Edgar Shannon Anderson
Born(1897-11-09)November 9, 1897
DiedJune 18, 1969(1969-06-18) (aged 71)
Alma materMichigan State College, Harvard University
AwardsDarwin-Wallace Medal
Scientific career
InstitutionsMissouri Botanical Garden, Washington University in St. Louis, John Innes Horticultural Institute, Arnold Arboretum
Doctoral advisorEdward Murray East
Author abbrev. (botany)E.S.Anderson

Edgar Shannon Anderson (November 9, 1897 – June 18, 1969) was an American botanist.[1][2] He introduced the term introgressive hybridization[3] and his 1949 book of that title was an original and important contribution to botanical genetics.[4] His work on the transfer and origin of adaptations through natural hybridization continues to be relevant.[5][6]

Anderson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1934.[7] In 1954, he was an elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[8] He was also president of the Botanical Society of America in 1952,[9] and was a charter member of the Society for the Study of Evolution[10] and the Herb Society of America[11] He received the Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society in 1958.[12]

Early life and education

Anderson was born in Forestville, New York.[13] When he was three, his family moved to East Lansing, Michigan where his father had accepted a position to teach dairy husbandry. [14][15]

In 1914 Anderson entered Michigan State College to study botany and horticulture. After completing his degree in Biology in 1918,[14] he joined the Naval Reserve and in 1919 he accepted a graduate position at the Bussey Institution of Harvard University. His studies were supervised by geneticist Edward Murray East and Anderson worked on the genetics of self-incompatibility in Nicotiana.[3] He was awarded a master's degree in 1920 and a DSc in agricultural genetics in 1922.[14]


Iris versicolor
Iris virginica

Anderson accepted a position as a geneticist at the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1922. He was appointed assistant professor of botany at Washington University in St. Louis. His research was focused on developing techniques to quantify geographic variation in Iris versicolor. Anderson determined the existence of a second species, Iris virginica.[3]

In 1929 Anderson received a fellowship to undertake studies at the John Innes Horticultural Institute in Britain, where he worked with cytogeneticist C. D. Darlington, statistician R. A. Fisher, and geneticist J. B. S. Haldane. Anderson's data set on three related species of irises was used by Fisher as an example with which to demonstrate statistical methods of classification and has subsequently become very well known in the machine learning community, though often described as Fisher's iris data.[16][17]

Scatterplot of the Iris flower data set

Anderson returned to the United States in 1931 and took a position at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard where he worked with geneticist Karl Sax. In 1935 he returned to the Missouri Botanical Garden and in 1937 received the Engelmann Professorship in botany at Washington University. Between 1934 and 1938 he worked predominantly on Tradescantia. He was the first to introduce the term introgressive hybridization.[3]

Zea mays

In 1941 Anderson was invited to present the Jesup Lectures at Columbia University with Ernst Mayr, discussing the role of genetics on plant systematics. However, unlike the other presenters of the Jesup Lectures, whose writings would be regarded as the foundation of the modern evolutionary synthesis, Anderson never completed his accompanying manuscript for Systematics and the origin of species. Instead he turned his attention to Zea mays[3][18] emphasizing the need to study both wild and cultivated plants.[19]

Anderson published Introgressive Hybridization in 1949, describing gene transfer between hybridizing forms,[5] and the role of introgression in speciation.[20] He also wrote the popular science book Plants, Man, and Life (1952), described by one reviewer as "a book every botanist and anthropologist should read".[21] Anderson was briefly director of the Missouri Gardens in 1954, but returned to teaching in 1957. He retired officially in 1967.[14]

Anderson was a close colleague and friend of Esther Lederberg.[22] They frequented the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory symposia.[23] Anderson was a close friend of many other colleagues, such as J. B. S. Haldane[5] and G. Ledyard Stebbins.[24]

The standard author abbreviation E.S.Anderson is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[25]


  1. ^ Smocovitis, Vassiliki Betty (1999). "Anderson, Edgar (1897-1969), botanist". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1302046. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  2. ^ Kohler, Robert E. (November 2002). Landscapes and Labscapes: Exploring the Lab-Field Border in Biology. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-45010-0.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kleinman, Kim (1999). "His Own Synthesis: Corn, Edgar Anderson, and Evolutionary Theory in the 1940s". Journal of the History of Biology. 32 (2): 293–320. doi:10.1023/A:1004424810841. ISSN 0022-5010. JSTOR 4331526. S2CID 126829834. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  4. ^ Stebbins, G. L. (1978). "Edgar Anderson". National Academy of Sciences: Biographical Memoirs (PDF). Vol. 49. National Academy of Sciences. pp. 3–23.
  5. ^ a b c Arnold, Michael L. (2004). "Transfer and Origin of Adaptations through Natural Hybridization: Were Anderson and Stebbins Right?". The Plant Cell. 16 (3): 562–570. doi:10.1105/tpc.160370. ISSN 1040-4651. PMC 540259. PMID 15004269.
  6. ^ Edelman, Nathaniel B.; Mallet, James (23 November 2021). "Prevalence and Adaptive Impact of Introgression". Annual Review of Genetics. 55 (1): 265–283. doi:10.1146/annurev-genet-021821-020805. ISSN 0066-4197. PMID 34579539. S2CID 238203436. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  8. ^ "Anderson, Edgar". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  9. ^ "BSA Presidents". Botanical Society of America. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  10. ^ Smocovitis, Vassiliki Betty (1994). "Organizing Evolution: Founding the Society for the Study of Evolution (1939-1950)" (PDF). Journal of the History of Biology. 27 (2): 241–309. doi:10.1007/BF01062564. ISSN 0022-5010. PMID 11639320. S2CID 9737192. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  11. ^ "Who We Are". St. Louis Herb Society. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  12. ^ Keen, Kevin J. (26 September 2018). Graphics for Statistics and Data Analysis with R. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-429-63370-6. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  13. ^ Eisendrath, Erna R. (1972). "The Publications of Edgar Anderson". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 59 (3): 346–361. ISSN 0026-6493. JSTOR 2395147.
  14. ^ a b c d Heiser, Charles B. (1995). "Edgar Anderson, Botanist and Curator of Useful Plants". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 82 (1): 54–60. doi:10.2307/2399980. ISSN 0026-6493. JSTOR 2399980. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  15. ^ Finan, John J. (1972). "Edgar Anderson 1897-1969". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 59 (3): 325–345. ISSN 0026-6493. JSTOR 2395146. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  16. ^ Erickson, Ralph O. (1 June 1988). "Growth and Development of a Botanist". Annual Review of Plant Physiology and Plant Molecular Biology. 39 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1146/annurev.pp.39.060188.000245. ISSN 1040-2519. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  17. ^ Wainer, Howard; Velleman, Paul F. (1 February 2001). "Statistical Graphics: Mapping the Pathways of Science". Annual Review of Psychology. 52 (1): 305–335. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.305. ISSN 0066-4308. PMID 11148308. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  18. ^ Kleinman, Kim (2009). "Biosystematics and the Origin of Species: Edgar Anderson, W. H. Camp, and the Evolutionary Synthesis". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 99 (1): 73–91. ISSN 0065-9746. JSTOR 27757425. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  19. ^ Heiser, Charles B. (1 November 1979). "Origins of Some Cultivated New World Plants". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 10 (1): 309–326. doi:10.1146/annurev.es.10.110179.001521. ISSN 0066-4162. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  20. ^ Harland, S. C. (August 1950). "Introgressive Hybridization". Nature. 166 (4215): 243–244. Bibcode:1950Natur.166..243H. doi:10.1038/166243b0. ISSN 1476-4687. S2CID 45038936.
  21. ^ Cutler, Hugh C.; Martin, Paul S. (6 April 1953). "Plants, Man and Life.Edgar Anderson". American Anthropologist. 55 (2): 269–270. doi:10.1525/aa.1953.55.2.02a00290. ISSN 0002-7294. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  22. ^ "Edgar S. Anderson". Esther Lederberg. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  23. ^ "Anderson, Edgar". Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  24. ^ Smocovitis, Vassiliki Betty (1 December 2001). "G. Ledyard Stebbins and the Evolutionary Synthesis". Annual Review of Genetics. 35 (1): 803–814. doi:10.1146/annurev.genet.35.102401.091525. ISSN 0066-4197. PMID 11700300. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  25. ^ International Plant Names Index.  E.S.Anderson.

Further reading