. "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
genitors. He also began investigating grasses, first Bromus and then Triticeae, with the objective of developing perennial grasses that would provide forage on the dry rangelands of California, and which eventually led to his extensive studies of the genus Dactylis, which he pursued throughout its native range in western Eurasia and North Africa in the decades to follow. Never successful, this quest nonetheless led Stebbins to many interesting discoveries, and broadened the scope of his knowledge of the details of evolution in plants in such a way as to expand the coverage of and insights provided in his landmark book.
In the early 1940s, Stebbins began working actively with Carl Epling on the genetics of Linanthus parryae, an annual of the Mohave Desert in which the prevalence of white or blue flowers in individual populations was held at the time to have resulted from random drift. He also started an active association with Theodosius Dobzhansky, centering around Dobzhansky's efforts at Mather; he regarded Epling, Dobzhansky, and Edgar Anderson as his closest and most influential professional associates.
In 1947, Ledyard Stebbins spent three months at Columbia University in New York, delivering the Jesup Lectures; and these lectures, expanded and elaborated, became Variation and Evolution in Plants, the most important book on plant evolution of the 20th century. I first met him in 1950, on a Sierra Club outing, and he was as encouraging to me at the age of 14 as I could have imagined. It seemed to me later that his own rather unhappy and lonely childhood led him naturally to an appreciation for young people, a lifetime interest in connection with which he made significant contributions to the lives of many young scholars. I maintained a strong friendship with him for the remaining half-century of his life.
The first period of Ledyard Stebbins' botanical life extended from 1925, when his serious interest in plants was kindled at Harvard, to 1935, when he arrived at Berkeley; the second, highly productive period, from there to 1950, when “ Variation and Evolution in Plants” was published. In that same year, he answered an invitation from the University to establish a department of genetics at the Davis campus, and entered the third period of his professional life. And my, how he loved Davis, its growth, its variety, and its accessibility to all. He was proud of his work at Davis, proud of the growing campus as it matured, pleased with his own contributions, and always contented living there. In 1971, after Dobzhansky's retirement from Rockefeller University, he was influential in recruiting both Dobzhansky and his associate Francisco Ayala, to Davis, where they made outstanding contributions. With retirement, he traveled widely, for example, teaching in Chile during the time of the 1973 coup, and visiting Australia, Africa, Europe, and other parts of the world in teaching, visiting with his colleagues, and, as always, enjoying students.