David Starr Jordan studied fish and promoted eugenics in the US during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his work, he embraced Charles Darwin s theory of evolution and described the importance of embryology in tracing phylogenic relationships. In 1891, he became the president of Stanford University in Stanford, California. Jordan condemned war and promoted conservationist causes for the California wilderness, and he advocated for the eugenic sterilization of thousands of Americans. Like many American eugenicists of the early twentieth century, Jordan combined ideas of Mendelian genetics and of Darwinian natural selection to form a basis for limiting or encouraging reproduction in certain individuals and groups based on their perceived hereditary fitness. Like other eugenicists, Jordan s attempt to control the reproductive fate of entire populations marked an episode in the history of reproduction and biology in which its concepts increasingly influenced the social and cultural contexts.

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. Gould suggests that, although fewer biologists invoked recapitulation theories in the twentieth century compared to those in the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries, some aspects of the theory of recapitulation remained important for understanding evolution. Gould notes that the concepts of acceleration and retardation during development entail that changes in developmental timing (heterochrony) can result in a trait appearing either earlier or later than normal in developmental processes. Gould argues that these changes in the timing of embryonic development provide the raw materials or novelties upon which natural selection acts.

In the early twentieth century, Paul Kammerer, a zoologist working at the Vivarium in Vienna, Austria, experimented on sea-squirts (Ciona intestinalis). Kammerer claimed that results from his experiments demonstrated that organisms could transmit characteristics that they had acquired in their lifetimes to their offspring. Kammerer conducted breeding experiments on sea-squirts and other organisms at a time when Charles Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution lacked evidence to explain how offspring inherited traits from their parents. In 1809, zoologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in France theorized that living beings can inherit the features their parents or ancestors acquired during those ancestor's lifetime, a theory called the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Kammerer attempted to provide evidence for the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics, which constituted, he argued, the mechanics of evolution. Kammerer claimed that his results could explain evolutionary processes through developmental phenomena.

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. Darwin shows how the theory of special creation, which claims that God directly created all organisms in their current form, is inferior to the theory of natural selection for its ability to explain the diversity of life. In this chapter, Darwin also discusses classification and homology as they relate to natural selection.

In nineteenth century Great Britain, Thomas Henry Huxley proposed connections between the development of organisms and their evolutionary histories, critiqued previously held concepts of homology, and promoted Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Many called him Darwin's Bulldog. Huxley helped professionalize and redefine British science. He wrote about philosophy, religion, and social issues, and researched and theorized in many biological fields. Huxley made several methodological contributions to both invertebrate and vertebrate embryology and development, and he helped shape the extra-scientific discourse for these fields.

In 1868 in England, Charles Darwin proposed his pangenesis theory to describe the units of inheritance between parents and offspring and the processes by which those units control development in offspring. Darwin coined the concept of gemmules, which he said referred to hypothesized minute particles of inheritance thrown off by all cells of the body. The theory suggested that an organism's environment could modify the gemmules in any parts of the body, and that these modified gemmules would congregate in the reproductive organs of parents to be passed on to their offspring. Darwin's theory of pangenesis gradually lost popularity in the 1890s when biologists increasingly abandoned the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics (IAC), on which the pangenesis theory partially relied. Around the turn of the twentieth century, biologists replaced the theory of pangenesis with germ plasm theory and then with chromosomal theories of inheritance, and they replaced the concept of gemmules with that of genes.

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