Article ID: CBB000773239

A Particular Synthesis: Aleksandr Promptov and Speciation in Birds (2007)


Abstract During the 1930s, Aleksandr Promptov---a student of the founder of Russian population genetics Sergei Chetverikov---developed an elaborate concept of speciation in birds. He conducted field investigations aimed at giving a naturalistic content to the theoretical formulations and laboratory models of evolutionary processes advanced within the framework of population genetics, placing particular emphasis on the evolutionary role of bird behavior. Yet, although highly synthetic in combining biogeographical, taxonomic, genetic, ecological, and behavioral studies, Promptov's speciation concept was ignored by the architects of the 1930s and 1940s evolutionary synthesis, including Theodosius Dobzhnasky, Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley. In this article, I argue that the story of Promptov's concept and its reception by other evolutionists challenges the traditional presentation of the synthesis as a singular, international process of the unification of biology, which led to the creation of a universal synthetic theory of evolution. It suggests that during the same time period, within largely the same theoretical framework, there were multiple, intrinsically local, attempts at creating synthetic evolutionary concepts. These concepts were often quite particular---in their taxonomic applicability, in their explanations of various evolutionary factors, and in the range of disciplines unified in the synthesis. Apparently, these concepts ran contrary to the universal aspirations of the synthesis architects, and as a result, they were disregarded, first by the architects and later by historians of the evolutionary synthesis.


Description On the work of the early 20th-century Russian population geneticist.

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Authors & Contributors
Charmantier, Isabelle
Mogilner, Marina
Larsson, Eleanor
Conix, Stijn
Bruno M. Goddeeris
Boudewijn R. Goddeeris
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Archives of Natural History
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
University of California Press
Cambridge University Press
Classification in biology
Species concept (biology)
Terminology and nomenclature
Darwin, Charles Robert
Linnaeus, Carolus
Gink, Cornelis van
Tegetmeier, William Bernhardt
Willughby, Francis
Rothschild, Lionel Walter
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
Early modern
21st century
Great Britain
International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses

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