Ernst Haeckel – Inspired by Nature

Ernst Haeckel Inspired by Nature from DelscIf the young dreamer stood at the window and looked up at the clouds, his father would pat him on the shoulder and say, “every minute has its value in this world. Play or work — but do something.” -Passage that describes C[K]arl Haeckel’s advice to his son in Haeckel, his life and work.

Ernst Haeckel was a doctor, marine zoologist, botanist, photographer, and an artist. He was well respected but controversial because of his beliefs in evolution. According to Edward Thomas Browne of the Linnean Society, Haeckel is responsible for many common zoology terms such as: Ontogeny, Phylum, Protozoa, Protista, Metazoa, Plankton, Coelom, and Gastrula.

CTG Publishing has released a publication about Ernst Haeckel’s work that includes biographical information from many sources along with 35 Plates that illustrate Radiolaria from his 1862 publication, Die Radiolarien (Rhizopoda radiaria) eine Monographie, a few from Report on the Radiolaria collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 and ten plates from Kunstformen der Natur.

Creating Something Monumental from Something Microscopic

Rene Binet, a French architect and artist, created the entrance for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Binet modeled that main entrance after an illustration of Clathrocanium reginae by Ernst Haeckel. When you consider that this microscopic sea fauna, a Radiolarian, inspired a structure that used about 192 tonnes of metal and cost about 676,000 French fr., you may want to view Rene Binet’s and Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations to see how they might be of inspiration to you.

As a matter of background, Radiolaria are silica secreting zooplankton. Their size can range from about 100 micrometers to what is considered a very large size of 1-2 mm. The weight gained during maturation of a single Radiolarian is 0.1 micrograms. The dimensions of the Clathrocanium reginae are, in millimeters: cephalis 0.03 long and 0.04 wide with a thorax that measures 0.08 long and 0.12 wide. An image is included in the publication.

Biographical Information

“We have in Germany many professors and teachers who are more learned, and have read far more books than your poor Jena schoolmaster. But from my earliest youth, since I tore up flowers and admired butterflies in my fourth year, I have yielded to the inclination of my heart and studied incessantly one great book — Nature. This greatest of all books has taught me to know the true God, the God of Spinoza and Goethe. Then as physician I saw human life in all its heights and depths, and in my many travels through half the globe I learned the inexhaustible splendour of the earth. And I have honestly tried with all my modest powers, to reproduce with pen and pencil a part of what I saw, and reveal it to my fellows. I have had to fight many a hard fight, and in my hatred of lies and hypocrisy and decaying traditions I have at times struck a sharp note. But I trust, dear Youth, that thou wilt not judge all that harshly in so old and storm-tried, a warrior, and that thou wilt go on to stand with me, shoulder to shoulder, fighting for the spiritual progress of humanity, fighting in the cause of the great trinity of the true, the good, and the beautiful.” -Ernst Haeckel part of a letter of thanks to the periodical Jugend as it appears in Haeckel, his life and work.

Name: Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel
Born: Potsdam on February 16, 1834
Father: K[C]arl Haeckel, a Government law official
Brother: Elder brother, K[C]arl Haeckel (b. 1824 d. 1897), Provincial Councillor, married Hermine Sethe
Mother: Charlotte [Sethe] Haeckel, a native of the Lower Rhine
Wives: Anna Sethe (m. 1862, d. 1864), Agnes Huschke (m. 1867)
Eldest daughter: Elizabeth who married Professor Hans Meyer
Younger daughter: Emma Haeckel (Callimitra emmoe was named in her honor and included in the publication)
Son: Walter Haeckle , Painter
Died: 8th August, 1919

1857: Medical Doctorate awarded on 7th March, Berlin
1865: Honorary Doctor, University of Jena, Germany
1884: Honorary Doctor, University of Edinburgh, UK
1898: Honorary Doctor, University of Cambridge, UK
1909: Honorary Doctor, University of Geneva (Dr. med.hc.)

1864: Cothenius Medal of the
1889: Honorary Member of the „Medizinischer Verein“ of the University of Jena, Germany
1894: Golden Linné Medal of the Linnean Society
1894: Honorary Member of the “Nassauischer Verein für Naturkunde”
1899: External Member of the Accademia dei Lincei
1900: Bressa Prize of the Academy of Sciences Torino
1900: Darwin Medal of the Royal Society
1905: Honorary Member of the “Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene”
1907: Medal of the Swedish Academy
1908: Darwin-Wallace Medal


1834 Ernst Haeckel is born at Potsdam on February 16, 1834
1835 Father is transferred to Merseburg, in Saxony.
1845 Haekel’s interest in botany is well formed and he create an herbarium at the age of 11.
1849 Haeckel meets Schleiden in Berlin and visits the Professor of Botany at Jena.
1852 He returns to Jena after completing his school examinations, to study botany. He is returns to Berlin due to “a bad attack of rheumatism”.
1852 Haeckel works in the field of botany under Braun in Berlin.
1852 Haeckel starts to study medicine in Wurzburg to please his father, who wishes to redirect his son’s interests into a proper calling. There he meets Kolliker, Virchow, Leydig, and Gegenbaur. Gegenbaur’s work in Messina on Medusae inspires Haeckel who now plans to go to Messina at the first opportunity.
1854 Haeckel returns to Berlin and works for Johannes Muller who takes him to Heligoland to study marine animals. Muller is said to have influenced Haeckel more than any other professor.
1855 Haeckel returns to Wurzberg to finish his medical studies.
1856 Haeckel travels to Nice along with Kolliker to study marine life. He returns to Berlin to prepare his dissertation for his doctorate, a piece of zoological work, De telis quibusdam Astaci fluviatilis.
1857 Haeckel is obtains his medical doctorate on March 7. His father sends him to Vienna for a term, to do hospital work under Oppolzer, Skoda, Hebra, and Siegmund. He returns to Berlin to prepare for his medical examination.
1858 Haeckel passes the medical examination in March and is now able to practice medicine. He sets up a practice but only receives patients from 5 to 6 AM which results in Haeckel treated 3 patients for the entire year. His plans to study Gregarinae in Johannes Muller’s laboratory during the summer of this year fall through with Muller’s death on April 28th of that year.
1859 Haeckel’s father agrees to allow his son a year to study marine life. Haeckel reaches Italy and reaches Sicily in the autumn. He stays in Messina for six months to the study of the Radiolaria. He also discovers his talent for landscape painting, a hobby that he will continue throughout his life.
1860 Haeckel reads the Origin of Species in 1860, after his return from Messina. He becomes one of the first to champion Darwinism in Germany. He becomes an evolutionist and devotee of Darwinism, which is reflected in his teachings and his writings.
1861 Haeckel wanting to become financial independent from his father, travels to Jena and meets with Gegenbaur, the Chair of Zoology. Gegenbaur advises him to be a Privat-docent at Jena.
1861 Haeckel publishes De rhizopodum finibus et ordinibus.
1862 Haeckel is appointed Extraordinary Professor of Zoology, and published his first monograph on the Radiolaria.
1862 Haeckel marries his cousin Anna Sethe.
1864 Haeckel’s wife dies.
1865 Haeckel publishes Beitrage zur Naturgeschichte der Hydromedusen.
1862 A special Chair of Zoology is created for Haeckel at Jena. He will remain in that position for the remainder of his professional life.
1866 Haeckel publishes Generelle Morphologie (1866), General elements of the science of organic forms, mechanically grounded on the theory of descent as reformed by Charles Darwin. Huxley describes it as “one of the greatest scientific works ever published.” The work focuses on the importance of the Fundamental Biogenetic Law as stated in his own words, “Ontogeny repeats Phylogeny.”
1866 Haeckel travels to the Canaries to study Medusae, visiting England and Darwin at Down on the way. During this visit that he became interested in Sponges.
1867 Haeckel marries Agnes Huschke, the daughter of an anatomist at Jena. They had two daughters and a son, the artist Walter Ernst Haeckel.
1868 Haeckel publishes Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte, a shorter form of the Generelle Morphologie, is published as Haeckel wishes to gain the attention of the general public. He succeeds and now has a following in both the scientific community and the general public.
1868 Haeckel publishes Uber die Entstehung und den Stammbaum des Menschengeschletcs.
1869 Haeckel publishes Zur Entwickelungsgeschichte der Siphonophoren.
1869 Haeckel publishes Zur Entwickelungsgeschichte der Siphonophoren.
1869 Haeckel publishes Uber Arbeitstheilung in Natur und Menschenleben.
1870 Haeckel publishes Das Leben in den grossten Meerestiefen.
1870 Haeckel publishes Biologische Studien.
1872 Haeckel publishes his monograph on the Calcispongiae, in which he formulates his Gastraea-theory.
1874 Haeckel publishes Anthropogenic, applying his fundamental Biogenetic law to the evolution of Man.
1875 Haeckel publishes Arabische Korallen.
1876 Haeckel publishes a short essay, Die Perigenesis der Plastidule.
1876 The History of Creation, an English translation of Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte, under the editorship of Sir E. Ray Lankester, is published.
1877 Haeckel publishes a book about his works on Gastraea.
1877 Haeckel publishes Die heutige Entwicklungslehre im Verhaltnisse sur Gesamt Wissenschaft.
1878 Haeckel publishes Cell-Souls and Soul-Cells and other essays on Evolution.
1878 Haeckel publishes Freie Wissenschaft und Freie Lehre.
1878 Haeckel publishes Das Protistenreich.
1878-1879 Haeckel publishes Gesammelte populare Vortrage.
1879-1881 Haeckel published Monographie der Medusen.
1879 The British Government sends the collections of Radiolaria, Keratosa, Siphonophora, and Medusae collected during the “Challenger” Expedition to Haeckel.
1880 Haeckel publishes Das System der Acraspeden.
1881 Haeckel publishes Die Tiefsee-Medusen der Challenger-Reise und der Organismus der Medusen.
1881 Haeckel travels to Ceylon and publishes A Visit to Ceylon.
1882 Haeckel publishes Indische Reisebriefe.
1882 Haeckel publishes Die Naturanschauung von Darwin.
1887 Haeckel publishes Grundriss einer allgemeiner Naturgeschichte der Radiolarein.
1887 Haeckel publishes the Report on the Radiolaria collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76.
1888 Haeckel publishes Die Acantharien oder actipyleen Radiolarien.
1888 Haeckel publishes Die Phaeodarien oder cannopyleen Radiolarien.
1888 Haeckel publishes the Report on the Siphonophoræ collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76.
1889 Haeckel publishes the Report on the Keratosa collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76.
1891 Haeckel publishes Planktonic-studies.
1892 Haeckel publishes Der Monismus als Band zwischen Religion und Wissenschaft.
1893 Haeckel publishes Zur Phylogenie der Australischen Fauna.
1894 Haeckel publishes The Confessions of Faith of a Man of Science.
1894-1896 Haeckel publishes Die Systematische Phylogenie.
1896 Haeckel published Die Amphorideen und Cystoideen.
1898 Haeckel published Ueber unsere gegenwärtige Kenntnis vom Ursprung des Menschen.
1898 Haeckel published The Last Link.
1899-1900 Haeckel published Die Welträtsel [Riddle of the Universe], a popular study of his Monistic philosophy, which was a commercial success and translated into a dozen languages.
1901 Haeckel publishes Aus Insulinde.
1903-1905 The 5th edition of Anthropogenic, is translated into English under the title of Evolution of Man. The book is not only about physical evolution, man’s body, but also the evolution of man’s soul, the psychic organ being the brain.
1904 Haeckel publishes The Wonders of Life.
1904 Haeckel publishes Kunstformen der Natur.
1904 Haeckel publishes Die Lebenswunder.
1905 Haeckel publishes Ernst Haeckel’s Wanderbilder.
1905 Haeckel publishes Der Kampf um den Entwicklungs-Gedanken.
1906 Haeckel publishes Last Words on Evolution.
1919 Haeckel dies in Jena on 8th August, 1919.

PROTOZOA, RADIOLARIANS, O. R. Anderson, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA, 2001, Academic Press
Exposition universelle internationale de 1900 à Paris Rapport général administratif et technique by M. Alfred Picard, commissaire général. Published 1902 by Imprimerie nationale in Paris
Haeckel, his life and work by Wilhelm Bölsche. With introduction and supplementary chapter by the translator, Joseph McCabe (1906).
Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. November 1919 to June 1920 with entry by Edward Thomas Browne
Sandalion; eine offene Antwort auf die Falschungs-anklagen der Jesuiten (1910) by Haeckel, Ernst Heinrich Philipp August, 1834-1919
The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought By Robert J. Richards, University of Chicago Press, Nov 15, 2008
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina – Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften &
Ceremony in Context: The Edinburgh University Tercentenary, 1884 by Robert Anderson, Scottish Historical Review. Volume 87, Page 121-145 DOI 10.3366/E0036924108000073, ISSN 0036-9241, Available Online April 2008