Article ID: CBB001510269

Images of Cell Trees, Cell Lines, and Cell Fates: The Legacy of Ernst Haeckel and August Weismann in Stem Cell Research (2014)


Stem cells did not become a proper research object until the 1960s. Yet the term and the basic mind-set---namely the conception of single undifferentiated cells, be they embryonic or adult, as the basic units responsible for a directed process of development, differentiation and increasing specialisation---were already in place at the end of the nineteenth century and then transmitted on a non-linear path in the form of tropes and diagrams. Ernst Haeckel and August Weismann played a special role in this story. The first coined the term Stammzelle (stem cell), the second was the author of the first cellular stem-tree diagram. Even today, I shall argue, the understanding of stem cells, especially the popular perception, is to a large extent a Haeckelian--Weismannian one. After having demonstrated this, by analysing the terminology, in this essay I will focus on the use of cytogenetic tree diagrams between 1892 and 1925 and on the tacit understanding of stem cells that they transmit.

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Authors & Contributors
Churchill, Frederick B.
Weismann, August
Risler, Helmut
Kirsh, Nurit
Dietrich, Michael R.
Haig, David
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Biology and Philosophy
Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology
Journal of the History of Biology
Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg
University of Chicago Press
University of Minnesota
Human genetics
Science and race
National Socialism
Weismann, August
Lang, Theo
Goldschmidt, Richard Benedict
Stern, Curt
Darlington, Cyril Dean
Maupas, Emile
United States
20th century
19th century
21st century
20th century, late
20th century, early
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Anthropologie, Menschliche Erblehre und Eugenik
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften

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