Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Books about the history of trees and networks

The standard references for the conceptual history of phylogenetic trees and networks are:
  • Ragan, Mark A. (2009) Trees and networks before and after Darwin. Biology Direct 4: 43.
  • Tassy, Passcal (2011) Trees before and after Darwin. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 49: 89-101.

Over the past 20 years, a number of books have appeared that expand upon this topic, which it is worthwhile to list here.

• Barsanti, Giulio (1992) La Scala, la Mappa, l'Albero: Immagini e Classificazioni Della Natura Fra Sei e Ottocento. Firenze: Sansoni Editore.
In Italian. A conceptual history of classification up to the time of Haeckel, and the beginning of phylogenetics. Covers the development of ideas and images equally. Networks are treated as "maps".
This is expanded from a preceding review article: (1988) Le immagini della natura: scale, mappe, alberi 1700-1800. Nuncius 3(1): 55-125. 

• Stevens, Peter F. (1994) The Development of Biological Systematics: Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu, Nature, and the Natural System. New York: Columbia University Press.
A conceptual history of classification and phylogenetics, mainly as related to plants. Focuses on the early development of ideas within biosystematics, with accompanying illustrations. Networks are effectively treated as variants of trees.

• Pietsch, Theodore W. (2012) Trees of Life: a Visual History of Evolution. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
A richly illustrated history of trees, with a few networks. Focuses on the illustrations, with some accompanying text. The best source to see what people have drawn in the way of trees, but weaker on networks.

• Minaka, Nobuhiro, and Sugiyama, Kunihiko (2012) Phylogeny Mandala: Chain, Tree, and Network. Tokyo: NTT Publishing.
In Japanese. Covers the development of the tree metaphor (with a few networks), as related to pedigrees, phylogenies, and knowledge representation in general. The breadth of the topic is indicated in the "mandala" of the title, which is "a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically".

• Archibald, J. David (2014) Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin’s Tree: The Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order. New York: Columbia University Press.
A conceptual history of trees, with a few networks. Focuses on the development of the ideas, with accompanying illustrations. Starts with pedigrees, and proceeds from there to phylogenies. The best coverage of phylogeny concepts, but explicitly treats networks as "trees with reticulations".
See also this later post:
More literature on trees and networks

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