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Larry Knox is right about the forgetfulness aspect in crediting those
who were really first. I suspect we'll even find references somewhere
prior to de Laubenfels in 1956. Heck, da Vinci wrote a sci-fi story
about a great flood wiping things out and I suspect thought about
planetary bodies doing the same. When I first met Dave Raup in 1975, he
mentioned in a conversation that a few years earlier he had tested the
idea of an impact causing extinctions through simulations and his data
base. He concluded it was not significant but was uncomfortable with
that conclusion. George McGhee, during the conversation, pointed out
that Raup only wiped out the taxa in the immediate kill zone and did not
consider auxillary effects and suggested he go back and do that. Shame he
didn't, not that his career needs any more kudos. The point should be that
de L. be recognized and the Alvarez' given credit for resurrecting the
debate and starting the new drive toward data gathering. Theories are a
bit like speciation. New species arise all the time - probably lots
per year on individual big trees in the Amazon. If they never disperse
beyond that one tree or are wiped out, however, they really never make
much of a dent in their ecosystem. de L's suggestion predated much of
the technology needed to gather data to support it. That was the key
in the later case with the Alvarez - not that their data was given more
oomph because it was spit out of a computer but because the technology
was needed to really develop the data. So they all should get credit
for their parts. It's very much like Wegener and continental drift - it
was more annecdotal until technology caught up and allowed the data to
be gathered en masse.

Ralph Chapman, NMNH