. "1 G. Ledyard Stebbins (1906-2000) -- An Appreciation." Variation and Evolution in Plants and Microorganisms: Toward a New Synthesis 50 Years after Stebbins. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000.
The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Variation and Evolution in Plants and Microorganisms: TOWARD A NEW SYNTHESIS 50 YEARS AFTER STEBBINS
choruses, and was encouraged by some powerful and encouraging faculty members and students. Continuing on in the Harvard Graduate School, Ledyard was caught in the cross-fire between those, like Merrit Lyndon Fernald, who took a classical view of botany and plant classification, and the more modern approaches of Karl Sax, who was applying cytogenetic principles to developing a deeper understanding of plants. Thanks to judicious efforts by Paul Mangelsdorf and others, his dissertation was finally approved; but it was a struggle; he graduated in 1931.
One of the key events in Ledyard's early career was his attending the International Botanical Congress at Cambridge, England, in 1930; there he met Edgar Anderson, who was to become a lifetime friend and colleague; Irene Manton; and C.D. Darlington, whose classical “Recent Advances of Cytology,” was still in the future. These and other contacts greatly encouraged his interest in and enthusiasm for botany and botanists, which was to be sustained for the rest of his life.
After he obtained his Ph.D., Ledyard Stebbins spent the years 1931 –1935 at Colgate University, which he described years later as unhappy years, but it is not clear why this was the case. With an associate, Professor Percy Sanders, he undertook the cytogenetic study of Paeonia, which was the first of a series of essentially biosystematic investigations of diverse plant groups that were to characterize the remainder of his research career. During this time, he discovered complex structural heterozygosity in the western North American species of the genus, an exciting find that was to fuel his enthusiasm for further cytogenetic investigations.
In 1935, Professor Ernest Brown Babcock of the University of California, Berkeley, offered Stebbins a research position in connection with his investigations of the genus Crepis, which he accepted with alacrity. Met at the train station by his fellow Harvard student Rimo Bacigalupi, he plunged into this project with enthusiasm. Also at Berkeley, he began his lifetime preoccupation with Democratic politics, working actively in the 1936 Roosevelt election, and from there onward. After four years on Professor Babcock's grant, Stebbins was appointed to the faculty at Berkeley, and began to teach a course in the principles of evolution, which helped him to generalize his thoughts and finally to his preparing the classical work, “Variation and Evolution in Plants,” whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating in this symposium.
In his research efforts, Ledyard began investigating the American species of Crepis (most species of the genus are Eurasian, but there are some very interesting offshoots in North America), outlining the evolutionary features of this group as a pillar complex of polyploids, with the base chromosome number 2n = 22, but widespread polyploids, characteristically apomictic, linking their more narrowly-distributed diploid pro-