Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ernst Haeckel

I felt like revisiting the famous drawing by German biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), which illustrates his theory of embryonic development--since refuted--in which "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." In other words, he believed that embryos evidence earlier stages of evolution during development, which would explain why human embryos have tails. I found the image I was looking for, but also a number of beautiful illustrations from his scientific monographs. And a little reading revealed that Haeckel suggested correctly, after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, that the first human ancestral remains would be found in the Dutch East Indies, thus spurring the discovery of Java Man (later classified as Homo erectus) by one of his students.

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