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His Own Synthesis: Corn, Edgar Anderson, and Evolutionary Theory in the 1940s

Kim Kleinman
Journal of the History of Biology
Vol. 32, No. 2 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 293-320
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4331526
Page Count: 28
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His Own Synthesis: Corn, Edgar Anderson, and Evolutionary Theory in the 1940s
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Abstract

Tracing the contributions of Edgar Anderson (1897-1969) of the Missouri Botanical Garden to the important discussions in evolutionary biology in the 1940s, this paper argues that Anderson turned to corn research rather than play a more prominent role in what is now known as the Evolutionary Synthesis. His biosystematic studies of Iris and Tradescantia in the 1930s reflected such Synthesis concerns as the species question and population thinking. He shared the 1941 Jesup Lectures with Ernst Mayr. But rather than preparing his lectures as a potentially key text in the Synthesis, Anderson began researching Zea mays -- its taxonomy, its origin, and its agronomic role. In this study, Anderson drew on the disciplines of taxonomy, morphology, genetics, geography, anthropology, archaeology, and agronomy among others in his own creative synthesis. Though his maize research in the 1940s represented the most sustained work of his career, Anderson was also drawn in many directions during his professional life. For example, he enjoyed teaching, working with amateurs, and popular writing.

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