negative review? I’m familiar with neither Baldwin – the source calls him “an agricultural scientist at the University of Wisconsin” – nor his review. And Wikipedia contains neither a biography of Baldwin nor mention of his review in its Silent Spring article.)

2 thoughts on “History of ecology: Frank Edwin Egler”

  1. William Dritschilo did a full-length biography of Egler, but couldn’t get it published. He had it online for a while; if I can find it, I,ll send you the link. Intriguing guy, probably would have been hard to relate to. Nice post though!

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