Article ID: CBB806685409

Revisiting Hans Böker’s "Species Transformation Through Reconstruction: Reconstruction Through Active Reaction of Organisms" (1935) (2021)

unapi

Against the common historiographic narratives of evolutionary biology, the first decades of the 20th century were theoretically far richer than usually assumed. This especially refers to the hitherto neglected role that early theoretical biologists played in introducing visionary research perspectives and concepts before the institutionalization of the Modern Synthesis. Here, we present one of these scholars, the German theoretical biologist and ecomorphologist Hans Böker (1886–1939), by reviewing his 1935 paper “Artumwandlung durch Umkonstruktion, Umkonstruktion durch aktives Reagieren der Organismen” ("Species Transformation Through Reconstruction: Reconstruction Through Active Reaction of Organisms"), published in the inaugural volume of the journal Acta Biotheoretica. While largely forgotten today, this work represents a melting pot of ideas that adumbrate some of today’s most lively debated empirical and conceptual topics in evolutionary biology: the active role of organisms as actors of their own evolution, environmental induction and phenotypic plasticity, genetic assimilation, as well as developmental bias. We discuss Böker’s views on how species change through (what he calls) "Umkonstruktion," and how such reconstruction is exerted through active reactions of organisms to environmental perturbations. In addition, we outline the aims and wider context of his "biological comparative anatomy," including Boker’s reprehensible political affiliation with the Nazi Party. Finally, we highlight some of the historical reasons for why Böker’s views did not have a larger impact in evolutionary biology, but we also recount some of the direct and indirect legacies of his approach in research areas such as ecomorphology and (Eco)EvoDevo. Böker’s paper is available as supplementary material in the online version of this article, as part of the journal's "Classics in Biological Theory" collection; the first translation of the paper into English, by Alexander Böhm and Jan Baedke, is also being published in this volume.

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Authors & Contributors
Fangerau, Heiner
Krischel, Matthis
Kolchinskii, Eduard I.
Olsson, Lennart
Hossfeld, Uwe
Gliboff, Sander Joel
Journals
Biology and Philosophy
Medizinhistorisches Journal
HOPOS
History of Psychology
History of the Human Sciences
History of Psychiatry
Publishers
Borei Art
European Association of Urology
Wallstein Verlag
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
W. W. Norton & Co.
Concepts
Nazism
Evolution
World War II
Philosophy of biology
Evolutionary developmental biology
Medicine and politics
People
Haeckel, Ernst
Franz, Victor
Hertwig, Oscar
Severtsov, Alekesei Nikolaevich
Russell, Edward Stuart
Rothacker, Erich
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
Places
Germany
Russia
Israel
United States
Institutions
The German Central Association of Homeopathic Physicians (DZVhA)
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