FRANK EDWIN EGLER was born in New York City in 1911. As early as 1926, he began studies of the vegetation of his family’s summer home in the hills of Norfolk, Connecticut. In 1943, he made this his home, called it Aton Forest (after the Egyptian sun-god of Pharaoh Akh-en-aton), and committed himself to over fifty years of low-key, long-term, studies of natural processes on this 1,100-acre tract. In 1968 Frank married Happy Kitchell Hamilton of Greenwich, a noted photographer and conservationist. They enjoyed a wonderful decade together until her death in 1978. Frank died on December 26, 1996, having been incapacitated by a stroke the previous October.

Frank traveled widely, and had published five books (three others were completed or in progress at his death, along with a variety of other manuscripts), and some 400 professional papers on vegetation change and right-of-way management.In 1990 he created Aton Forest, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit educational and scientific organization, to ensure the perpetuation of the Aton Forest lands and the studies he initiated there. Frank’s academic training included private schools in New York; an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1932 under Henry C. Cowles; a Master's degree in 1934 under W. S. Cooper at the University of Minnesota; and a Ph. D. in 1936 under C. F. Nichols at Yale. His professors were among the leading ecologists of the early twentieth century.

Frank taught plant sciences briefly at several universities, consulted widely, and was active in several conservation controversies. Philosophically, Frank followed many of the viewpoints of Henry Allan Gleason of the New York Botanical Garden, and saw plants respond to environmental change according to their own tolerance limits, and with changing and unpredictable distributional patterns over long time spans. This made him a life-long outspoken critic of F. E. Clements’s model of ecological change, one that postulated a "climatic climax" end-point for vegetation types, a determinist model that can still be found represented in present-day ecology. He even advertised a $10,000 award to anyone who could demonstrate that "plant succession to climax" actually existed. He had no takers.

Frank continued his vigorous defense of his own ideas until the end, but in the meantime his ideas have been finding a home in the New Paradigm in Science: a view of Nature as complex, multidimensional systems. He was truly ahead of his time in many ways, ways his friends and colleagues shall continue to appreciate as they remember his warmth and brilliance.

Dr. Egler's ESA Award

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