Embryology History - Oscar Hertwig

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Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)
Text-Book of the Embryology of Man and Mammals

Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig (21 April 1849 in Friedberg – 25 October 1922) was a German embryologist and comparative anatomists, who also wrote about the theory of evolution, over 55 years after Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species.

His historic embryology textbook[1] "Text-Book of the Embryology of Man and Mammals" was originally written in German as "Lehrbuch der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen und der Wirbelthiere". The first edition was published in 1888, and the third edition in 1892 being then translated into English in 1901 by Edward L. Mark.

  • 1875 - identified ((fertilisation}} in the egg of the sea-urchin (Toxopneustes lividus) occurred when the nucleus belonging to the egg fuse together with the nucleus derived from the spermatozoon.

Richard Hertwig, his younger brother, also contributed to his scientific writings.

Historic Embryology
Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922)

Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922) was a German embryologist and anatomist who first identified in amphibia tooth development, and was subsequently named Hertwig's epithelial root sheath (HERS). In amphibia, this is a permanent structure. In mammals, this is a transient structure, assembled during early tooth root formation and elongation. Later the HERS becomes fenestrated and reduced to the epithelial rests of Malassez (ERM).[2]

Embryologists: William Hunter | Wilhelm Roux | Caspar Wolff | Wilhelm His | Oscar Hertwig | Julius Kollmann | Hans Spemann | Francis Balfour | Charles Minot | Ambrosius Hubrecht | Charles Bardeen | Franz Keibel | Franklin Mall | Florence Sabin | George Streeter | George Corner | James Hill | Jan Florian | Thomas Bryce | Thomas Morgan | Ernest Frazer | Francisco Orts-Llorca | José Doménech Mateu | Frederic Lewis | Arthur Meyer | Robert Meyer | Erich Blechschmidt | Klaus Hinrichsen | Hideo Nishimura | Arthur Hertig | John Rock | Viktor Hamburger | Mary Lyon | Nicole Le Douarin | Robert Winston | Fabiola Müller | Ronan O'Rahilly | Robert Edwards | John Gurdon | Shinya Yamanaka | Embryology History | Category:People
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Santiago Ramón y Cajal | Camillo Golgi
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Pages where the terms "Historic" (textbooks, papers, people, recommendations) appear on this site, and sections within pages where this disclaimer appears, indicate that the content and scientific understanding are specific to the time of publication. This means that while some scientific descriptions are still accurate, the terminology and interpretation of the developmental mechanisms reflect the understanding at the time of original publication and those of the preceding periods, these terms, interpretations and recommendations may not reflect our current scientific understanding.     (More? Embryology History | Historic Embryology Papers)
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Nature 1949

One of the founders of the science of heredity and one of Germany's most brilliant embryologists and comparative anatomists, Wilhelm August Oscar Hertwig was born a century ago, on April 21, 1849, in Friedberg, Hessen. A pupil of Schultze, Haeckel and Oegenbaur, he graduated at Bonn in 1872, and in 1881 became professor of anatomy in Jena. Seven years later he was appointed to the chair of general anatomy and embryology at Berlin and to the directorship of the newly created Anatomical-Biological Institute. He served as rector of the University during 1904–5. Retiring in 1921, he died on October 25 of the following year, aged seventy-four. A voluminous and authoritative writer, his works (some in collaboration with his brother Richard) went through many editions and were translated into several languages, for example, his "Lehrbuch der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen und der Wirbelthiere". "Die Zelle und die Gewebe" (1893) in the second edition (1906) changed its title to "Allgemeine Biologie", for the author believed that the problems of the living body could be reduced to problems of the single cell. Hertwig was one of the first to teach that the physical basis of heredity must be sought in the chromosomes. His "Cölomtheorie" (1881) helped to complete Balfour's theory of the germinal layers. Perhaps his most important achievements were his discovery in 1875 of the process of fertilization in the sea-urchin, and his observation in 1890 of the first case of parthenogenesis in the animal kingdom-in a starfish. For a number of years he edited the Archiv fur Mikroskopische Anatomie. It is a curious fact that the disciple of Haeckel and Gegenbaur in the end apostatized from Darwinism.

Developmental Cell 2016

Memorizing Shape to Orient Cell Division[3]

"A century ago, Oscar Hertwig discovered that cells orient their cleavage plane orthogonal to their long axis. Reporting recently in Nature, Bosveld et al. (2016) shed light on how, showing that NuMA/Mud localization at tricellular junctions provides mitotic cells with the memory of interphase shape used to orient cleavage plane."


  1. Hertwig O. Text-book of the embryology of man and mammals. (1892) Translated 1901 by Mark EL. from 3rd German Edition. S. Sonnenschein, London.
  2. Luan X, Ito Y & Diekwisch TG. (2006). Evolution and development of Hertwig's epithelial root sheath. Dev. Dyn. , 235, 1167-80. PMID: 16450392 DOI.
  3. Michel M & Dahmann C. (2016). Memorizing Shape to Orient Cell Division. Dev. Cell , 36, 589-90. PMID: 27003930 DOI.

Studien zur Blättertheorie von Oscar Hertwig und Richard Hertwig (1879)

Hertwig O. The Cell - Outlines of general anatomy and physiology (1895)

Oscar Hertwig General Biology Allgemeine Biologie (1912). Jena.

Weindling P. (1980). Social concepts in anatomy: theories of the cell state of Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922) and Wilhelm Waldeyer (1836-1921). Soc Soc Hist Med Bull (Lond) , 26, 15-7. PMID: 11610800

Gras N, Verchere M & Santoro JP. (1975). [The Oscar Hertwig centenary]. Rev Odontostomatol (Paris) , 4, 135-40. PMID: 1103253

Olsson L, Levit GS & Hossfeld U. (2010). Evolutionary developmental biology: its concepts and history with a focus on Russian and German contributions. Naturwissenschaften , 97, 951-69. PMID: 20865238 DOI.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, April 12) Embryology Embryology History - Oscar Hertwig. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryology_History_-_Oscar_Hertwig

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