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early debate on the nature of lichens was heated

  • 03 Dec 2022 1:11 PM
    Message # 13012154

    Interesting to read the following from p. xxiv in Lichens by Annie Lorrain Smith (1921):

    The announcement by Schwendener of the dual hypothesis solved the problem for most students, though the relation between the two symbionts is still a subject of controversy. The explanation given by Schwendener and still held by some, that lichens were merely fungi parasitic on algae, was indeed a very inadequate conception of the lichen plant, and it was hotly contested by various lichenologists. Lauder Lindsay dismissed the theory as “merely the most recent instance of German transcendentalism applied to the Lichens.” Earlier still, Nylander, in a paper dealing with cephalodia and their peculiar gonidia, had denounced it: “Locum sic suum dignum occupat algolichenomachia inter historias ridiculas, quae hodie haud paucae circa lichenes, majore imaginatione quam scientia enarrantur.” He nerver changed his attitude and Crombie, wholly agreeing with his estimate of these “absurd tales,” translates a much later pronouncement by him: “All these allegations belong to inept Schwendenerism and scarcely deserve even to be reviewed or castigated so puerile are they – the offspring of inexperience and of a light imagination. No true science there.” Crombie himself in a first paper on this subject declared that “the new theory would necessitate their degradation from the position they have so long held as an independent class.” He scornfully rejected the whole subject as “a Romance of Lichenology, or the unnatural union between a captive Algal damsel and a tyrant Fungal master.”

    from the Latin by Google Translate - “Algolichenomachy thus takes its rightful place among the funny stories which today are told not a few about lichens, with more imagination than science.”

    The entire book is online at reproduced from the original artifact, and bit more legible at It is inexpensive to acquire  a copy, while a 1st edition goes for $129. (My copy of Smith’s book, republished in 1975 with introductory matter and supplementary index by D. L. Hawksworth, had formerly resided in the Laredo Junior College Library.)

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