Ernst Haeckel

 

The published artwork of Haeckel includes over 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations of animals and sea creatures, collected in his Kunstformen der Natur ("Art Forms of Nature"). As a philosopher, Ernst Haeckel wrote Die Weltrathsel (18951899; in English: The Riddle of the Universe, 1901), the genesis for the term "world riddle" (Weltratsel); and Freedom in Science and Teaching to support teaching evolution.
From 1866 to 1867, Haeckel made an extended journey to the Canary Islands with Hermann Fol and during this period, met with Charles Darwin, in 1866 at Down House in Kent, Thomas Huxley and Charles Lyell.In 1867, he married Agnes Huschke. Their son Walter was born in 1868, their daughters Elizabeth in 1871 and Emma in 1873. In 1869, he traveled as a researcher to Norway, in 1871 to Croatia (lived on the island of Hvar in a monastery), and in 1873 to Egypt, Turkey, and to Greece. In 1907 he had a museum built in Jena to teach the public about evolution. Haeckel retired from teaching in 1909, and in 1910 he withdrew from the Evangelical Church of Prussia.
Haeckel's political beliefs were influenced by his affinity for the German Romantic movement coupled with his acceptance of a form of Lamarckism. Rather than being a strict Darwinian, Haeckel believed that the characteristics of an organism were acquired through interactions with the environment and that ontogeny reflected phylogeny. He believed the social sciences to be instances of "applied biology", and that phrase was picked up and used for Nazi propaganda. In 1906, Haeckel founded a group called the Monist League (Deutscher Monistenbund) to promote his religious and political beliefs. This group lasted until 1933 and included such notable members as Wilhelm Ostwald, Georg von Arco, Helene Stocker and Walter Arthur Berendsohn.
Haeckel was a flamboyant figure, who sometimes took great, non-scientific leaps from available evidence. For example, at the time when Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), Haeckel postulated that evidence of human evolution would be found in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). At that time, no remains of human ancestors had yet been identified. He described these theoretical remains in great detail and even named the as-yet unfound species, Pithecanthropus alalus, and instructed his students such as Richard and Oskar Hertwig to go and find it.
When Haeckel was a student in the 1850s he showed great interest in embryology, attending the rather unpopular lectures twice and in his notes sketched the visual aids: textbooks had few illustrations, and large format plates were used to show students how to see the tiny forms under a reflecting microscope, with the translucent tissues seen against a black background. Developmental series were used to show stages within a species, but inconsistent views and stages made it even more difficult to compare different species. It was agreed by all European evolutionists that all vertebrates looked very similar at an early stage, in what was thought of as a common ideal type, but there was a continuing debate from the 1820s between the Romantic recapitulation theory that human embryos developed through stages of the forms of all the major groups of adult animals, literally manifesting a sequence of organisms on a linear chain of being, and Karl Ernst von Baer's opposing view, stated in von Baer's laws of embryology, that the early general forms diverged into four major groups of specialised forms without ever resembling the adult of another species, showing affinity to an archetype but no relation to other types or any transmutation of species. By the time Haeckel was teaching he was able to use a textbook with woodcut illustrations written by his own teacher Albert von Kolliker, which purported to explain human development while also using other mammalian embryos to claim a coherent sequence. Despite the significance to ideas of transformism, this was not really polite enough for the new popular science writing, and was a matter for medical institutions and for experts who could make their own comparisons.