a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Conflict between classification and cladification


Reworking Principles of Systematic Zoology
Ernst Mayr Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

It was very obvious to me after about 10 or 15 years that it required a new edition and a lot of things had happened in the meantime anyhow. So I wrote back to the… my Californian friends and said we need a new edition. And [Robert] Usinger, one of the co-authors had lymphoma and was too ill to work on it, and [Gorton] Linsley had become dean and was too busy to work on it, so both of them said you go ahead and make the new edition. And that's when I worked this new edition of 1969 which was really a brand new book, had very little in common with the old ’93 [sic] edition. And then that 1969 book I revised in… again brought out a new edition in 1991 and again I was a little bit unfortunate there. I chose as a co-author somebody with the name of [Peter] Ashlock who was… had written one or two quite sensible papers about cladistics, but in the meantime, unknown to me, he had become very ill and he died eventually and the parts that he was supposed to supply, I never got. And what I had gotten from him was useless, and I had to hire some people to write the chapter on how to use the computer which he was supposed to produce, and so the 1991 edition is not an ideal. It's… it's very good at the species level, but at the level of the higher taxa and the comparison of the traditional, what I call Darwinian classification, and the new Hennigian cladification, that I could have worked out… could now work out much better than I could at that time. But I don't think there will ever be another edition, but I'm not entirely happy with the last third of that 1991 edition. And still is, I think, the most frequently used book because there's no real competition for it.

The late German-American biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) was a leading light in the field of evolutionary biology, gaining a PhD at the age of 21. He was also a tropical explorer and ornithologist who undertook an expedition to New Guinea and collected several thousand bird skins. In 1931 he accepted a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History. During his time at the museum, aged 37, he published his seminal work 'Systematics and Origin of the Species' which integrated the theories of Darwin and Mendel and is considered one of his greatest works.

Listeners: Walter J. Bock

Walter J. Bock is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Columbia University. He received his B.Sc. from Cornell and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. His research lies in the areas of organismal and evolutionary biology, with a special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeleto-muscular system, specifically the feeding apparatus of birds.

Tags: 1969, 1991, Robert Usinger, Gorton Linsley, Peter D Ashlock, Charles Darwin, Willi Hennig

Duration: 2 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008