Happy Birthday, Ernst Haeckel!

Happy Birthday, Ernst Haeckel! German biologist and artist, Haeckel (1834-1919) left his mark in thousands of beautiful, accurate and intricate drawings of life forms at a time before microscopes could take pictures. Did you know that he coined many terms that we take for granted today including ecology , phylum , stem cell and Protista? He is even credited for the first use of the phrase “First World War” to describe the “Great European War” in 1914.

Flamboyant and passionate, Haeckel was both spectacularly right and completely wrong! He sent his students to Indonesia to look for the remains of ancient humans, resulting in the first human fossil of Pithecanthropus (Homo erectus). He also believed that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny: that embryos go through stages in development where they resemble lower orders of life. Although junior looked a bit like a fish at one time, but not literally, right? πŸ˜‰

Read more about this fascinating scientist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel

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81 Responses to Happy Birthday, Ernst Haeckel!

  1. How psychedelic! Amazing images, and it really took a fine, discerning eye as well as his mind to see what is there and others miss.

  2. Rajini Rao says:

    I wonder if we would have as much patience these days?

  3. I’d quadruple fave these photos if I could. I would LOVE to have prints of them to frame for my home. Where did you find these?

  4. Rajini Rao says:

    BJ Bolender , do a Google image search with his name. I did see some sites where they sold prints. There were so many spectacular images (better than these ones!), I was overwhelmed πŸ™‚

  5. Jeffrey Lan says:

    many of these can be found in Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature), which has been reprinted and can be found on Amazon, amongst other places.

  6. These are great! For those interested, several weeks ago I posted a link to a complete, free pdf version of [Art Forms of Nature] (in german), it is available here: goo.gl/MuSwO Lots of great nature illustrations in that book even if you cannot read the language πŸ™‚

  7. Rajini Rao says:

    Wonderful info and links, thanks Jeffrey Lan and Chris Mallory . Now you know how hard it was for me to pick just a few, BJ Bolender πŸ™‚

  8. Whoa, now I am lost for the rest of the night in scientific wonders! Thanks to Rajini and Chris for the leads. So much for continuing to edit and post more photos from our G+ photo walk this last weekend, LOL.

  9. Rajini Rao says:

    I’ll be looking for those photos first thing tomorrow morning, BJ Bolender πŸ˜‰

  10. Liz Krane says:

    They’re like biological kaleidoscopes… oooooh… I want them as my wallpaper.

  11. Holy Moly! Not only did I download the whole PDF, but I looked back on the main link and figured out that each plate has so many sizes online for download in both 200 and 300 dpi! This means I can print any of them large. Now I am both lost in space and time for the rest of the night, but I am likely to be poor as well, for I do want to pick more than a few to frame. Looks like foam core board mountings will be the answer. I can’t wait to get to work on this project. See how cool it is for an artist on G+ to make contact with a science-minded circle on G+? It’s all because of Fraser Cain , don’t you know…

  12. I love Haeckel’s work. He was a brilliant man of science and great artist as well.

  13. Very cool post, thanks Rajini Rao

  14. Rajini Rao says:

    WOW, must see trailer of a movie on Haeckel’s art and life, called Proteus, which took 22 years to make. BJ Bolender , look at this link: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/2012/01/31/proteus-how-radiolarians-saved-ernst-haeckel/

  15. Jim Menders says:

    Nice, thanks. Take a look at another German’s work at http://www.karl-blossfeldt-archiv.de/

  16. Yohan Wadia says:

    This too is a short but good biography about Ernst Haeckel..

    worth reading.. http://www.strangescience.net/haeckel.htm

  17. Rajini Rao says:

    Yohan Wadia , I saw that too! What a fascinating, eccentric man. Wish he lived in our age.

  18. gk …..means good knowledge…….

  19. Yohan Wadia says:

    Yes Rajini.. such people were the true time changers so to speak… honestly.. we dont see many people like them now.. i guess people have simply forgotten that inquisitiveness and passion can really make you do wonders.. even today..

  20. great, thanks for sharing. really wonderful.

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Hi Jimmy Shepard , I think so too, thanks πŸ™‚

  22. Wonder if there is a way to reverse engineer such geometries to find the fractal roots.

  23. Gosain Bauri says:

    hi Rajini! how r u? nice posting!

  24. Derik Perry says:

    Are you sure thats not some Salvador Dali work on frogs? Ha ha.Pretty fascinating early artwork on what he was seeing. Thanks for shaing.

  25. milana magda says:

    hey im new 2 this web!

  26. I do not understand the maths in the later part of this link. But I sure can see genius at work.

  27. Rajini Rao says:

    Same here, Susan Connor πŸ™‚

  28. Just viewed the 100 (!) plates in the PDF of his magnum opus from the link shared about 30 posts ago – astonishing and mesmerizing. To think that he did this all, the art and the science, and there have to be more than a few people who had never heard of this man. I am soooo going to print some of these. My son’s comment: “What great art for tattoos!” True dat

  29. Rajini Rao says:

    BJ Bolender , kudos to the G+ platform that art and science get some face time!

  30. baeuty’s see to be in u r eyes but creativity allways in u r mind so keep it up

  31. Abhijith M.S says:

    your picture has stolen a lot of my time, really amazing!

  32. Beautiful Pictures like it

  33. The description, beauty, aura,symetery, art and colour combination with the form are outstanding………… Amazingly wonderful

  34. Wish you very happy birthday

  35. Rajini Rao says:

    I can’t decipher the print on the pdf in your link, Jay Rubin , but the Wiki link in my post explains how Haeckel got carried away with his ontogeny theory…as I note in my post, he was both spectacularly right and wrong. A fascinating man, none the less. He was quite disenfranchised with the church after the death of his first wife.

  36. Babul Singh says:


  37. great textures in ur life

  38. Just read the wikipedia entry on him and I was thrilled to see how vast his knowledge was and how many fields he studied. The work of his colleagues and students evidently prospered from his influence. To only concentrate on a possible “fraud” in just one aspect of his speculations and theory would be an injustice. He charged his students to seek fossil evidence of early man, and one did! Java man was found in the area Haecklel proposed! I look at his life and see an incredible genius, one of the greatest of his time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Haeckel

  39. I read through the wikipedia article. Also saw the tree diagram of evolution. Could not the theory that there was just one line of transformation to homo-erectus be a leap of faith. I mean, there could have been many types of apes from which many types of homo-erectus evolved. Even in the tree diagram, the trunk being a single common factor seems a leap of faith. These sound like the belief there is just one solar system, and one planet in the universe that has life. I have no scientific background to say these things. Just a layman’s impression from the first reading.

  40. ashley peevy says:

    happy birthday and very interesting stuff

  41. Rajini Rao says:

    Sowmyan Tirumurti , those ideas are more than 100 years old so it’s not surprising that they seem crude by today’s standard of knowledge! Darwin was his contemporary, and Darwin did not attempt to explain human evolution.

  42. Omar S says:

    thanks for sharing! very inspirational!

  43. Best Wishes…..

    Happy Birthday….

  44. your picture beautiful and also you

  45. Rajini,

    Unfortunately, as you allude to, Haeckel made a number of very incorrect observations concerning evolution/natural selection. Biologists are still trying to clean up this mess… Still, he had a brilliant mind. Namaste!


  46. Rajini Rao says:

    John Spengler , Hi, thanks for your note but I don’t think we biologists are cleaning up his messes..I’ve never come across anything of the sort. I’d be curious of any specifics, thanks. As I mentioned in a comment above, this stuff is well over a hundred years old and of course, we know a lot more now. He was wrong about the Lamarckian model of evolution, although oddly, the science of epigenetics is giving some new life into those old ideas.

  47. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this.

  48. Deepak Singh says:

    nice reallty pictures

  49. Chris Mallory Thanks so much for the link to Art Forms of Nature (in german). The art is amazing.

  50. What I meant by my comment was that many biology textbooks perpetuated the “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” falsehood until the 1970s… I still hear it repeated on odd occasions even today. The myth persisted for so long that unfortunately it hasn’t completely died yet. πŸ™‚ Such is the occasional life of repeated false dogma.

  51. DaFreak says:

    Great post as usual. I’ve said this a lot but the frontier where science and art meet is the place I want to grow old. I love his work! Right click http://caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/haeckel/kunstformen/Haeckel_Kunstformen.pdf and choose for save as! 270 MB of Haeckel’s stunning handdrawn art!

  52. Rajini Rao says:

    Koen De Paus , good to see you back on G+ πŸ™‚ BTW, I tagged you on a post showing amazing “plasmafication” of a grape in a microwave. It was strangely bizarre and I’m still trying to get it (beyond my ancient college physics). Did you see it?

  53. DaFreak says:

    I’ve been rather busy and as a result have been neglecting my g+ a bit. I am working my way through notifications and stream as we speak so I am sure i’ll encounter it at some point. :p

  54. amazing what the Victorians were responsible for in all fields

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