Book - Russian Embryology (1750 - 1850) 16
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Blyakher L. History of embryology in Russia from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century (istoryia embriologii v Rossii s serediny XVIII do serediny XIX veka) (1955) Academy of Sciences USSR. Institute of the History of Science and Technology. Translation Smithsonian Institution (1982).
Publishing House of the Academy of Science USSR
Translated from Russian
Translated and Edited by:
Dr. Hosni Ibrahim Youssef # Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Cairo University
Dr. Boulos Abdel Malek
Head of Veterinary Research Division
Arab Republic of Egypt
The Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C, by The Al Ahram Center for Scientific Translations 1982
The Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C by The Al Ahram Center for Scientific Translations (1982)
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Chapter 16. Appearance and Significance of Baer's Main Work Ober Entw I Cklungsgesch I Chte Der Thiere
There is no doubt that the most remarkable incident in the history of embryology in the first half of the nineteenth century was the appearance of Baer's excellent work, UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE DER THIERE, BEOBACHTEN UND REFLEXION. The first volume appeared in 1828; the second volume, not completely edited by the author, appeared in 1837; and the concluding notebook of the second volume was published by L. Steida after Baer's death in 1888. 1 Until recently all three parts of this work represented a bibliographical rarity, because they were never republished and they were not translated completely into Russian. Only in 1924 did a partial translation of part of the first volume appear. 2 in 1950 and 1953, the publishing house of the Academy of Science USSR issued translations of the first and second volumes. 3
Following the title page of the first volume comes a dedication: "To the friend of my youth, Christian Pander."
Baer, UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE DER THIERE. BEOBACHTUNG UND REFLEXION. Erster Theil. Konigsberg, 1828, 271 pp. Zweiter Theil, 1837, 315 pp. Schlussheft, 1888, 84 pp.
Baer, SELECTED WORKS. TRANSLATION WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES. Yu. A. Filipchenco, GIS, 1924, 114 pp. K. M. Baer, HISTORY OF ANIMAL DEVELOPMENT. OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. First volume, Edition by academician E. N. Pavlovskii. Comments by Prof. B. E. Raikov. (ISTORIYA RAZVITIYA ZIVOTNYKH. NABLYUDENIYA I RAZMYRHLENIYA. Tom pervyi. Redaktsiya akad. E. N. Pavlovskogo. Kommentorii prof. B. E. Raikova) . 150, 466 pp. Second volume. Edition of academician E. N. Pavlovskii and Prof. B. E. Raikova (Tom vtoroi, Redaktsiya akad. E. N. Pavlovskogo i prof. B. E. Raikova), 1953, 625 pp. Translation of the first volume was performed by I. I. Kanaev,
To him also was directed an extensive preface describing the history of the book and explaining the principles and terminology employed. In his preface, Baer recalled the happy time of his work with Pander in Dollinger's laboratory in Wiirzburg.
After his arrival in Konigsburg in 1818, Baer received both the texts (Latin and German) of Pander's dissertation and noted there several conditions which appeared doubtful to him. In particular, he questioned Pander's ideas about "primary folds" and about the formation of the amnion. In the summer of 1819, Baer conducted an independent study of chick development, first with the objective of explaining to himself some obscure areas in Pander's work. He attained the desired clarity only after continuing his work during the next summer; already his investigations yielded so much profound material that he went on with embryological research, extending it from birds to other vertebrates, especially amphibia and mammals. One of the most important conclusions, which, in his words, "penetrated like rays of light," was "the idea that gradually in the embryo the vertebrate type structure develops." This idea was based on the theory of four types, established independently by Baer and by Cuvier.
His study of chick development led Baer to conclude that the course of embryonic development experiences strict regularity, an idea so simple that it causes surprise that no one had detected it previously. "Now one can be sure," Baer wrote, when the course of development appears so simple that all is clear by itself and hardly requires confirmation through investigation. But the story of Columbus* egg is repeated every day, and what matters to me is only once to have placed it in the ring. How slowly one advances to gain knowledge of what is obvious, especially if the respected authorities object to it, I was sufficiently convinced of my personal experience.
B. E. Raikov and I. I. Skolov, with the cooperation of Yu. I. Polyanskii and P. G. Svetlov; translation of the second volume, Yu. M. Olenev, I. I. Skolov and B. E. Raikov, with the participation of P. G. Svetlov (90).
Baer continued his embryological investigations after an interruption for vast organizational work for the establishment of a zoological museum in Konigsberg. His resumption of embryological work Baer credited to his colleague in the University of Konigsberg, Professor Karl Burdach. Burdach undertook an extensive study under the title, DIE PHYSIOLOGIE ERFAHRUNGSWISSENSCHAFT (1826 - 27), and he suggested that Baer include his data in this work about the development of vertebrate animals. Baer agreed and gave Burdach a note containing the results of his investigations on frog and hen development, accompanied by a member of general considerations (91) . These articles in Burdach' s manual represent the first version of the UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE .
Furthermore, in his preface Baer hesitated at some terms. In particular he spoke about the "embryonic membrane" (KEIMHAUT, or extra- embryonic blastoderm in modern terminology) , then about the terms "dorsal and abdominal plates" which have significance for the comparison of vertebrate and invertebrate development, and finally about the replacement of the name "spinal cord" with the term "vertebral cord" in order to give it a more definitive localization and embryological importance.
Baer devoted several pages of his preface to explaining that he was little concerned with the investigations of other authors and referred to them only in cases of actual gaps in specific data. This does not mean, however, that he underestimated the value of his predecessors such as Wolff, Oken, Purkinje, and others. Detailed citations of others' works could have diverted him from his own specific details and systematic data, to which Baer aimed his fundamental work.
4. K. M. Baer. UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE, I, p. 12 (p. viii) . (Ed. : References are evidently, to the Russian edition. The brackets represent pages in UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE (Brussels: Culture et Civilisation, 1967, reprint of 1828 Konigsberg edition) . Hereafter listed without further specification as (v. #, section # (if any), p. #).)
He introduced controversy only on occasions of utmost importance Then he disputed the opinion of only the most authoritative investigators, such as Wolff and Pander. "To object to work which disappears quickly without any trace is entirely useles . . . ," he wrote. "If it comes to frequently returning to any such work, confirming it or, on the contrary, disputing it, this only indicates the importance of this work."
Turning to the drawings accompanying his work, Baer remarked on the difficulty of combining in them documentary accuracy and clarity, and he confessed that he could not completely achieve such a combination. In difficult cases he sacrificed accuracy in favor of clarity. At that time, the difficulty of understanding the still very insufficiently investigated ideas of embryological development required clear, schematized illustrations.
In the conclusion to his preface, Baer justified including in his work a special section devoted to general subjects and representing a statement of his scientific belief in the history of animal development. The objective of publishing these general views was an attempt to promot other investigators to make more detailed studies of embryological problems. Even of Oken's fantastic ideas, Baer wrote: "Regardless of the fact that many of them now should be considered wrong, they have invaluably affected the history of development, because they led naturalists to a clearer understanding of the question. "^
Possibly, more detailed study is no less important than achieving generality, especially for the earliest stages of development, Baer suggested. Thus:
That an understanding for the first days of development still lacks something, . . . you will at least suspect. And whoever remains in this difficult field, in which each branch seeks to be individual and carefully united, does not achieve all even if he tries hard all his life for the harvest; and who would not take away empty ears of corn for full ones? Kaspar Friedrich Wolff, who truly performed the most complete anatomical investigations, made mistakes. Lucky is that person who succeeds in collecting the ripened shafts, which give fruit for future sowing .... I would be satisfied if my contributions were seen as having proven that the type of animal organization stipulates its development. Scientific accomplishments of others will be many. However, the palm of superiority will be attained by that lucky person who will relate the developmental powers of animal organisms to the general powers of life laws of the world. But the tree still does not grow of which this cradle will be made!
5. (I, xvii-xviii)
With these deep and poetical words, the preface concluded.
F. Engels in DIALECTICS OF NATURE, speaking about the stages of establishing evolutionary theory, put Baer's name in one line with Oken and Lamarck: he considered Baer a predecessor of Darwin. Not without reason did Darwin's talented associate Thomas Huxley, who translated into English part of Baer's important publication, note that "it seemed a great pity that works which embody the deepest and soundest philosophy of zoology, and indeed of biology generally, which has been given to the world, should be longer unknown in this country. "8
The embryologist Wilhelm Waldeyer, characterizing the condition of embryology at the beginning of the nineteenth century, wrote that,
6. (I, xxii) .
7. Engels' authentic words about Baer are given on p. 204. (Ed.: Engels, DIALECTICS OF NATURE (New York: Publications, 1940), p. 13, intro.)
8. "Fragments Relating to Philosophical Zoology. Selected from the Works of K. E. von Baer," SCIENTIFIC MEMOIRS, edited by Arther Henfrey and Thomas Henry Huxley, art. 7, London, 1853, pp. 176-238. (Ed. Quotation p. 176.)
in those times there was a shortage of scientific investigations to cover all the history of development of one species; no comparative embryology was established, that valuable relation of embryology to morphology in general, as well as a sufficiently clear understanding of the great significance of this branch of knowledge for all studies about organic life. In this case there was also no commonly implemented terminology, and also no easily concluded and understood statement of the history of development such as the Systema Naturae, from which they could implement further follow-up investigations. All of that was given by Baer, and he can with great fairness more than anyone else be called the father of scientific embryology. 9
Another known embryologist and histologist, Albert von Kolliker, in GRUNDRISS qpR ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE DES MENSCHEN UND DER HOHEREN TIERE, has expressed the following about Baer's work: "Baer went on along the way of Wolff and Pander, and in the richness of the excellent he studied the facts as well as the reliable and broad generalizations; his work represents the best of what is available in the' embryo logical literature of all times and people. 10
In 1927, on the centenary of Baer's election to the Petersburg Academy of Science, the academician V. I. Verandskii wrote that Of course the naturalist does not create a new branch of science from his mind; ... He takes his and others' material, adds to it his impression, and under his steam the unformulated material becomes a constructed system, and the odd facts appear as a part of a unity of the whole critical thing .... This is what Baer accomplished in his uncompleted basic work about the development of animals which came out in the German language in 1828 - 37; the last part came out only at the end of the past century.
9. W. Waldeyer, "Uber K. E. von Baer und seine Bedeutung fur die Naturwissenschaften," AMTL. BERICHT D. 50. VERSAMML. DEUTSCH, NATURFORSCH. U. ARZTE IN MUNCHEN, 1877, p. 10. 10. A. Kolliker, GRUNDRISS DÂ£R ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE DES MENSCHEN UND DER HOHEREN TIERE. FUR STUDIERENDE UND ARZTE (Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1880), 1884.
It is net surprising, therefore, that Verandskii put Baer on a continuum with Aristotle, Harvey, Lamarck, Cuvier, and Darwin, and among the Russian academicians Lomonosov and Eiler.H
Baer's greatest contribution, which until now has still not been sufficiently evaluated in the history of science, appears in his UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE. There he exhibited a tendency towards Naturphilosophie, to the extent that reaction to it was expressed as complete renunciation of his theoretical arguments and conclusions. The Naturphilosophie of Schelling and Oken proclaimed that the task of science was to look for the unified features of the world by thinking, through the creative activities of the mind. 12 "This situation," as noted later by Ya. A. Borzenkov, 13 "had a very strong and highly ruinous effect on the study of nature. If nature is only an apparent object (discerned only by the impression of thinking, of the creative spirit), then . . .the nature investigator may not try hard to make observations and perform experiments, "14 because he is in a condition to understand nature regardless of his empirical activities. In contrast, empirical natural investigators such as Cuvier were opposed to Naturphilosophie a priori, resulting in their "nominating, classifying, and describing"15 without making any theoretical generalization.
11. V. I. Verandskii, "Memories of the Academician K. M. von Baer. First collection of the Memoirs of Baer." Moscow: Akademii Nauk, 1927, pp. 1-9.
12. To philosophy, nature means creative nature.
13. The historical outline of the directions existing in the zoological sciences in the nineteenth century. Speech given in ceremonial meeting of the Imperial Moscow University on January 12, 1881, by Ordinary Professor Ya. Borzenkov, pp., 1-61.
14. Borzenkov, p. 15.
15. Borzenkov suggested replacing this "slightly long motto by a shorter and more energetic one: Do not discuss!", p. 27,
In systematic zoology and comparative anatomy, the attempts to establish theoretical ideas depended not on arbitrary a priori assumptions, but on critical comparisons of strictly tested facts, performed by Lamarck and Geoff roy Saint-Hilaire from the beginning of the nineteenth century. In embryology, Baer solved this problem by achieving unsurpassed results. It is not accidental, therefore, that as a subtitle to UBER ENTWICKLUNGSGESCHICHTE he put the words "Observations and Reflections." In his book, Baer applied the richest empirical material, obtained by thorough observations, to his theoretical discussions, and thus suggested how investigators could delve into other aspects of biology.
In order to be convinced without doubt as to the correctness of the judgments of Baer and his work, it is necessary to have sufficient detail of his scientific heritage, The following chapters, 17 through 23, contain the actual contents of Baer's embryological and teratological works, and his most important theoretical general conclusions. The last chapter, 24, devoted to Baer considers his ideology.
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