Thesis ID: CBB001567645

Lessons from Embryos: Haeckel's Embryo Drawings, Evolution, and Secondary Biology Textbooks (2014)


Wellner, Karen L. (Author)

Maienschein, Jane
Ellison, Karin D.
Robert, Jason S.
Arizona State University
Ellison, Karin D.
Creath, Richard
Robert, Jason S.
Laubichler, Manfred Dietrich
Creath, Richard

Publication Date: 2014
Edition Details: Advisor: Maienschein, Jane; Committee Members: Ellison, Karin D., Creath, Richard, Robert, Jason S., Laubichler, Manfred D.
Physical Details: 237 pp.
Language: English

In 1997, developmental biologist Michael Richardson compared his research team's embryo photographs to Ernst Haeckel's 1874 embryo drawings and called Haeckel's work "noncredible". Science soon published "Haeckel's Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered," and Richardson's comments further reinvigorated criticism of Haeckel by others with articles in The American Biology Teacher, "Haeckel's Embryos and Evolution: Setting the Record Straight " and the New York Times, "Biology Text Illustrations more Fiction than Fact." Meanwhile, others emphatically stated that the goal of comparative embryology was not to resurrect Haeckel's work. At the center of the controversy was Haeckel's no-longer-accepted idea of recapitulation. Haeckel believed that the development of an embryo revealed the adult stages of the organism's ancestors. Haeckel represented this idea with drawings of vertebrate embryos at similar developmental stages. This is Haeckel's embryo grid, the most common of all illustrations in biology textbooks. Yet, Haeckel's embryo grids are much more complex than any textbook explanation. I examined 240 high school biology textbooks, from 1907 to 2010, for embryo grids. I coded and categorized the grids according to accompanying discussion of (a) embryonic similarities (b) recapitulation, (c) common ancestors, and (d) evolution. The textbooks show changing narratives. Embryo grids gained prominence in the 1940s, and the trend continued until criticisms of Haeckel reemerged in the late 1990s, resulting in (a) grids with fewer organisms and developmental stages or (b) no grid at all. Discussion about embryos and evolution dropped significantly.


Description Cited in Dissertation Abstracts International-B 75/08(E), Feb 2015. Proquest Document ID: 1535787144.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Hopwood, Nick; Haeckel, Ernst; (2015)
Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud (/isis/citation/CBB001422708/) unapi

Chapter Wells, Jonathan; (2003)
Haeckel's Embryos and Evolution: Setting the Record Straight (/isis/citation/CBB000501890/) unapi

Article Hopwood, Nick; (2006)
Pictures of Evolution and Charges of Fraud: Ernst Haeckel's Embryological Illustrations (/isis/citation/CBB000670195/) unapi

Article Richards, Robert J.; (2005)
Ernst Haeckel and the Struggles over Evolution and Religion (/isis/citation/CBB000933659/) unapi

Chapter Morton, Marsha; (2009)
From Monera to Man: Ernst Haeckel, Darwinismus, and Nineteenth-Century German Art (/isis/citation/CBB001035101/) unapi

Article Wegener, Daan; (2011)
“Das politische Welträtsel”: Ernst Haeckel en het Duitse liberalisme 1859--1900 (/isis/citation/CBB001251338/) unapi

Thesis Gliboff, Sander Joel; (2001)
The pebble and the planet: Paul Kammerer, Ernst Haeckel, and the meaning of Darwinism (/isis/citation/CBB001562605/) unapi

Article Patton, Paul; (2014)
Ludwig Edinger: The Vertebrate Series and Comparative Neuroanatomy (/isis/citation/CBB001551843/) unapi

Article Grell, Karl G.; (1979)
Die Gastraea-Theorie (/isis/citation/CBB000003179/) unapi

Article Rinard, Ruth G.; (1981)
The problem of the organic individual: Ernst Haeckel and the development of the biogenetic law (/isis/citation/CBB000011932/) unapi

Article Depew, David J.; (2010)
Darwinian Controversies: An Historiographical Recounting (/isis/citation/CBB001032812/) unapi

Book Stuart Mathieson; (2020)
Evangelicals and the Philosophy of Science: The Victoria Institute, 1865-1939 (/isis/citation/CBB676582188/) unapi

Article Henning Hufnagel; Nick Hopwood; Frank Jäger; Nicolas Wanlin; (2016)
Kreatives Kopieren: Ernst Haeckels Embryonenbilder (/isis/citation/CBB488755501/) unapi

Article Edwards, Laura Hyatt; (2013)
A Brief Conceptual History of Einfühlung: 18th-Century Germany to Post-World War II U.S. Psychology (/isis/citation/CBB001213767/) unapi

Article Oppenheimer, Jane M.; (1982)
Ernst Heinrich Haeckel as an intermediary in the transmutation of an idea (/isis/citation/CBB000019934/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Hopwood, Nick
Salter, Daniel
Gliboff, Sander Joel
Lynn, Laura
Dawidowicz, Paula
Grell, Karl G.
Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology
Medizinhistorisches Journal
Journal of the History of Biology
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science and Education
MIT Press
University of Chicago Press
Johns Hopkins University
Walden University
Controversies and disputes
Scientific illustration
Haeckel, Ernst
Darwin, Charles Robert
Bronn, Heinrich Georg
Zacharias, Otto
Edinger, Ludwig
Kammerer, Paul
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
21st century
18th century
United States
Great Britain
London (England)
Ernst-Haeckel-Haus, Jena
Victoria Institute

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment