Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ernst Haeckel

Forms of a controversial man.
A mad scientist, an amazing illustrator, the father of ecology, a charlatan. Meet Ernst Haeckel and his embryonic world.

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (February 16, 1834August 8, 1919), also written von Haeckel, was an eminent German biologist and philosopher who promoted Charles Darwin's work in Germany. Haeckel was a zoologist, an accomplished artist and illustrator, and later a professor of comparative anatomy. He was one of the first to consider psychology as a branch of physiology. He also proposed many now ubiquitous terms including "phylum" and "ecology." His chief interests lay in evolution and life development processes in general, including development of nonrandom form, which culminated in the beautifully illustrated Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of nature).

Haeckel advanced the "recapitulation theory" which proposed a link between ontogeny (development of form) and phylogeny (evolutionary descent), summed up in the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". He supported the theory with embryo drawings that have since been shown to be inaccurate, and the theory is no longer generally accepted.

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