Hennig, Emil Hans Willi (The Father of Cladism)

Abstract

Emil Hans Willi Hennig was a German systematist and entomologist. As a specialist in Diptera, he published a fundamental treatise on dipteran larvae and taxonomic monographs on several families. Hennig, however, is best known for his theoretical and methodological contributions to biological systematics. Indeed, he is considered the founder of phylogenetic systematics, or cladistics. Hennig articulated a method by which the evolutionary relationships of organisms (phylogeny) can be reconstructed and this reconstruction is subsequently turned into a hierarchical classification. This method contrasted with the mainstream approach to biological systematics adopted till the 1960s, but eventually succeeded to replace it, although in a modified version in respect to Hennig's original outline. Hennig's phylogenetic systematics has heavily impacted other biological disciplines, especially biogeography.

Keywords: cladistics; classification; phylogeny; species; tree of life

Figure 1.

Willi Hennig. Courtesy of Prof. Dr. Michael Schmitt, Greifswald. © Prof. Dr. Michael Schmitt.

Figure 2.

A page from a notebook dated 1944, documenting Willi Hennig's early studies on phylogenetics. Courtesy of Dr. Gerd Hennig, Tübingen, with permission of Brill, Leiden. © Brill.

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Further Reading

Andersen NM (2001) The impact of W. Hennig's ‘phylogenetic systematic’ on contemporary entomology. European Journal of Entomology 98(2): 133–150.

Dupuis C (1984) Willi Hennig's impact on taxonomic thought. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 15: 1–25.

Hennig W (1975) ‘Cladistic analysis or cladistic classification?’: a reply to Ernst Mayr. Systematic Zoology 25(2): 244–256.

Kavanaugh DH (1972) Hennig's principles and methods of phylogenetic systematics. Biologist 54: 115–127.

Schmitt M (2013) From Taxonomy to Phylogenetics. Life and work of Willi Hennig. Leiden‐Boston: Brill.

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How to Cite close
Minelli, Alessandro(Jan 2014) Hennig, Emil Hans Willi (The Father of Cladism). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025061]