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Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's TreeThe Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order$
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J. Archibald

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164122

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.001.0001

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Three Revolutions in Tree Building

Three Revolutions in Tree Building

(p.158) Chapter Seven Three Revolutions in Tree Building
Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's Tree

J. David Archibald

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines three revolutionary developments in the way trees were constructed and visualized during the twentieth century: the emergence in the 1960s of two new, quite different schools of biological systematics that challenged how one assesses relationships and how one represents these relationships visually, namely, “phylogenetic systematics” and “numerical taxonomy”; the invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) procedure in 1983; advances in computing power in the latter half of the century. These three changes affected how we perceive evolution, how we show this on trees and other sorts of diagrams, and even how we ourselves, within this scheme, changed forever. The chapter also considers how molecular techniques revolutionized the reconstruction of life's history and the impact of molecular systematics on visual representations of trees. Finally, it discusses the increased understanding of phylogenetic trees and the emergence of a new freedom in how to express trees near the end of the twentieth century.

Keywords:   trees, biological systematics, phylogenetic systematics, numerical taxonomy, polymerase chain reaction, computing, evolution, molecular techniques, molecular systematics, visual representations

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