Caption of Haeckel portrait: Prof. Hæckel, photograph, nd. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Ernst Hæckel (1834–1919) was born in Potsdam, Germany to wealthy parents. Hæckel studied medicine and allied sciences at the Universities of Berlin, Würzburg, and Vienna. He began work as a physician at the age of 23, however, he soon gave up practical medicine and decided to move to Italy to study radiolarians. Hæckel’s work on the systematics of Radiolaria resulted in his promotion as a lecturer at the University of Jena. In 1863, Hæckel gave his seminal speech “On Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory” at the Meeting of the German Association of Naturalists and Physicians. The speech marked Hæckel’s Darwinian turn and delighted Darwin himself. Hæckel then became an influential advocate and popularizer of Darwin’s evolutionary theory.
In 1865 Hæckel earned his second doctorate, in zoology, and was appointed Chair of Zoology at the University of Jena, which he turned into a stronghold of Darwinism. Hæckel aspired to make Darwinism a universal worldview opposing major religious doctrines. He tried to combine science, philosophy and art as mutually strengthening instruments.
Already in his lifetime Hæckel was seen as a key figure of evolutionary theory both in Germany and abroad. He was awarded a Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society of London.
Adapted from Georgy S. Levit and Uwe Hossfeld, ‘Ernst Haeckel in the History of Biology.’ Current Biology Magazine 29, December 16, 2019.
Caption for large image: Stephoidea – Ringelstrahlinge, Illustration shows microorganisms. Adolf Giltsch. lithographer. Ernst Haeckel, artist.