From "Periodical Observations" to "Anthochronology" and "Phenology" - the scientific debate between Adolphe Quetelet and Charles Morren on the origin of the word "Phenology".

Int J Biometeorol 2011 Nov 30;55(6):753-61. Epub 2011 Jun 30.

Royal Meteorological Institute, Brussels, Belgium.

Mankind has observed and documented life cycle stages of plants and animals for a long time. However, it was comparatively recently that the newly emerging science was given its name. The name of Charles Morren and the year 1853 are being cited, although not frequently. Exact information is hardly known among present-day phenologists, yet new evidence shows that the term "phenology" was already in use in 1849. In the early 1840s, physicist and astronomer Adolphe Quetelet set up an observational network named "Observations of periodical Phenomena of the Animal and Vegetable Kingdom" and issued instructions for it. Even though biologist Charles Morren welcomed Quetelet's initiative, differences between Morren and Quentlet regarding the instructions for the observations and the potential results soon arose and a debate started, which lasted for nearly 10 years. In the wake of these disagreements, Morren was compelled to create a new term to denote his ideas on "periodical phenomena". At first, he temporally used the word anthochronology, but in the end he coined the word phenology. The term was first used in a public lecture at the Académie royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique' in Brussels on 16 December 1849, and simultaneously in the December 1849 issue of volume V of the Annales de la Société royale d'Agriculture et de Botanique de Gand. One had to wait until 1853 before the new name appeared in the title of one of Morren's publications. Based on evidence from archives and original publications, we trace the 10-year-long scientific debate between Morren and Quetelet. Morren states his biologist's view on the subject and extends the more climate-related definition of Quetelet of "periodical phenomena".

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November 2011
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