The Reception of Hugo de Vries’s Intracellular Pangenesis; the Discussion with August Weismann

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Abstract

In 1889 Hugo de Vries published Intracellular Pangenesis in which he formulated his ideas on heredity. The high expectations of the impression these ideas would make did not come true and publication was negated or reviewed critically. From the reactions of his Dutch colleagues and the discussion with the famous German zoologist August Weismann we conclude that the assertion that each cell contains all hereditary material was controversial and even more the claim that characters are inherited independently of each other. De Vries felt that he had to convince his colleagues of the validity of his theory by providing experimental evidence. He established an important research program which resulted in the rediscovery of Mendel's laws and the publication of The Mutation Theory. This article also illustrates some phenomena that go beyond an interesting episode in the development of theories of heredity. It shows that criticism from colleagues can move a researcher so deeply that he feels compelled to set up an extensive research program. Moreover it illustrates that it is not unusual that a creative scientist is only partially willing to take criticism on his theories into account. Last but not least it demonstrates that common opinion on the validity of specific arguments may change in the course of time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-152
JournalJournal of the history of Biology
Volume36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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