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Edward Hitchcock's Pre-Darwinian (1840) ``Tree of Life'' J. DAVID ARCHIBALD

Summary: Edward Hitchcock's Pre-Darwinian (1840) ``Tree of Life''
Department of Biology
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-4614
E-mail: darchibald@sunstroke.sdsu.edu
Abstract. The ``tree of life'' iconography, representing the history of life, dates from
at least the latter half of the 18th century, but evolution as the mechanism providing
this bifurcating history of life did not appear until the early 19th century. There was
also a shift from the straight line, scala naturae view of change in nature to a more
bifurcating or tree-like view. Throughout the 19th century authors presented tree-like
diagrams, some regarding the Deity as the mechanism of change while others argued
for evolution. Straight-line or anagenetic evolution and bifurcating or cladogenetic
evolution are known in biology today, but are often misrepresented in popular
culture, especially with anagenesis being confounded with scala naturae. Although
well known in the mid 19th century, the geologist Edward Hitchcock has been
forgotten as an early, if not the first author to publish a paleontologically based ``tree
of life'' beginning in 1840 in the first edition of his popular general geology text
Elementary Geology. At least 31 editions were published and those between 1840 and


Source: Archibald, J. David - Department of Biology, San Diego State University


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Geosciences