Such expressions as that famous one of Linnæus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance. I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent,—the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings,—is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications (Darwin, 1859, p. 413f).

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Adolf Naef - A Potted Biography


Who was he?
Adolf Naef was a Swiss systematist, malacologist and a proponent of systematic morphology. He was born in Niederhelfenschwil on 1st May 1883 and passed away on May 11th 1949.

What did he do?
Naef studied at the University of Zurich, under the guidance of Arnold Lang (1855—1914), a former Professor of Jena University and close friend of Ernst Haeckel. Naef visited and worked in Anton Dorn’s Zoological Station in Naples, Italy in 1908, studying the squid Loligo vulgaris, the subject of his dissertation (Naef, 1909a, b). Naef returned to the Naples Zoological Station in the mid 1920s to study cephalopods, publishing a two-part monograph in the Station’s Fauna und Flora des Golfes von Neapel und der Angrenzenden Meers-Abschitte (Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli) series (Naef 1921d, 1923c, 1928, later translated into English, Naef, 1972a, 1972b, 2000), which formed the basis for his two short but significant monographs on systematic theory (Naef, 1917, 1919). In 1922 he became Professor at the University of Zagreb, and in 1927 was Professor of Zoology at the University of Cairo.

What’s the big idea?
Naef’s studies were framed within Systematische Morphologie (Systematic morphology) (Naef, 1917, 1919), the details he sketched out as early as 1913:
“Phylogenetic and natural systematics deal with the same factual material, and although each has different basic concepts, both disciplines can be united in a single concept because their objects are so similar. I have therefore proposed the name ‘systematic morphology’ for this concept (Naef, 1913: 344)…It is intended to show that there is an inner relationship between natural systematics and (comparative) morphology” (Naef, 1921-23: 7, from the English translation, Naef, 1972a: 12).
Naef’s concern was with the discovery of natural, as opposed to artificial classification, a problem examined in detail by A. P. de Candolle (1813). Naef expressed it as so:
“For decades, phylogenetics lacked a valid methodological basis and developed on the decayed trunk of a withering tradition rooted in the idealistic morphology and the systematics of pre-Darwinian times. There was talk of systematic ‘tact’ and morphological ‘instinct’, terms which were felt rather than understood and consequently insufficient to form the frame of a science which required sound definitions and clearly formulated principles” (Naef, 1921-23, pp. 6-7, from the English translation, Naef, 1972, p. 12).
And thus was born ‘Systematische Morphologie’, perhaps the beginnings of cladistics, in its most general form (of which more in a further post). Towards the end of his career, Naef published several detailed accounts of ‘Systematische Morphologie’ (Naef, 1931a, b, 1933a), including a succinct summary in the widely read 2nd edition of the Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften (Naef, 1933b).

Naef might be considered a man out of time – as might many morphologists today, relative to the explosion of molecular data. In Naef’s day palaeontology and the post World War II hegemony of the modern synthesis was attracting the young minds. Today it is molecular systematics and DNA barcoding – versions of artificial classifications.

References

Candolle, A.-P. de (1813). Théorie élémentaire de la botanique ou exposition des principes de la classification naturelle et de l'art de décrire et d'étudier les végétaux. Deterville, Paris.
Naef, A. (1909a). Die Organogenese des Cölomsystems und der zentralen Blutgefässe von Loligo. Jenaische Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaft, 45, N.F. 38:221—266.
Naef, A. (1909b). Die Organogenese des Cölomsystems und der zentralen Blutgefässe von Loligo. Inaugural-Dissertation, Univers. Zurich, 46pp.
Naef, A. (1913). Studien zur generellen Morphologie der Mollusken. 2. Teil. Das Cölomsystem in seinen topographischen Berziehungen. Ergebnisse und Fortschritte der Zoologie 3: 329—462.
Naef, A. (1917). Die individuelle Entwicklung organischer Formen als Urkunde ihrer Stammesgeschichte: (Kritische Betrachtungen über das sogenannte “biogenetische Grundgesetz”). Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena.
Naef, A. (1919). Idealistische Morphologie und Phylogenetik (zur Methodik der systematischen). Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena.
Naef, A. (1921—23). Die Cephalopoden (Systematik). In: Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli, Monograph 35 (I-1), Pubblicazioni della Stazione Zoologica di Napoli. R. Friedländer and Sohn, Berlin, pp. 1—863.
Naef, A. 1931a. Allgemeine Morphologie. I. Die Gestalt als Begriff und Idee, pp. 77—118 in Bolk, L, Göppert, E., Kallius, E. & Lubosch, W., (editors) Handbuch der vergleichenden Anatomie der Wirbeltiere 1. Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg.
Naef, A. 1931b. Phylogenie der Tiere, pp. 1—200 in Baur, E., & Hartmann, M., (editors) Handbuch der Vererbungswissenschaft, Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin 13 (3i).
Naef, A. 1933a. Die Vorstufen der Menschwerdung. Eine anschauliche Darstellung der menschlichen Stammesgeschichte und eine kritische Betrachtung ihrer allgemeinen Voraussetzungen. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.
Naef, A. 1933b. Cephalopoda, pp. 293—310 in Dittler, R., Joos, G., Korschelt, E. Linck, G., Oltmanns, F. and Schaum, K. (editors) Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften, 2nd edition, volume 2. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.
Naef, A. 1933c. Morphologie der Tierre (Allegmeines und Grundsätzliches), pp. 3—17 in Dittler, R., Joos, G., Korschelt, E. Linck, G., Oltmanns, F. and Schaum, K. (editors) Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften, 2nd edition, volume 7. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.
Naef, A. 1972a. Cephalopoda. Fauna and Flora of the Bay of Naples (Fauna und Flora des Golfes von Neapel und der Angrenzenden Meers-Abschitte), Monograph 35, Part I, [Vol. I], Fascicle I. Smithsonian Institute Libraries, Washington.
Naef, A. 1972b. Cephalopoda (systematics). Fauna and Flora of the Bay of Naples (Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli), Monograph 35, Part I, [Vol. I], Fascicle II. Washington, Smithsonian Institute Libraries.
Naef, A. 2000. Cephalopoda. Embryology. Fauna and Flora of the Bay of Naples [Fauna und Flora des Golfes von Naepel]. Monograph 35. Part I, Vol. II [Final part of the Monograph No. 35], pp. 3-461. Washington, Smithsonian.

4 comments:

John Wilkins said...

Malte, I'm interested to know why oyu think molecular systematics is artificial (out here in the open), for I think many people will not understand that.

Joe Felsenstein said...

I'm guessing that he considers a sequence alignment that does not specify which base (at each site) is ancestral to be "phenetic" and any tree obtained from it to be "phenetic" as it does not decide on homology in advance. Thus almost all molecular systematic studies are, in his view, "phenetic". But I could be wrong about that -- it's hard to tell what his position is.

Malte Ebach & David Williams said...

We do not think molecular systematics is artificial (i.e. based on its data), just that it results in artificial classifications (i.e., based on its methods).

Gustavo A. Ballen said...

That's what happens when people side away theory and logics in favor of technological quick answers without asking theirselves about the validity in terms of science philosophy. Of course, science is not the only one approach to knowledge, but if one is to use science as his/her strategy for generating knowledge, it is crucial to be consistent with its philosophical background.