An Essay on the History of the Biosystematists
of the San Francisco Bay Area


William Z. Lidicker, Jr.

For over 60 years the Biosystematists of the Bay Area has served as an intellectual focus and integrating influence among the evolutionary biologists of the region. Its membership included many influential contributors to the evolutionary synthesis, as well as a host of leading figures in evolutionary biology over the decades of its existence. The group's history is significant also in that it represents an experiment in the effectiveness of promoting scientific progress through interdisciplinary discourse among peers spiced with a dose of collegiality. This essay summarizes the organization's format, membership, and structure, reports on its founding and early history, documents its transition away from an all-male society, and records the officers that provided its leadership. Future research will assemble what can be learned about its programs, and hence reveal the extent and depth of its intellectual concerns.
     Sometimes, quite unpredictably, seemingly minor events result in unanticipated historical paths. This is an account of how a privately published book with a heretical message, The Atlantic Rift and its Meaning(Baker, 1932), helped trigger a 63-year experiment in interdisciplinary discourse among evolutionary biologists. For over 60 years the Biosystematists has been a San Francisco Bay Area institution unique in its format and an intellectual tour de forcein its influence both locally and nationally. It was founded in 1936 with the unusual attitude that interdisciplinary discourse combined with a dose of social collegiality could spawn scientific breakthroughs as well as personal intellectual growth. Although such an idea was not novel, it was definitely not the standard behavior of scientists at the time, at least in North America, and even now, while increasingly often expressed, it is more an idealized goal in science than a reality. This forward-looking cohort of scientists was comprised of evolutionary biologists associated with various academic institutions in the San Francisco Bay Area.

     The format for this new organization was to meet generally once a month with a dinner followed by discussion. Meeting venues alternated among the institutions involved, but the University of California at Berkeley soon became the center of activity mainly because of its central location. Attendance at meetings varied, but the modal number was about 30. Early membership in the Biosystematists included important contributors to the evolutionary "new synthesis" (Smocovitis, 1997). Among them were Jens Clausen, William Hiesey, David Keck, Alden Miller, and Ledyard Stebbins. Richard Goldschmidt was also an early member although his contribution to the evolutionary synthesis is still debated (Dietrich, 1995, Mayr, 1997). Much later (early 1970's) Theodosius Dobzhansky participated while he was retired and living in Davis, California.

     The group prided itself on its informal and minimal administrative structure (no dues were collected for at least the first 40 years), one consequence of which was that records of its activities were not systematically preserved. Over the decades, the Biosystematists naturally changed in many ways, adjusting its format, enlarging its membership base (Table 1), experimenting with different administrative structures, and broadening its concept of what constituted evolutionary biology. Such changes were not always accomplished without controversy, but change after all was a comfortable intellectual concept for evolutionary biologists. Nevertheless, throughout this long period, the group remained faithful to its basic tenets of interdisciplinary discussion among peers, informality, and collegiality. Consistent with this philosophy, Biosystematists was a "membership by invitation" only organization. While the criteria for membership evolved, there was a semi-formal procedure for joining during most of these 60 years. At first, members were required to have a Ph.D. degree or equivalent experience and to have an established program of independent research in some aspect of evolutionary biology. Effectively, this restricted membership to those at Bay Area institutions of higher learning, including the California Academy of Sciences. Gradually, the second requirement became relaxed, but not the first. Another early requirement was that prospective members be resident in the Bay Area for one year before becoming eligible. This seems to have been largely ignored after just a few years, but the notion that members should be long-term residents of the area persisted through the 1980s. The rule was that nominees for membership should be able to attend meetings for at least one year after election. Shorter term residents, such as post-doctoral fellows, would be welcome as guests. The last formal statement of membership requirements was in a letter from D. R. Kaplan, Chair of the Council, dated 9 October 1991. Criteria included: a professional position in the area, record of research accomplishment, regular attendance on a long-term basis, and ability to present a seminar to the group.

     At each meeting, there was a formality of welcoming any new members and introducing guests. Nominations for membership were made in writing and submitted to a membership committee that would review whether or not the nominee fit the above cirteria. During some intervals, the Executive Committee, if there were one, or the Secretary acted as the membership committee (see below). In 1993/1994, the membership committee concept was abolished. In about 1977, institutional budgets having become extremely constrained, a $1 annual dues was initiated in order to pay for postage. Dues remained at this rate up to the present time, except that in about 1994 they were raised to $2 for a couple of years to alleviate a deficit. In recent years, electronic mail has reduced mailing costs, and dues collection has become sporadic.

     Although there was not an identifiable single defining moment, by 1998 the organization had changed in ways that were more fundamental than it had previously experienced. For some, this signaled the end of an era identified by the above philosophy, and for others it meant re-positioning the organization more appropriately for the next 60 years. Perhaps both are true. For many members, these recent modernizations of the organization triggered an interest in the history of the group and a concomitant reassessment of its accomplishments. For instance, Michael T. Ghiselin of the California Academy of Sciences arranged for an archive to be established at that institution. And, in September 1998, I undertook the task of assembling as much historical data as I could on the organization, a task made complicated and frustrating by the informal and minimal administrative structure that had characterized it. I began my present investigation by sending a memorandum to all long-term members of the group soliciting their help. Useful input was received over the subsequent months from the following individuals; I am most grateful to them for their assistance: John A. Chemsak, Lincoln Constance, Howell V. Daly, Barbara Ertter, Michael T. Ghiselin, Joseph T. Gregory, Nancy Vivrette Haller, Tomio Iwamoto, Ned K. Johnson, Harold W. Kerster, Elizabeth B. McClintock, Brent D. Mishler, Robert Ornduff, Jerry A. Powell, Charles M. Rick , G. Ledyard Stebbins, Barbara R. Stein, and Marvalee H. Wake. What follows are (1) an account of the first decade of the organization's existence, (2) a discussion of the controversy surrounding women members, and (3) a compilation of the group's officers. Information on programs is currently being assembled and will be presented later.

     The most common type of programs were status reports by members on their on-going research, followed by extensive discussion. Sometimes the speaker was a visitor or post-doctoral fellow, and sometimes there were panel discussions. Generally the group scheduled a weekend field trip meeting once a year, and these excursions usually involved multiple speakers. Figure 1 (not available) shows a group of four members looking for salamanders following a successful weekend symposium at Bodega Marine Laboratory (13-14 Feb. 1970). In this case the topic was the raging controversy over molecular clocks, and we called the symposium "Phyletics without fossils." An excellent photograph (Fig. 2) of the group attending a weekend field trip in May 1946 has been previously published in Smocovitis (1997; fig. 5).


     Because of the informal nature of the Biosystematists, few documents concerning the early years of the organization seem to have survived. Even the date of the first meeting has been controversial. In 1978, the regular May meeting of the group (9 May) was devoted to a symposium on its history, a belated 40th anniversary celebration. There were seven speakers at this well attended event, all of whom were founding, or nearly founding, members. David Keck and Ira Wiggins expressed the opinion that the first meeting was in 1935, and there was no dissenting view expressed at that time. Earlier, William Hiesey, another founding member, wrote to Lincoln Constance (19 January 1974) that he thought the group began in "about 1935." A second meeting on the history of the organization, this time led by V. Betty Smocovitis, an historian at the University of Florida, was held on 8 September 1998. At that time Ledyard Stebbins said that he was sure the first meeting was in 1937 or possibly 1936 (see also Smocovitis, 1994, 1997). And so the matter stood, except to note that it seemed to me that a 1935 starting date was a little early in view of the other events (see below) known to have preceded the group's establishment.

     Recently, I discovered a letter that seems to solve the mystery. On 28 September 1938, Herbert L. Mason wrote to Robert C. Miller, then Director of the California Academy of Sciences, inviting him to attend the October meeting of the group. He commented further that this meeting would mark the beginning of the organization's third year. This means that the first meeting was in fact held in October 1936, a date quite compatible with other information. There was no disagreement among early members that this first meeting occurred in October in the library of the Carnegie Institution of Washington at Stanford University. David Keck was the first speaker and his topic was a privately published book by Howard Bigelow Baker (1932) on continental drift. The second meeting was held in Berkeley (2093 Life Sciences Bldg.), and the third was at Stanford's Dudley Herbarium in the former Natural History Museum.

     No one person clearly emerges as deserving credit for starting the group. Jens Clausen is frequently mentioned as the initial coordinator, but David Keck and William Hiesey each felt that they were initially and critically involved in the first steps toward its organization. These three formed such an integrated intellectual team that it is probably impossible to know which individual was responsible for which ideas, and over time each could legitimately claim ownership of any group thoughts. Clausen was the senior member of the team, and so it is understandable that he was viewed by others as the initial leader. David Keck, however, gave the most plausible story when he addressed the group at its 9 May 1978 panel discussion. He recalled that in December 1934 the AAAS meetings were in Pittsburgh. Keck arrived just after the meetings ended, his arrival delayed because of the birth of his daughter on 26 December. He had discussions with a group from the Carnegie Museum and others, and conceived the idea for a biosystematists group. Contributing to this germ was his fortuitous discovery of the book by H. B. Baker (1932) on continental drift and his consequent realization of the potential for inter-disciplinary exchange. On his return to Stanford, he claims to have discussed the idea with colleagues and subsequently took the lead in organizing the group. This claim is supported by Herbert Mason who remembered meeting with Keck "and others" in Berkeley to discuss possible interest by Berkeley faculty in participating. Hiesey also gives Keck credit for being the originator of the idea for monthly meetings in the Bay Area (letter to Lincoln Constance dated 19 January 1974). Moreover, Robert Usinger who was a member from about 1938, states that "...the Biosystematists' organization was started by David Keck of the Carnegie Institution at Stanford" (Usinger, 1972: 68).

     Another development that may have helped Keck and others formulate their idea for the new organization was that a group with similar objectives had formed in the East. It was centered in New York with Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History being the primary institutions involved (Smocovitis, 1994: 249-250). The leader of this group was L. C. Dunn with other notables such G. G. Simpson, E. Mayr, and Theodosius Dobzhansky being involved. Ira Wiggins mentioned a group in the East similar to the Biosystematists in a letter to Lincoln Constance on 13 June 1971 which probably referred to this one in New York. Wiggins claimed, however, that the eastern group folded within five years. While this may be true, it is this eastern assemblage of prominent evolutionists that led eventually (1946) to the formation of the Society for the Study of Evolution (Smocovitis, 1994). Members of the Biosystematists clearly were also involved in this event as its agenda for the 5 February 1946 meeting included a discussion of the new organization, to be established at the AAAS meetings in March of that year, with a consideration of possible nominations for officers.

     In passing it may be noted that the Biosystematists model was followed by others. In the 1950s and early 1960s there was a Southern California Biosystematists (D. R. Savage, pers. comm.), and the long-lasting (but now defunct) Kennicott Club of Chicago may have had similar objectives. This latter club actually preceded the Biosystematists by a few years, and was an association of working naturalists, rather than evolutionary biologists (O. Pergams and F. A. Pitelka, pers. comm.).

     The origin of the name "Biosystematists" is also of considerable interest. A name for the fledgling organization was apparently discussed "around the table" at the group's third meeting. Both Ledyard Stebbins and George S. Myers recall (1978) that Gordon Ferris might have suggested the name, but Hiesey gives this credit to Ernest B. Babcock (1974 letter). Botanists generally credit the term "biosystematics" to Camp and Gilly (1943), but clearly this is wrong (also Smocovitis, pers. comm.). In a letter to Robert C. Miller dated 15 July 1940, the organization was referred to as "The Biosystematists". It was consistently called "Biosystematists" until 1998 when "Bay Area Biosystematists (BABS)" unceremoniously appeared.

     There is no record of charter members of the group. Aside from the three leaders based at Stanford, E. B. Babcock took the lead in recruiting faculty from Berkeley. According to Keck, Joseph Grinnell, Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, was invited to join but declined, recommending his young colleague Seth B. Benson. The California Academy of Sciences was also soon involved through R. C. Miller, and some early meetings were held there as well. One initial member, H. E. McMinn, was from Mills College. Thus the evidence suggests that the following 14 were among the initial participants: Jens Clausen, William M. Hiesey, David D. Keck of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Ernest B. Babcock, Seth B. Benson, Ralph Chaney, Herbert L. Mason, Alden H. Miller, and G. Ledyard Stebbins, Jr. of the University of California in Berkeley; LeRoy Abrams, Gordon F. Ferris, George S. Myers, and Ira L. Wiggins of Stanford University; and Howard E. McMinn of Mills College (Oakland). By 1939/40 there were 27 members (Table 1), including such notables as Lincoln Constance, Richard B. Goldschmidt, Robert C. Miller, and Robert L. Usinger.

     Not much is known about the officers and programs during this first decade of the group's existence. Jens Clausen was likely the coordinator for the first two years, and Herbert Mason may have done this job for 1938/39 (cf., his invitation letter to R. C. Miller of 28 Sept. 1938). Aside from the initial program in October 1936, the next record of a program was for November 1938 when D. I. Axelrod spoke on the origin of the Californian element in the flora of California. For 1939/40, we have a list of seven speakers and dates, but no topics. To this list is appended the interesting comment that "speakers will arrange for a place to eat and will send out notices of meetings." In February and March 1941 the program was, respectively: E. G. Linsley on the evolution of floral relationships in bees, and R. C. Miller on geography and evolution -- a motion picture on the Galapagos Islands by David Lack. Stebbins and Goldschmidt were probably program officers for this academic year. We do have a partial program for 1941/42 which was assembled by these two leaders in May of 1941. For the four meetings of October 1941 through January 1942, 16 of the 22 chapters in Julian Huxley's "The New Synthesis" were reviewed. Reviewers and alternates were assigned and four chapters were covered each meeting. In 1942/43 the program chairman was Goldschmidt, and Stebbins wrote a letter to members implying that he was in charge (25 Sept. 1942). The letter expressed concerns about the group being able to continue to meet with gasoline rationing and dim-out restrictions imposed by World War II. Stebbins suggested Saturday afternoon meetings ("as last year") in San Francisco (either at the California Academy of Sciences or at the University of California's Extension Division on Powell Street) both of which could be reached easily with public transportation. Apparently, the organization was relatively inactive from this time until the end of the war, but did meet at least occasionally. Stebbins seems to have been coordinator (Secretary?) in 1945/46, and we know there were meetings in at least February (R. A. Stirton on evolutionary progress in the horses) and May. The May meeting was at the Placerville Forest Genetics Station, and a remarkable photograph exists from this event (see photo). There are 21 people in the photo, four of whom were hosts from the Station and two may have been guests, leaving 15 Biosystematists members (including seven of the "charter" members).

     Although major gaps remain in the historical record for this decade, it seems appropriate to pull together what we do have at this time. Hopefully, additional information will be found, perhaps with this essay serving as an encouragement for others to search through old files.


     In the last few years, the view has been expressed in meetings of the Biosystematists and elsewhere that the organization was blatantly sexist until quite recently. Smocovitis (1994:249) makes the unreferenced assertion that "women and graduate students were strictly excluded from the society until the early 1970s, when they were admitted after much discussion." Since this interpretation of history does not match the recollections of at least some long-term members, it seemed useful to assemble whatever data that I could relevant to the subject. Graduate students, incidentally, were not admitted as members until the last few years because they did not fit the membership requirement of having a Ph.D. or equivalent level of experience. They were, however, always welcomed at meetings as invited guests (while still graduate students, R. L. Usinger attended meetings as early as 1938 as did F. A. Pitelka starting in 1941).

     There were in fact no women on the membership rolls of the Biosystematists until 1971, a period of almost 35 years. At least for the earlier part of this interval, most of the long-term members believed that this fact merely reflected the scarcity of women in evolutionary biology in the Bay Area during that period. As recently as September 1998, Ledyard Stebbins, one of the founding members, claimed simply that in the early years no woman met the criteria for membership, which as explained earlier were fairly restrictive. When the subject came up at the 1978 "40th anniversary" meeting of the society, Seth Benson jokingly noted the argument that he had heard to the effect that "women would not understand an organization that did not have any women in it." Another speaker at that symposium, Herbert Mason, commented that "the group had no objection to women; we just did not invite them." In spite of this superficially benign situation, at least a few female biologists felt that they should have been invited to join and were not (including Annetta Carter and Elizabeth B. McClintock).

     Certainly toward the end of this 35 year period there were women scientists in the area who likely would have qualified for membership, even by the fairly severe early standards. Some women did attend as guests, just as graduate students did. Although there were no records kept of such instances, some members recall two women guests: Aloha (Hanna) Alava, research associate of Curt Stern, and Olga Pavlovsky, research associate of Theodosius Dobzhansky. Of course it might be argued that although these two held Ph.D. degrees they did not have independent research programs, and hence did not qualify as members. There is evidence, however, that a few members did object on principle to opening membership to females. Based on correspondence or in some cases on recollections of others, the following were known or alleged to have objected at one time or another to including women as members of the society: Jens Clausen, Paul Hurd, Herbert Mason, and Ira Wiggins. In a letter to Lincoln Constance, then chairman of the Executive Committee, Wiggins wrote on 13 June 1971, as a member of this committee, that he was withdrawing his objections to admitting women to the group. He added the interesting explanation that he had heretofore been opposed to opening the group to women because "founders of Biosystematists in the east, before we set our group up in business included females and within five years infighting had wrecked the group and it ceased to function."

     From the perspective of most members of the Biosystematists who were participating before 1971, the gender issue rarely surfaced, and no one can recall it reaching the level of a "discussion" or debate. I think I remember a single instance in which a woman was suggested for membership before 1971. A senior member of the group simply explained that she did not qualify according to the group's criteria, and the matter was dropped. Jerry Powell, who became a member in 1961, says (in litt., Feb. 1999) "I do not remember there being any controversy about Biosystematists being a "men only club"; although some older members may have objected when the first women were suggested ..."

     The revolution occurred in 1971 (this incidentally was also a high year for membership numbers; see Table 1). In letters, John H. Thomas nominated Elizabeth B. McClintock on 15 April, George W. Barlow nominated Margaret Bradbury on 29 April, Marvalee Wake was nominated by Ned K. Johnson on 4 June, and about that time Ledyard Stebbins nominated Earleen Atchison Rupert and Dorothy Lowery. The discussions within the Executive Committee (Lincoln Constance, chairman, Ira Wiggins, George Lindsay, and Herman T. Spieth) on these historically important nominations were recorded in (1) a letter of 8 June from Constance to the rest of the committee supporting four of these women nominees (not including Lowery), ( 2) a note from Lindsay to Constance dated 10 June saying "I think it is time to admit female members ...", and pointing to the excellent qualifications of M. Wake, and (3) the aforementioned letter by Wiggins dated 13 June endorsing three women candidates and accepting the evaluations of Stebbins for the other two. After discussion by the Executive Committee, these five women were approved for membership along with three men. On 17 July, Constance wrote to outgoing Secretary Ned Johnson instructing him to add these eight names to the membership list.

     Following this 1971 breakthrough, women were regularly admitted to membership, and no further opposition to this development has been found in the written records or recalled by members. In 1975, Nancy Vivrette (now Haller) was appointed the first woman Secretary, and she served two terms (1975/76 and 1976/77). Not surprisingly, the organization has survived.


     This compilation is based on my own records, the results of a solicitation for information extended to 30 long-term members of the organization (including one charter member), and from a search through five boxes of documents on the Biosystematists in the archives at Stanford University courtesy of John H. Thomas. Information is scarce, especially for the years before 1950 largely because the group was informal, had a minimal administrative structure with few records being preserved, and had until 1986 no written charter of any kind.

     The ensuing list of officers not only documents who have been the leaders of the organization but also tracks the group's efforts to experiment with different administrative arrangements. Responsibility for leadership varied from a single officer, the Secretary (e.g.., 1949/50 to 1962/63), up to 12 or 13 officers (e.g.., 1986/87 to 1992/93). The most common arrangement was for a single Program Officer or Secretary backed up by an Executive Committee whose main responsibility was to appoint the Secretary each year. Very little information has been located for the first decade (1936-1946), and that which was found is mentioned in the section above on that decade. Likewise, no information on officers was discovered for fall 1946 through the summer of 1949, except that in February 1948 Ledyard Stebbins sent out a meeting announcement and membership list suggesting that he served in this capacity in 1947/48. Perhaps he was Secretary for the period 1946/47 through 1948/49 (as well as earlier). The following compilation starts with the academic year 1949/50. Figure 3 (see photo) was taken on the occasion of a belated 40th anniversary meeting in May, 1978. Of the ten Secretaries serving between then and 1957/58, nine are shown plus Stebbins.

     In preparing this account of officers, I have become impressed with how poor unaided personal memories can be. Moreover, suppositions with sufficient repetition can become viewed as "facts." For the benefit of future researchers, note that one source of confusion comes from the organization adhering roughly to an academic calendar. Decisions were usually made in May regarding the leadership for the next academic year, and sometimes documents listing officers do not make it explicit that they are for the next year. Also summer intervals are sometimes covered by the out-going officers and sometimes by the new ones. In at least one year, the new officers did not take over until early December.

     In the following tabulation, names are given in full only the first time the person is mentioned; thereafter only family names are used. Note how the titles of the various positions change over time. Since there were no written rules, changes came easily. Even after a formal set of organizational rules was adopted in 1986, it was followed only until the autumn of 1993; a new format was adopted in 1995. As noted, major changes in the organization's structure and philosophy occurred in 1988.

Officers: 1949 to 2000 (by academic years)

1949-50 to 1956-57 (8 years) -- Secretary: Robert L. Usinger
1957-58 to 1959-60 (3 years) -- Secretary: Seth B. Benson
1960-61 -- Secretary: Paul D. Hurd, Jr.
1961-62 to 1962-63 (2 years) -- No information, but, by interpolation, Hurd was likely Secretary.
1963-64 -- Secretary: Hurd
     Membership Committee (this committee was also charged with appointing the Secretary so served as an executive committee): Alden H. Miller (Chairman), William. A. Hiesey, George E. Lindsay, Charles M. Rick, Usinger
Committee on Organization (this ad hoc committee gave their report in April which consisted of an eight-point resolution): Ruben A. Stirton (Chairman), Benson, Hurd, John M. Tucker, Ira L. Wiggins

1964-65 to 1965-66 (2 years) -- Secretary: Hurd
     I assume that the Membership Committee continued. There is some evidence that in the second of these years, the Secretarial duties were shared among Hurd, Usinger, and John A. Chemsak.

1966-67 -- Secretary: Ned K. Johnson; Executive Committee -- Usinger (Chairman), Lindsay, Rick, Wiggins
1967-68 -- Secretary: Robert Ornduff
     Executive Committee -- Lindsay (Chairman), probably Rick and Wiggins cont. (Usinger died in 1968)
1968-69 -- Secretary: Howell V. Daly
     Executive Committee: Lindsay resigned 30 Oct. 1968 and was replaced as Chairman by Hurd; Wiggins, Rick (Ornduff and Johnson may have been added later in the year).

1969-70 -- Secretary: William Z. Lidicker, Jr.
     Executive Committee: Hurd (Chairman), Lindsay, Herman T. Spieth, Wiggins (Rick seems to have been acting as Chairman on 19 May 1970, possibly as Hurd resigned to go to the Smithsonian Institution about this time.)

1970-71 -- Secretary: Johnson
     Executive Committee: Lincoln Constance (Chairman), Lindsay, Spieth, Wiggins (A note was found that this committee also served as the membership committee which it probably did since its inception in 1966.)

1971-72 -- Secretary: Johnson continued until early December when William A. Clemens took over.
     Executive Committee: Constance (Chairman), Lindsay, Wiggins
Membership Committee: Lindsay, Spieth, Wiggins (Note: This is the only year until 1985 when separate Membership and Executive committees were formed.)

1972-73 -- Secretary: Clemens
     Executive Committee: Constance (Chair), Lindsay, Spieth, Wiggins
Membership Committee: no information; probably combined with Executive Committee

1973-74 -- Secretary: Clemens continued into the Fall (with assistance from Constance), but was then replaced by Jerry A. Powell (assisted in the Spring by Chemsak)
     Executive Committee: Evert I. Schlinger (Chair), Lidicker, Tucker, William N. Eschmeyer, and a fifth position for someone from Stanford was unfilled
Membership Committee: no further mention of this committee was found until 1985, so presumably its duties were reassumed by the Executive Committee

1974-75 -- Secretary: Powell. Executive Committee: Schlinger (Chair), Lidicker, Tucker, Eschmeyer, John H. Thomas
1975-76 -- Secretary: Nancy Vivrette. Executive Committee: Schlinger (Chair), Lidicker, no record of others (probably also Thomas)

1976-77 -- Secretary: Vivrette. Executive Committee: Schlinger (Chair), Lidicker, Thomas
1977-78 -- Secretary: George F. Papenfuss. Executive Committee: continued.
1978-79 to 1979-80 (2 years) -- Secretary: Joseph T. Gregory. Executive Committee: continued.
1980-81 to 1984-85 (5 years) -- Secretary: G. Ledyard Stebbins (except that during Dec. through March of 81/82 Schlinger and Lidicker substituted for Stebbins). Executive Committee: continued

1985-86 -- Secretary: Stebbins continued. Executive Committee: continued.
     Council: A "Plan for the Future" of the organization was drafted by the Executive Committee and adopted in the Spring. It called for an 8-person Council and a Membership Committee which were established as follows: Council -- Schlinger (prob. Chair), Lidicker, Thomas, Stebbins, O. Ray Collins, David H. Kavanaugh, Kevin Padian, John Hafernik; Membership Committee: Thomas (Chair), Lidicker (Chair as of May 1986), Padian.
By 10 April 1986, Barbara Ertter was functioning as the Treasurer/Recording Secretary.

1986-87 -- Program Chair: Collins. Council: Thomas (Chair), Ertter (Recording Secretary), Lidicker, Collins, Padian, Kavanaugh, Hafernik, Rick.
Membership Committee: Lidicker (Chair), Padian, Thomas

1987-88 -- All officers continuing except that Padian became Chair of the Membership Committee
1988-89 -- Program Chair: Thomas. Council: Thomas (Chair), Ertter (Recording Secretary), Daphne Fautin, Hafernik, Lidicker, Padian, Collins, Rick. Membership Committee: Padian (Chair), Hafernik, Rick

1989-90 -- Program Chair: Thomas cont.
Council: Padian (Chair), Thomas, Ertter (Membership Secretary), Fautin, Hafernik, Rick, Powell, Donald R. Kaplan
Membership Committee: Hafernik (Chair), Padian, Rick, Powell

1990-91 -- Program Chair: Thomas continued. Council: Padian (Chair), Ertter (Membership Secretary), Thomas, Hafernik, Tomio Iwamoto, Kaplan, Powell, Rick.
Membership Committee: Hafernik (Chair), Powell, Rick

1991-92 -- Program Chairperson: Padian. Council: Kaplan (Chair), Ertter (Membership Secretary), Hafernik, Iwamoto, Powell, Thomas, Padian, Grady L. Webster
Membership Committee: Powell (Chair), Hafernik, Iwamoto, Thomas, Webster

1992-93 -- Program Chair: Charles Quibell. Council: Kaplan (Chair), Ertter (Membership Secretary), Hafernik, Iwamoto, Powell, Quibell, Thomas, Webster
Membership Committee: continued.

1993-94 -- Program Chair: Quibell continued. Council: continued.
Membership Committee: Powell (Chair), no other members recorded; abolished mid-year

1994-95 -- Program Committee: Michael T. Ghiselin, Lidicker, Brent D. Mishler
Social Chairman: Quibell, assisted by Lidicker
Executive Committee: Kaplan (Chair), Harold W. Kerster (Recording Secretary), Quibell, Lidicker, Ghiselin, Mishler. In February 1995, Mishler's suggestion for changing to only three officers was adopted.

1995-96 to 1996-97 (two years)-- Program Chair: Ghiselin (with assistance from Mishler and Lidicker)
Social Chair: Lidicker. Corresponding Secretary/Treasurer: Kerster

1997-98 -- Program Chair: Mishler. Social Chair: Ghiselin. Secretary/Treasurer: Kerster
1998-99 -- Program Committee: Martin F. Wojciechowski (Chair), Peter Fritsch, Kelly Steele, Dennis Wall
Social Chair: Ghiselin. Secretary/ Treasurer: Kerster

1999-2000* -- Program Chair: Mishler
Social Chair: Wojciechowski
Secretary/Treasurer: Kerster

*correction to original essay by Webmaster
1999-2000 -- Program Committee: Wojciechowski, James A. Doyle, Martin Brittan, and H. Bradley Shaffer
Social Chair: Mishler
Secretary/Treasurer: Kerster


     I hope this document will inspire an appreciation for what the Biosystematists has contributed to progress in evolutionary biology as well as to the personal enhancement of the lives and careers of its members. It has also been an interesting experiment in the sociology of science. That the Biosystematists has operated at the forefront of evolutionary biology in the broadest sense is perhaps obvious from its membership. Its key role in the development and elaboration of the evolutionary synthesis has been emphasized (see also Smocovitis, 1997). However, an examination of the table of contents in any modern textbook of evolution (see Futuyma, 1998 as a good example) reveals the complete correspondence between these subjects and the interests and contributions of Biosystematist members. A perusal of the literature cited in the Futuyma text finds the publications of at least 39 members, not counting those of their former students.

     Perhaps this essay will also trigger the discovery of new information that can help to fill the many gaps remaining in this history. The material on which it is based will be deposited in the archives at the California Academy of Sciences and also posted on the Biosystematists' web page (


     In addition to the 17 long-term members who provided valuable information and insights listed above, I am grateful to the following persons who contributed data, important leads to information, and/or encouragement: Richard Beidleman, Oliver Pergams, Frank Pitelka, Betty Smocovitis, David Wake, and Martin Wojciechowski. Librarians at the archives of Stanford University and the California Academy of Sciences, and at the BioSciences Library in Berkeley were most cordial and helpful. Alan Leviton, O. P. Pearson, and Nancy Vivrette each kindly contributed a photograph. Helpful reviews of earlier versions of this manuscript were provided by A. Leviton, L. N. Lidicker, F. A. Pitelka, and B. R. Stein, and I am grateful to them for their important contributions.


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