Article ID: CBB000550898

A Pact with the Embryo: Viktor Hamburger, Holistic and Mechanistic Philosophy in the Development of Neuroembryology, 1927--1955 (2004)


Viktor Hamburger was a developmental biologist interested in the ontogenesis of the vertebrate nervous system. A student of Hans Spemann at Freiburg in the 1920s, Hamburger picked up a holistic view of the embryo that precluded him from treating it in a reductionist way; at the same time, he was committed to a materialist and analytical approach that eschewed any form of vitalism or metaphysics. This paper explores how Hamburger walked this thin line between mechanistic reductionism and metaphysical vitalism in light of his work on the factors influencing growth of neurons into limb buds, and the discovery of nerve growth factor, work carried out with Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen.

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Authors & Contributors
Wahrig-Schmidt, Bettina
Esfeld, Michael-Andreas
Gerovitch, Slava
Erlingsson, Steindór J.
Didion, David M.
Terada, Motoichi
Journal of the History of Biology
Science in Context
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Foundations of Chemistry
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
University of Chicago
Cortina Editore
Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin
Mechanism; mechanical philosophy
Metaphors; analogies
Stahl, Georg Ernst
Hobbes, Thomas
Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich
Thoroddsen, Thorvaldur
Driesch, Hans Adolf Eduard
Helmont, Jan Baptista van
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
20th century, late
Soviet Union
Université de Montpellier
University of Chicago

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