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Ernst Haeckel’s “ecology” in Russia of the first half of the twentieth century

  • Alexandra L. RizhinashviliEmail author
Original Article
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Abstract

The vast scientific heritage of Ernst Haeckel, evolutionist and thinker, comprises ecology as well. It is well known that it was he in 1866 introduced the term “ecology” for the science on interaction of the organisms and the environment. Haeckel built his system of the biological science (to be more precise, of the zoological science), including ecology, on the basis of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory (the theory of natural selection). Traditionally, it is supposed that Haeckel’s merit in world ecology is just the introduction of its name. However, there are few works devoting to development of Russian ecology. Actually, analysis of the impact of Haeckel’s ecological views on Russian biologists and development of ecology in the first half of the last century demonstrates that widely used opinion should be corrected. I hypothesise that Haeckel’s influence on Russian biologists was somewhat more than commonly thought. In spite of a rather long oblivion of the term “ecology” in the Russian literature followed by confusion of ecology and some other sciences (physiology, biogeography), some biologists saw in the Haeckel’s understanding of ecology the base for synthesis of ecology and the evolutionary theory. There are some specific traits of Haeckel’s influence on Russian biologists. At first, some of them accepted his evolutionary approach. Secondly, they highly appreciated his definition of ecology. Biologists defended such understanding of ecology even in the period of Lysenkoism pressure. At the same time, it is evident that Haeckel’s influence on development of ecology was somewhat limited.

Keywords

Ernst Haeckel Ecology Russia Twentieth century Evolutionary theory Ideology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank Prof. Eduard I. Kolchinsky for translation (from German into Russian) for my work the chapter on ecology and some other texts from “General Morphology of Organisms” and for discussion of some issues of the topic of this manuscript. I also bring my sincere gratitude to Dr. Georgy S. Levit for his comments on draft version of the manuscript and to Prof. Alexey S. Severtsov (Moscow State University) for provision of the portrait of his father. I am deeply grateful to the staff of the Scientific Library of Zoological Institute of the RAS (especially to the head of the Library Dr. Evgenia S. Labina and to librarians Svetlana M. Pulkkinen, Anna A. Khalina, Yulia A. Dunaeva, Daria A. Gudkova). I address my special appreciation to anonymous reviewer of the manuscript. The work is supported by Russian Fund of Basic Research (Project No. 18-011-00733).

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. Petersburg Branch of the S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the Russian Academy of SciencesSt. PetersburgRussia

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