ISSN 1063-0740, Russian Journal of Marine Biology, 2007, Vol. 33, No. 5, pp. 273–277. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
Original Russian Text © J.C. Briggs, 2007, published in Biologiya Morya.
Panbiogeography may be described as an offshoot
from the traditional mainstream biogeography that has
been practiced since Darwin’s time. Its creator was
Leon Croizat, a proliﬁc and apparently self-taught bot-
anist who set out to revolutionize biogeography and
evolution. The reason he attempted such an ambitious
project may be attributable, to at least some extent, to
events that occurred in his early life. His only biogra-
phy is a brief account that was written by R.C. Craw in
1984. Croizat was born in Turin, Italy on July 16, 1894.
As a child, he was fascinated by natural history but
when he enrolled at the University of Turin, he decided
to study law.
Croizat’s studies were interrupted by the First World
War, during which he served in the Italian Army from
1914–1919, attaining the rank of captain. He received
his law degree in 1920. During the war, he had married
and by 1921 he was the head of a family with two chil-
He actively opposed Fascism and, faced with
threats, was forced to leave Italy. In 1923, the Croizat
family emigrated to the United States. They landed at
New York only to face long years of hardship and pov-
erty. He tried to succeed as a watercolor artist but the
great depression of 1929–1930 dried up the American
market for art.
Croizat’s fortune began to change as the result of his
frequent visits to the New York Botanical Gardens.
He started to do research there and became acquainted
with the director E.D. Merrill. In 1936, Merrill was
appointed Director of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard
University and he offered Croizat a job as a technical
assistant. In the meantime, beginning in 1930, Croizat
had started publishing botanical papers, mainly on
Euphorbiaceae and Cactaceae. At Harvard, Croizat
complained about censorship and lost his regular job
but Merrill kept him on because of his language skills.
This turned out to be a boon for Croizat, for now he had
plenty of time to spend in the library and on his own
Thanks to his 10 years at Harvard, Croizat became
well versed in the botanical and biogeographic litera-
ture. He accumulated three to four hundred booklets of
notes which formed a reference base for his later books
and many of his papers. Merrill lost his directorship of
the Arboretum in 1946 and Croizat was dismissed
shortly afterward. Unable to ﬁnd another post in the
United States, Croizat obtained a scientiﬁc job in Cara-
cas, Venezuela. During this time, he became divorced
and then remarried in 1953. Encouraged by his new
wife, he gave up his academic positions to work full
time on his biological research. From 1930–1952, Cro-
izat published more than 100 small papers dealing
mainly with botanical systematics. But the year 1952
marked the publication of his ﬁrst major work, “Manual
of Phytogeography or an Account of Plant Dispersal
throughout the World” (The Hague: Junk, 1952, 696 pp.).
The book had been written by the time he landed in
The criticism he received from reviewers of his phy-
togeography may have convinced Croizat to publish his
subsequent books privately. He was an authoritative
Panbiogeography: Its Origin, Metamorphosis and Decline
J. C. Briggs
Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
Received May 17, 2007.
—From the viewpoint of 2007, one can trace the history of an interesting and contentious trend in bio-
geography and evolution that began with Croizat’s concept of panbiogeography in 1958. After a quiescent
period of about 16 years, some young biologists in New York and in New Zealand read Croizat’s books and
became enthusiastic supporters of his ideas. In New York, in the early 1970s, panbiogeography was combined
with a part of Hennig’s phylogenetic method to create vicariance biogeography. In 1986, the name of the latter
was changed to cladistic biogeography. In the meantime, Croizat’s followers in New Zealand sought to maintain
panbiogeography in its original form without reference to phylogeny. This idea reached its peak of popularity
in 1989–1990 and then began to fade. In comparison, cladistic biogeography became much more widespread,
especially when its followers began publishing laudatory books and papers. Its decline became noticeable after
the turn of the century as the dispersal counterrevolution began to have its effect. It served a useful purpose by
engaging the interest of young biologists who otherwise may not have become aware of biogeography.
evolution theory, panbiogeography, history.