Pioneering evolutionist Ledyard Stebbins dies at age 94

Editors: An excellent 1989 color photograph of G. Ledyard Stebbins at Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is available.

University of California, Davis, professor G. Ledyard Stebbins, so brilliant that his theories on plant evolution established the discipline, yet so chronically absorbed in his thoughts that he once drove 120 miles without noticing a dead rattlesnake on the hood of his car, died Wednesday at his Davis home. He was 94.

"There's no doubt whatsoever that UC Davis' fame in the general field of genetics and evolutionary biology rests squarely on the shoulders of Ledyard Stebbins," said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "He has long been recognized internationally as a major leader and pioneer in the biological sciences. His passing will be mourned by his many friends and colleagues here and around the world."

"He was certainly the world's leading expert on plant evolution," said Francisco Ayala, Bren Professor of Ecology at UC Irvine and Stebbins' longtime friend and professional colleague.

Stebbins became a professor of genetics at UC Davis in 1950, just after he published "Variation and Evolution in Plants." It was one of four texts considered to be the classics that formulate the modern theory of evolution, Ayala said. A national symposium revisiting the contributions of that text will be held at UC Irvine next week and Stebbins had planned to attend, even though he had been ill with cancer since May. A speech in tribute to Stebbins will be made by eminent botanist Peter Raven, Engelmann Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis.

The seeds of Stebbins' lifelong passion for nature were planted on walks with his mother, who taught her children the names and songs of birds, and with his father, who took the children prowling through Atlantic tide pools. At Harvard University in 1925, Stebbins was introduced to Darwin's theory of evolution. As a junior the following year, he decided to bec

Contact: Sylvia Wright
University of California - Davis

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