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Frederic Edward Clements, (born Sept. 16, 1874, Lincoln, Neb., U.S.

—died July 26,
1945, Santa Barbara, Calif.), American botanist, taxonomist, and ecologist who
influenced the early study of plant communities, particularly the process of plant
succession.
Clements was educated at the University of Nebraska, where he studied under the
influential American botanist Charles E. Bessey. Clements received an undergraduate
degree in 1894, a master’s degree in botany in 1896, and a Ph.D. in botany in 1898.
Although deeply committed to agricultural problems, Bessey was also a leading
proponent of the “new botany,” which emphasized microscopy, plant physiology, and
laboratory experimentation. These approaches had a profound impact on Clements’s
intellectual development. Together with Roscoe Pound, another of Bessey’s students
who later became a distinguished legal scholar, Clements wrote The Phytogeography of
Nebraska (1898). This broad survey of plants and plant communities served as the joint
doctoral thesis for Pound and Clements, and it introduced some of the ecological
techniques that Clements later perfected.
Early in his career, Clements adopted the “organicism” that English sociologist and
philosopher Herbert Spencer, American sociologist Lester Frank Ward, and other 19th-
century social thinkers had used to describe human societies. Clements claimed that
plant communities were “complex organisms” that could be studied experimentally with
the same rigour that physiologists applied to individual organisms in the laboratory.
While serving as a botany professor at the University of Nebraska, Clements outlined
this organismal idea in Research Methods in Ecology (1905), a work that also served as
a manifesto for the new science of plant ecology.
During his tenure at the University of Minnesota between 1907 and 1917, Clements
presented a much more detailed account of the organismal concept in his most
influential work, Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation (1916).
Clements described plant succession as a developmental process through which
the community underwent a well-defined series of stages that ultimately resulted in a
mature, or climax, community. The climax community was both an indicator and
expression of the climatic conditions that determined it. As both a broad overview of
earlier research and a systematic theoretical statement, Plant Succession defined a
major area of research that became a central focus of plant ecology prior to World War
II.
Largely due to the success of that book, the Carnegie Institution of Washington
appointed Clements a full-time research associate, a position he held from 1917 to 1941.
Clements successfully used the position to improve the laboratory he had founded in
1900 near Pikes Peak, Colo., where he worked during the summer. He worked at the
Carnegie Institution’s lab in Tucson, Ariz., during the winters. After he and his wife
moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1925, he continued his summer research at the Pikes
Peak lab but worked at a lab in Santa Barbara during subsequent winters.
Support from the Carnegie Institution also provided Clements with opportunities for
developing new lines of research, notably experimental taxonomy. For
Clements, experimental taxonomy meant using transplant experiments and other
ecological methods to investigate evolutionary processes and to improve the
classification of plants. Together with American botanist Harvey Monroe Hall, Clements
wrote an influential introduction to this interdisciplinary area of research, The
Phylogenetic Method in Taxonomy: The North American Species of Artemisia,
Chrysothamnus, and Atriplex (1923). Unlike Hall, who was a Darwinian (a proponent
of evolution by natural selection), Clements believed that new plant species arose
through the inheritance of acquired traits. He claimed that he had experimentally
produced new species at his laboratory near Pikes Peak; however, he never fully
documented that claim.
Criticism of his research, as well as personality conflicts, eroded Clements’s status within
the Carnegie Institution of Washington. As a result, Hall gained control of research in
experimental taxonomy at the institution by the end of the 1920s.
Experimental taxonomy went on to become an important focus of ecological research,
but it was Hall’s Darwinian approach combining genetics, ecology, and taxonomy to
study local adaptation, rather than Clements’s adherence to the inheritance of acquired
traits, that became widely accepted by ecologists after World War II.

Reflection:

In these modern times when we want to classify things we can consult and ask
help from other people or use the internet in just one click. We can find the answer
easily. Subsequently, we talked about taxonomists. What really gave me the sign to
choose was that I am worried about the current situation of the forest cover of the
Philippines then Frederic Edward Clements popped up. He was American botanist,
taxonomist, and ecologist who influenced the early study of plant communities,
particularly the process of plant succession.
Clements like other people who become successful in their chosen fields,
undergone mentoring. He was also a mentee. He was a taxonomist with full of hopes
and dreams. He was influenced by American botanist Charles E. Bessey. As a science
educator I would like to become a mentor someday but first I have to undergo difficulty
and hard work. So, I am going to quote this proverb “ In order to become the purest of
the gold , it has to be purified by fire.” Life without difficulty is not very challenging. It is
a roller coaster on a flat base turning round and round.

Though Clements was hopeful, he was not able to establish his claim. Unlike
Hall, who was a Darwinian (a proponent of evolution by natural selection), Clements
believed that new plant species arose through the inheritance of acquired traits. He
claimed that he had experimentally produced new species at his laboratory near Pikes
Peak; however, he never fully documented that claim. This is a lesson for some budding
teachers because most of the time we think that we are in control but the truth isn’t.

Life is too short. Live to the fullest. Don’t forget to grab any opportunity and we’ll
see the fruit of your labor next time we cross our way.