Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig contributed to embryology through his studies of cells in development and his discovery that only one spermatozoon is necessary to fertilize an egg. He was born 21 April 1849 to Elise Trapp and Carl Hertwig in Hessen, Germany. After his brother Richard was born the family moved to Muhlhausen in Thuringen where the boys were educated. The two brothers later attended the university in Jena from 1868 to 1888 and studied under Ernst Haeckel, who later convinced Hertwig to leave chemistry and pursue medicine.
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.