Name: Frank N. Egerton

Age: 76

City of residence: Racine. Moved here in 1970 when I joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Occupation: I am professor emeritus of history.

Title of book and publisher: “Roots Of Ecology: Antiquity To Haeckel,” University of California Press.

Synopsis of book: It is a history of ecological sciences from Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle to about 1900 (the only such book). Ernst Haeckel, a prominent German disciple of Darwin, reorganized zoology according to Darwinian evolutionary theory, and he saw the need for studying plants and animals in their environment and coined the term “oecologie” in 1866. However, ecological observations had been made since antiquity in a catch-all science of natural history, that was mostly what we call ecology.

After invention of the printing press in the mid-1400s, the most numerous works published after religious books were in science. In the 1500s appeared books on botany, vertebrate zoology, and on invertebrate zoology and parasitology. In the 1600s came also books on microscopic investigations of animals and microbes.

By the 1700s, explorations of foreign lands were added, as well as studies of plant physiology, plant diseases, and animal parasitology. Natural history was also being subdivided into special sciences, such as entomology, study of insects. That trend continued during the 1800s, with biogeography, evolutionary biology, and the germ theory of disease all contributing to the foundation for an ecological science that began to emerge by 1900, under the name coined by Haeckel.

Is this your first book? Previously I published a biography, “Hewett Cottrell Watson: Victorian Plant Ecologist And Evolutionist” (Ashgate Press, 2003). I also edited two works: Edward Lee Greene’s “Landmarks Of Botanical History” (2 volumes, Stanford University Press, 1983) and “History Of American Ecology” (Arno Press, 1977).

Why did you write this book? I wrote the book because it is the subject of my research since I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, since 1960. My doctorate is in the history of science.

How long did it take you to write the book? I began writing this book in 2000. A longer version of it, entitled “History of Ecological Sciences,” appeared since January 2001 in quarterly parts in the Ecological Society of America Bulletin. The book is a briefer version, with some revisions.

How did you get interested in writing? University professors are expected to publish their research, so I began preparing to write by the time I was a graduate student.

Where is the book available for purchase? “Roots Of Ecology” was published in mid-July and is not yet in book stores. I have given a copy to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Library.


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