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Abstract Detail



Botanical History

FRIEDMAN, WILLIAM E [1], ENDRESS, PETER K [2].

Alexander Moritzi, a botanist and pre-Darwinian evolutionist from Switzerland.

Between 1748 and 1859 (first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species), more than 50 authors published papers and/or entire books on evolution. Evolutionary ideas can be found emerging in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and in a single instance, the United States. With a few exceptions (e.g. Erasmus Darwin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Robert Chambers), most of these early evolutionists have essentially been lost to history. Alexander Moritzi (1806-1850) is perhaps one of the most obscure figures in the early history of evolutionary thought. Best known for authoring a flora of Switzerland, Moritzi also published Réflexions sur l’espèce en histoire naturelle (1842), a remarkable book about evolution with a clearly materialist (and anti-theological) viewpoint. In this work, Moritzi describes species as ideally being defined as all descendants of a common stock, argues that the (then) generally accepted line between species and varieties is artificial, and that deep time and turnover of species in the fossil record clearly support an evolutionary interpretation of biodiversity. In contradistinction to Lamarck, Moritzi viewed the genealogical relationships of species as a branching tree (rather than a strictly linear set of transformations). Although it is currently unclear precisely how Moritzi came to his evolutionist views, it is apparent from his botanical and taxonomic work that he was keenly aware of both extensive variation within species (he was anti-typological) and the role that environment can play in determining the expressed forms of plants (phenotypic plasticity). He strongly opposed the reductionist approach to classifying species from individual or limited herbarium sheets. Moritzi’s views of the importance of environment on plant form in many ways anticipate those of the classic reciprocal transplant studies of Clausen, Keck, and Hiesey in the early twentieth century.


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1 - Harvard University, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, 1300 Centre Street, Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA, 02131, USA
2 - UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH, BOT GARTEN & INST FUR SYS BOT, ZOLLIKERSTRASSE 107, ZURICH, CH-8008, Switzerland

Keywords:
Darwin
Moritzi
evolution
botanical history
materialism
history of evolutionary thought.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: 9001
Abstract ID:60
Candidate for Awards:None


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