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Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876)

Best known for his contributions to the field of embryology, Karl Ernst von Baer also pursued a variety of other areas of study including medicine, botany, zoology, and anthropology. Committing his life to scientific research, von Baer's work led to the advancement of the understanding of mammalian reproduction, development, and organ functioning. His embryological discoveries ultimately led him to a view of development that supported epigenesis and refuted long-held thinking about preformation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Karl Ernst von Baer's Laws of Embryology

In 1828, while working at the University of Konigsberg in Konigsberg, Germany Karl Ernst von Baer proposed four laws of animal development, which came to be called von Baer's laws of embryology. With these laws, von Baer described the development (ontogeny) of animal embryos while also critiquing popular theories of animal development at the time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi (1827), by Karl Ernst von Baer

De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi (On the Genesis of the Ovum of Mammals and of Men) is an 1827 pamphlet by Karl Ernst von Baer about the anatomical observation and description of the egg (ovum) of mammals, like dogs and humans. The pamphlet detailed evidence for the existence of the ovum at the beginning of the developmental process in mammals.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig (1850-1937)

Karl Wilhelm Theodor Richard von Hertwig is an important figure in the history of embryology for his contributions of artificial hybridization of sea urchin eggs and the formulation of his coelom theory. He was born 23 September 1850 in Friedelberg, Germany, to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig. Richard and his older brother Oscar began their studies at Jena under the direction of Ernst Haeckel from 1868 to 1871. In 1872 Hertwig became a lecturer in zoology at Jena while Oscar lectured in anatomy and embryology.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ernst Haeckel's Biogenetic Law (1866)

The biogenetic law is a theory of development and evolution proposed by Ernst Haeckel in Germany in the 1860s. It is one of several recapitulation theories, which posit that the stages of development for an animal embryo are the same as other animals' adult stages or forms. Commonly stated as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the biogenetic law theorizes that the stages an animal embryo undergoes during development are a chronological replay of that species' past evolutionary forms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

Julius von Sachs (1832-1897)

Julius von Sachs helped establish plant physiology through his experiments in latter nineteenth-century Germany. Sachs infused the inchoate discipline of plant physiology with experimental techniques and a mechanistic stance, both of which cemented his place as one of the discipline s founders. Sachs trained a generation of plant physiologists, and his stress on experimentation and mechanism influenced biologists in other disciplines, especially embryologist Jacques Loeb.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Karl Landsteiner (1868-1943)

Karl Landsteiner studied blood types in Europe and in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Landsteiner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1930 for detailing immunological reactions in the ABO blood group system. The ABO blood group system divides human blood into one of four types based on the antibodies that are present on each cell. Landsteiner's work with blood types led physicians to safely perform blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Origin of Species: "Chapter Thirteen: Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs" (1859), by Charles R. Darwin

Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs is the thirteenth chapter of Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species, first published in England in 1859. The book details part of Darwin's argument for the common ancestry of life and natural selection as the cause of speciation. In this chapter, Darwin summarizes the evidence for evolution by connecting observations of development in organisms to the processes of natural selection.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

August Karl Gustav Bier (1861–1949)

In the late nineteenth century, August Karl Gustav Bier was a surgeon in Germany who studied spinal cord anesthesia, later called spinal block. Bier found that, depending upon the amount of anesthesia introduced into the spinal cord, a large area of the human body could be numbed to various degrees. Bier established a procedure to numb individuals from the lower legs to the upper abdomen, with the individual’s numbness ranging from them feeling pressure on their body to them feeling nothing at all.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme" (1979), by Stephen J. Gould and Richard C. Lewontin

The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm:
A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme, hereafter called
The Spandrels, is an article written by Stephen J. Gould and
Richard C. Lewontin published in the Proceedings of the Royal
Society of London in 1979. The paper emphasizes issues with
what the two authors call adaptationism or the adaptationist
programme as a framework to explain how species and traits evolved. The paper
is one in a series of works in which Gould emphasized the

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories

Berthold Karl Hölldobler (1936– )

Berthold Karl Hölldobler studied social insects like ants in Europe and the US during the twentieth and early twenty-first century. He focused on the social behavior of ants, the evolutionary origins of social insects, and the way ants use chemicals to communicate with each other. Hölldobler’s research reached popular audiences through his co-authored Pulitzer Prize winning book The Ants and through an award winning nature documentary called Ameisen: Die heimliche Weltmacht (Ants: Nature’s Secret Power).

Format: Articles

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (1834-1919)

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel was a prominent comparative anatomist and active lecturer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is most well known for his descriptions of phylogenetic trees, studies of radiolarians, and illustrations of vertebrate embryos to support his biogenetic law and Darwin's work with evolution. Haeckel aggressively argued that the development of an embryo repeats or recapitulates the progressive stages of lower life forms and that by studying embryonic development one could thus study the evolutionary history of life on earth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ernst Fischer

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Format: Photographs

Ernst T. Huber

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Format: Photographs

Subject: People

Ernst Wolfe

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Format: Photographs

Subject: People

Christian Heinrich Pander (1794-1865)

Christian Heinrich Pander, often remembered as the father of embryology, also explored the fields of osteology, zoology, geology, and anatomy. He was born in Riga, Latvia, on 24 July 1794. Pander, with an eclectic history of research, is best remembered for his discovery and explanation of the structure of the chick blastoderm, a term he coined. In doing so, Pander was able to achieve the goal set forth by his teacher, Ignaz Döllinger, to reinvigorate the study of the chick embryo as a means of further exploring the science of embryology as a whole.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Karl Heider

Inscriptions on image: Front, top: “2201c” Bottom: Karl Heider / Prof der Zoologie an der / Universitat Berlin, 1932”

Format: Photographs

Subject: People

"The Cell-Theory" (1853), by Thomas Henry Huxley

The Cell-Theory was written by Thomas Henry Huxley in Britain and published in 1853 by The British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review. The twenty-two page article reviews twelve works on cell theory, including those in Germany by Caspar Friedrich Wolff in the eighteenth century and by Karl Ernst von Baer in the nineteenth century. Huxley spends much of The Cell-Theory on a cell theory proposed in the late 1830s by Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann in Germany.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Process of Eukaryotic Embryonic Development

All sexually reproducing, multicellular diploid eukaryotes begin life as embryos. Understanding the stages of embryonic development is vital to explaining how eukaryotes form and how they are related on the tree of life. This understanding can also help answer questions related to morphology, ethics, medicine, and other pertinent fields of study. In particular, the field of comparative embryology is concerned with documenting the stages of ontogeny.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777)

Victor Albrecht von Haller was an 18th century scientist who did extensive work in the life sciences, including anatomy and physiology, botany, and developmental biology. His embryological work consisted of experiments in understanding the process of generation, and led him to adopt the model of preformationism called ovism (the idea that the new individual exists within the maternal egg prior to conception). Haller was born in Bern, Switzerland, on 16 October, 1708. His mother was Anna Maria Engel, and his father was Niklaus Emanuel Haller.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

John von Neumann (1903-1957)

John von Neumann was a Hungarian mathematician who made important contributions to mathematics, physics, computer science, and the area of artificial life. He was born in Budapest, Hungary, on 28 December 1903. His mother was Margit von Neumann and his father was Max von Neumann. His work on artificial life focused on the problem of the self-reproduction of machines. Von Neumann initially discussed self-reproducing machines in his Hixon Symposium paper "The General and Logical Theory of Automata" published in 1948.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Gunther von Hagens (1945- )

Gunther von Hagens invented a plastination technique and created Body Worlds, a traveling exhibit that has made anatomy part of the public domain. Von Hagens invented the plastination technique in 1977 while working at Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany. Von Hagen's plastination technique preserves real bodies and tissues by the removal of the fluid and replacement with resin. Body Worlds features three-dimensional, plastinated human bodies.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Outreach, Reproduction

Julia Barlow Platt's Embryological Observations on Salamanders' Cartilage (1893)

In 1893, Julia Barlow Platt published her research on the origins of cartilage in the developing head of the common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) embryo. The mudpuppy is an aquatic salamander commonly used by embryologists because its large embryonic cells and nuclei are easy to see. Platt followed the paths of cells in developing mudpuppy embryos to see how embryonic cells migrated during the formation of the head. With her research, Platt challenged then current theories about germ layers, the types of cells in an early embryo that develop into adult cells.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments, Theories, Processes

Karl Oskar Illmensee (1939–)

Karl Oskar Illmensee studied the cloning and reproduction of fruit flies, mice, and humans in the US and Europe during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Illmensee used nuclear transfer techniques (cloning) to create early mouse embryos from adult mouse cells, a technique biologists used in later decades to help explain how embryonic cells function during development. In the early 1980s, Illmensee faced accusations of fraud when others were unable to replicate the results of his experiments with cloned mouse embryos.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, People

Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), by Stephen Jay Gould

Ontogeny and Phylogeny is a book published in 1977, in which the author Stephen J. Gould, who worked in the US, tells a history of the theory of recapitulation. A theory of recapitulation aims to explain the relationship between the embryonic development of an organism (ontogeny) and the evolution of that organism's species (phylogeny). Although there are several variations of recapitulationist theories, most claim that during embryonic development an organism repeats the adult stages of organisms from those species in it's evolutionary history.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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