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2007 | 52 | 2 | 75-102

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Edward Tangl (1848-1908)


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Edward Tangl (b. 1848 in Lwów (Lviv)) was originally interested in music, and even made some early attempts at musical composition. It was his father's naturalist passions that aroused Tangl's interest in botany. In 1865, he enrolled at the University of Lwów, Faculty of Philosophy. During his studies he developed an interest in plant anatomy and in 1870 he defended there a Ph.D. dissertation in botany. His special area of research was the perforation of vessels in higher (or vascular) plants. The results of this research was published as Tangl's habilitation dissertation defended at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Lwów. Afterwards, in the years 1871-1876, Tangl worked at that faculty as a Privatdozent in plant anatomy and physiology and later on (1874-1876) as a professor at the School of Farm Husbandry in Dublany. In 1875 he was one of founders of the Nicholaus Copernicus Polish Society of Naturalists. In 1876, Edward Tangl was nominated professor extraordinary in botany at the newly formed k.k. Franz-Josef-Universität at Chernivtsi (Tschernowitz) and in 1881 professor ordinary in botany and pharmacognosy. He founded (1877) the Botanical Gardens and the Institute of Botany of the University of Chernivtsi. In recognition for his contribution to the development of botany, and especially for his discovery of plasmodesmata, he was elected member of the German Botanical Society in Berlin, the Imperial Leopoldine-Caroline German Academy of Naturalists, and a full member of the Zoological-Botanical Society in Vienna. However, this organizational activity had a very harmful impact on his health. Edward Tangl died suddenly at Chernivtsi on July 9, 1905. The published research of Edward Tangl was not very voluminous (14 studies). His main area of research related to plant anatomy and cytology, and to a lesser degree to plant taxonomy. In 1879, at the age of 31, Tangl made a discovery that earned him a place in the annals of botany: namely, he detected intercellular strips (later called plasmodesmata) which held together cells in cotyledons of the plant Strychnos nux-vomica, and then in the endosperm of seeds. Tangl interpreted the strips he observed in all of those studies as plasmatic connections between protoplasts. He inferred this from the fact that the cells he investigated were situated in the path of intensive transport of nutrients. On this basis, he formulated the pioneering concept that intercellular connections integrate the functioning of cells in flowering plants, and form a new a quality out of such cells. The discovery of plasmodesmata made Edward Tangl's name part of the history of botany. The discovery involved a complete change in scientists' perception of plants: Tangl's discovery is comparable, with all due proportions, to the the discovery by Copernicus. Both discoveries have changed science's views: the former on the microcosm, the latter on the macrocosm. Edward Tangl published his only taxonomic work in 1883. He described in it a new genus of blue-green algae (Cyanophyta) - Plaxonema, and within the genus a new species, which he called Plaxonema oscillans. Tangl also contributed significantly to the study of plants in the region of Bukovina. Unfortunately, little is known of his research after 1886.










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  • P. Koehler, Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, Instytut Botaniki, ul. Lubicz 46, 31-512 Kraków, Poland


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