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History of ecology

Ecology is a new science, having only become prominent during the second half of the 20th century.[1] Ecological thought is derivative of established currents in philosophy, particularly from ethics and politics.[2] Its history stems all the way back to the 4th century. One of the first ecologists whose writings survive may have been Aristotle or perhaps his student, Theophrastus, both of whom had interest in many species of animals and plants. Theophrastus described interrelationships between animals and their environment as early as the 4th century BC.[3] Ecology developed substantially in the 18th and 19th century. It began with Carl Linnaeus and his work with the economy of nature.[4] Soon after came Alexander von Humboldt and his work with botanical geography.[5] Alfred Russel Wallace and Karl Mobius then contributed with the notion of biocoenosis. Eugenius Warming’s work with ecological plant geography led to the founding of ecology as a discipline.[6] Charles Darwin’s work also contributed to the science of ecology, and Darwin is often attributed with progressing the discipline more than anyone else in its young history. Ecological thought expanded even more in the early 20th century.[7] Major contributions included: Eduard Suess’ and Vladimir Vernadsky’s work with the biosphere, Arthur Tansley’s ecosystem,Charles Elton's Animal Ecology, and Henry Cowles ecological succession.[8] Ecology influenced the social sciences and humanities. Human ecology began in the early 20th century and it recognized humans as an ecological factor. Later James Lovelock advanced views on earth as a macro-organism with the Gaia hypothesis.[9][10] Conservation stemmed from the science of ecology. Important figures and movements include Shelford and the ESA, National Environmental Policy act, George Perkins Marsh, Theodore Roosevelt, Stephen A. Forbes, and post-Dust Bowl conservation. Later in the 20th century world governments collaborated on man’s effects on the biosphere and Earth’s environment.

The history of ecology is intertwined with the history of conservation efforts, in particular the founding of the Nature Conservancy.[11]

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