Species, Demes, and the Omega Taxonomy: Gilmour and The New Systematics

Author: Winsor, M.P.

Source: Biology and Philosophy, Volume 15, Number 3, June 2000 , pp. 349-388(40)

Publisher: Springer

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The word ``deme'' was coined by the botanists J.S.L. Gilmour and J.W. Gregor in 1939, following the pattern of J.S. Huxley's ``cline''. Its purpose was not only to rationalize the plethora of terms describing chromosomal and genetic variation, but also to reduce hostility between traditional taxonomists and researchers on evolution, who sometimes scorned each other's understanding of species. A multi-layered system of compound terms based on deme was published by Gilmour and J. Heslop-Harrison in 1954 but not widely used. Deme was adopted with a modified meaning by zoologists leading the evolutionary synthesis – Huxley, Simpson, Wright, and Mayr. Connections are shown between Gilmour's ideas around defining the deme, his role in founding the Systematics Association, and his chapter ``Taxonomy and Philosophy'' in the book The New Systematics. This historical episode raises questions about the role of carefully-defined words in scientific practice.

Keywords: J. Heslop-Harrison; J.S. Huxley; J.S.L. Gilmour; Systematics Association; cline; definition; deme; evolutionary synthesis; experimental taxonomy; nominalism; systematics; taxonomy

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Victoria College, University of Toronto, 73 Queen's Park Crescent, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7, Canada E-mail: mwinsor@chass.utoronto.ca

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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