Heredity, evolution and development in their (epistemic) environment at the turn of the nineteenth century.


During the early 1870s a young zoologist who worked as a Privatdozent delivering lectures at different Prussian universities invested much of his family wealth and solicited his fellows' contributions to establish a research facility by the sea. The young zoologist happened to be called Anton Dohrn. From the time it opened its doors, the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station - or Naples Zoological Station, as it was originally called - played a crucial role in shaping life sciences as it facilitated research aimed at explaining the mechanics of inheritance. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, zoologists attempted to explain how evolutionary changes occur within a population and become stabilized. In so doing, they looked at developmental processes as well as environmental pressure, coming up with different hypotheses to explain inheritance. In some cases, their research was highly speculative, whereas in other cases they conducted cytological observations to identify the material basis of heredity. Research on evolution and development has been carried out in different places, and zoological stations like the one in Naples have played a major role in this story. However, numerous biological institutions active at the turn of the twentieth century have not received much attention from historians.

DOI: 10.1017/S0007087416000303

Cite this paper

@article{Colonna2016HeredityEA, title={Heredity, evolution and development in their (epistemic) environment at the turn of the nineteenth century.}, author={Federica Turriziani Colonna}, journal={British journal for the history of science}, year={2016}, volume={49 1}, pages={107-13} }