Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 481–515

Richard Owen, Morphology and Evolution

  • Giovanni Camardi

DOI: 10.1023/A:1012946930695

Cite this article as:
Camardi, G. Journal of the History of Biology (2001) 34: 481. doi:10.1023/A:1012946930695


Richard Owen has been condemned by Darwinians as an anti-evolutionist and an essentialist. In recent years he has been the object of a revisionist analysis intended to uncover evolutionary elements in his scientific enterprise. In this paper I will examine Owen's evolutionary hypothesis and its connections with von Baer's idea of divergent development. To give appropriate importance to Owen's evolutionism is the first condition to develop an up-to-date understanding of his scientific enterprise, that is to disentagle Owen's contribution to the modernization of typology and morphology. I will argue that Owen's Platonic essentialism is rhetorical and incongruous. On the contrary, an interpretation of the archetype based on Aristotle's biological works makes possible a new conception of type, based on a homeostatic mechanism of stability. The renewal of morphology hinges on homological correspondences and a homeostatic process is also the origin of serial and special homology. I will argue that special homology shows an evolutionary orientation insofar as it is a typically inter-specific character while serial homology is determined through an elementary usage of the categories of developmental morphology.

Aristotledivergent developmentepigenesisevolutionhomologymorphologyOwentypologyvon Baer

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Camardi
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze UmaneUniversità di CataniaCataniaItaly