History of Ecology
The roots of ecology lie in Natural History, which is as old as human civilisation itself. As a matter of fact man indulged in ecology in a practical sort of way, though unknowingly, since early history. In primitive societies every individual was required to have intimate knowledge of his environment for survival, i.e., of the forces of nature and of plants and animals around him. Primitive tribes, which were dependent on hunting, fishing and food gathering needed detailed knowledge of their environment to obtain their sustenance. Later, the adoption of settled agricultural life further stressed the need to learn practical ecology for the successful domestication of plants and animals. Our ancient Indian texts are full of references to ecological principles. The classical texts of the Vedic period (1500 BC-600 BC) such as the Vedas, the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas-Upanishads contain many references to ecological concepts.Theophrastus (370-250 BC) was the first person to introduce ecological approach long before the term ecology was coined. He studied plant types and forms in relation to altitude, moisture and light exposure.After a gap of several centuries European mWsts made significant contribution to ecological thinking. The French Naturalist Georges Buffon (1707-1788) in his book Natural History (1756) made a serious attempt to systematise the knowledge concerning the relation of animals to environment.
In the early eighteenth century Anton-van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), the microscopist, pioneered the study of food chain and population regulation which have grown into the major areas of modern ecology.In 1935 a distinguished British botanist, Sir Arthur Tansley introduced the concept of the ecosystem or ecological system. This was a major development in the history of ecology.By the 1940s there was sufficient ecological infornation of the descriptive and observational kind. There was now a need for precise determination of the behaviour and distribution of plants (individually or in groups) in relation to specific environmental factors. This led to the experimental approach (1940- 1965). Extensive synecological studies were canied out on forest and grassland communities and autecological studies on trees, herbs hd grasses under the guidance of Prof. R. Misra, who established a flourishing school of ecology at the Banaras Hindu University, by the 1960s.