Sir Arthur George Tansley

New Phytologist

1871  Today is the birthday of the English botanist and pioneer in the science of ecology, Sir Arthur George Tansley.

Arthur's father had a close friend and fellow teacher who was a botanist, and it was this individual who inspired Arthur to pursue botany.

From a legacy standpoint, Tansley is remembered for creating the botany publication New Phytologist Which was named after an 1842 publication called The Phytologist. With his journal, Tansley wanted British botanists to be able to communicate and discuss their teaching and research.

It's thanks to Arthur Tansley that we embrace the concept of an ecosystem - he introduced us to the term in 1935. Tansley defined an ecosystem as,

"A community of organisms that interact with each other and with their environments by competing and collaborating over the available resources in order to thrive. In doing so, they co-evolve and jointly adapt to external influences."

Listen to this Tansley quote and see if it doesn't challenge you to think about your plants, your garden, and your world more broadly.

“The whole method of science… is to isolate systems for the purpose of study… whether it be a solar system, a planet, a climatic region, a plant or animal community, an individual organism, an organic molecule, or an atom… Actually, the systems we isolate mentally are not only included as parts of larger ones, but they also overlap, interlock, and interact with one another. Isolation is artificial.”

So when we ask ourselves, what is wrong with this leaf? Or, with this flower? Or, shrub or tree, etc. We should also be thinking more broadly. What is wrong with this garden? With this land?
Today, the New Phytologist gives the Tansley Medal to early career researchers working in the field of plant sciences. The award is intended to increase visibility for exciting work in all areas of plant sciences.

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Sir Arthur George Tansley
Sir Arthur George Tansley

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