advanced the "recapitulation theory" which proposed a
link between ontogeny (development of form) and phylogeny (evolutionary
descent), summed up in the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny".
He supported the theory with embryo drawings that have since been
shown to be inaccurate, and the theory is no longer generally accepted.
was also known for his "biogenic theory", in which he
suggested that the development of races paralleled the development
of individuals. He advocated the idea that "primitive"
races were in their infancies and needed the "supervision"
and "protection" of more "mature" societies.
extrapolated a new religion or philosophy called Monism from evolutionary
science. In Monism, all economics, politics, and ethics are reduced
to "applied biology." His writings and lectures on Monism
provided scientific (or quasi-scientific) justifications for racism,
nationalism and social Darwinism. It has even been argued that
monism thus became the de facto religion of Nazi Germany. Other
scholars disagree, arguing that Nazi ideology was not comfortable
with evolutionary theory, which argues for a common descent of
all human races.
was a flamboyant figure whose was more popular with the public
than with his scientific peers. He sometimes took great (and non-scientific)
leaps from available evidence. For example, at the time that Darwin
first published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,
no remains of human ancestors had yet been found. Haeckel postulated
that evidence of human evolution would be found in the Dutch East
Indies (now Indonesia), and described these theoretical remains
in great detail. He even named the as-of-yet unfound species,
Pithecanthropus alalus, and charged his students to go find it.
one of them did so — a young Dutchman named Eugene Dubois
went to the East Indies and dug up the remains of Java Man, the
first human ancestral remains ever found. (These remains originally
carried Haeckel's Pithecanthropus label, though they were later
reclassified as Homo erectus.)
Haeckel's ideas are important to the history of evolutionary theory,
and he was a competent invertebrate anatomist most famous for
his work on radiolaria, most of the speculative concepts that
he championed are now seen as incorrect. For example, Haeckel
described and named hypothetical ancestral microorganisms that
have never been found. His concept of recapitulation called "strong
recapitulation" has been disputed. Haeckel did not support
Darwin's "survival of the fittest", rather believing
in a Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics.
and Oskar Hertwig were some of Haeckel´s many important
Haeckel is a 4090 m (13,418') summit in the Eastern Sierra Nevada,
overlooking the Evolution Basin, named in honor of Ernst Haeckel
as is the asteroid 12323 Häckel. Ernst Haeckel, much like
Herbert Spencer, was always quotable, even when wrong. Although
best known for the famous statement "ontogeny recapitulates
phylogeny", he also coined many words commonly used by biologists
today, such as phylum, phylogeny, and ecology. On the other hand,
Haeckel also stated that "politics is applied biology",
a quote used by Nazi propagandists. The Nazi party, rather unfortunately,
used not only Haeckel's quotes, but also Haeckel's justifications
for racism, nationalism and social Darwinism.
trained as a physician, Haeckel abandoned his practice in 1859
after reading Darwin's Origin of Species. Always suspicious of
teleological and mystical explanation, Haeckel used the Origin
as ammunition both to attack entrenched religious dogma and to
build his own world view.
studied under Carl Gegenbauer in Jena for three years before becoming
a professor of comparative anatomy in 1862. Between 1859 and 1866,
he worked on many "invertebrate" groups, including radiolarians,
poriferans (sponges) and annelids (segmented worms). He named
nearly 150 new species of radiolarians during a trip to the Mediterranean.
"Invertebrates" provided the fodder for most of his
experimental work on development, leading to his "law of
recapitulation". Haeckel was also a free-thinker who went
beyond biology, dabbling in anthropology, psychology, and cosmology.
Haeckel's speculative ideas and possible fudging of data, plus
lack of empirical support for many of his ideas, tarnished his
scientific credentials. However, he remained an immensely popular
figure in Germany and was considered a hero by his countrymen.