Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 169–199 | Cite as

Camels, Cormorants, and Kangaroo Rats: Integration and Synthesis in Organismal Biology After World War II

  • Joel B. HagenEmail author


During the decades following World War II diverse groups of American biologists established a variety of distinctive approaches to organismal biology. Rhetorically, organismal biology could be used defensively to distinguish established research traditions from perceived threats from newly emerging fields such as molecular biology. But, organismal biologists were also interested in integrating biological disciplines and using a focus on organisms to synthesize levels of organization from molecules and cells to populations and communities. Part of this broad movement was the development of an area of research variously referred to as physiological ecology, environmental physiology, or ecophysiology. This area of research was distinctive in its self-conscious blend of field and laboratory practices and its explicit integration with other areas of biology such as ecology, animal behavior, and evolution in order to study adaptation. Comparing the intersecting careers of Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and George Bartholomew highlights two strikingly different approaches to physiological ecology. These alternative approaches to studying the interactions of organisms and environments also differed in important ways from the organismal biology championed by leading figures in the modern synthesis.


Physiological ecology Comparative physiology Organism Organismal biology Adaptation Homeostasis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyRadford UniversityRadfordUSA

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