Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 147–154 | Cite as

Haeckel’s embryos: fraud not proven

  • Robert J. Richards

Through the last half of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth, no scientist more vigorously defended Darwinian theory than the German Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919). More people learned of the new ideas through his voluminous publications, translated into numerous languages, than through any other source, including Darwin’s own writings. He enraged many of his contemporaries, especially among the religiously orthodox; and the enmity between evolutionary theory and religious fundamentalism that still burns brightly today may in large measure be attributed to Haeckel’s unremitting attacks on the ingressions of religion into science. Though he retained a life-long friendship with and the support of Darwin, some in the scientific community who were critical of evolutionary theory—Emil Du Bois-Reymond, Rudolf Virchow, and Louis Agassiz, for instance—accused him of deception. That charge has been renewed in our time based on seemingly incontrovertible evidence.

In a Science...


Science Article Darwinian Theory Vertebrate Embryo Religious Fundamentalism Beach Ball 
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I am grateful to Jerry Coyne who encouraged me to write this essay, based on my book The Tragic Sense of Life, and who patiently made many suggestions for improvement. I also owe thanks to my graduate students—Christopher DiTeresi, Alessandro Pajewski, and Trevor Pearce—who initially pointed out the discrepancies in the photographs.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Morris Fishbein Center for the History of ScienceThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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