The Theory of Evolutionary Recapitulation in the Context of Transcendental Morphology

in The Meaning of Evolution

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 1992 | ISBN: 9780226712024
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226712055 | DOI:
The Theory of Evolutionary Recapitulation in the Context of Transcendental Morphology

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This chapter focuses on the theory of recapitulation, which by 1820s, had gained a strong hold in the imagination of German biologists and guided their imaginations as they moved through the realms of transcendental morphology. Despite the predominantly German provenance, an Englishman, John Hunter, first shaped the idea of recapitulation into an identifiable form. According to him, if one takes a series of animals from perfect to imperfect, one should probably find an imperfect animal corresponding with some stage of the most perfect. Karl Friedrich Kielmeyer alluded vaguely to comparable stages in the early embryogenesis of men and birds and remarked that sense organs appeared in the individual in almost the same manner as in the series of lower organisms. Thus, Kielmeyer insisted on a fundamental constituent of recapitulation. His theory asserted that the laws governing the evolution of species were the same as those governing the evolution of embryos.

Keywords: theory of recapitulation; transcendental morphology; John Hunter; Karl Friedrich Kielmeyer; early embryogenesis

Chapter.  12841 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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