Skip to main content

Biology Takes Form

Animal Morphology and the German Universities, 1800-1900

Morphology—the study of form—is often regarded as a failed science that made only limited contributions to our understanding of the living world. Challenging this view, Lynn Nyhart argues that morphology was integral to the life sciences of the nineteenth century. Biology Takes Form traces the development of morphological research in German universities and illuminates significant institutional and intellectual changes in nineteenth-century German biology.

Although there were neither professors of morphology nor a morphologists’ society, morphologists achieved influence by "colonizing" niches in a variety of disciplines. Scientists in anatomy, zoology, natural history, and physiology considered their work morphological, and the term encompassed research that today might be classified as embryology, systematics, functional morphology, comparative physiology, ecology, behavior, evolutionary theory, or histology. Nyhart draws on research notes, correspondence, and other archival material to examine how these scientists responded to new ideas and to the work of colleagues. She examines the intertwined histories of morphology and the broader biological enterprise, demonstrating that the study of form was central to investigations of such issues as the relationships between an animal’s structure and function, between an organism and its environment, and between living species and their ancestors.

428 pages | 9 halftones, 1 map 7 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1995

Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series

Biological Sciences: Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Morphology

History of Science

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1: Situating Morphology
Pt. 1: Morphology and Physiology
2: The Study of Form before 1850
3: Rearranging the Sciences of Animal Life, 1845-1870
Pt. 2: Evolutionary Morphology, 1860-1880
4: Descent and the Laws of Development
5: Evolutionary Morphology at Jena
6: Evolution and Morphology among the Zoologists, 1860-1880
7: Evolutionary Morphology in Anatomy: Carl Gegenbaur and His School
Pt. 3: Morphology and Biology, 1880-1900
8: The Kompetenzkonflikt within the Evolutionary Morphological Program
9: New Approaches to Form, 1880-1900: Rhetoric, Research, and Rewards
10: Morphology, Biology, and the Zoological Professoriate
11: Morphology and Disciplinary Development: Observations and Reflections
App. 1. Anatomy and Zoology Professors, 1810-1918, by Birthdate
App. 2. Professorships in Zoology, 1810-1918
App. 3. Professorships in Anatomy, 1810-1918
Archival Sources

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press