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 (). 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 (; ).
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.)