Oscar Hertwig: German zoologist & scholar (1849 - 1922) | Biography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Oscar Hertwig
German zoologist & scholar

Oscar Hertwig

Oscar Hertwig
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German zoologist & scholar
A.K.A. Oscar Wilhelm August Hertwig
Was Zoologist Professor Educator Anatomist Scientist Biologist
From Germany
Field Academia Biology Healthcare Science
Gender male
Birth 21 April 1849, Friedberg, Germany
Death 25 October 1922, Berlin, Margraviate of Brandenburg (aged 73 years)
Star sign Taurus
Siblings: Richard Hertwig
Children: Paula Hertwig
The details (from wikipedia)


Illustration from O. Hertwig's book Lehrbuch der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen und der Wirbeltiere (Textbook of developmental history of humans and vertebrates), 1906.

Oscar Hertwig (21 April 1849 in Friedberg – 25 October 1922 in Berlin) was a German zoologist and professor who also wrote about the theory of evolution in c. 1916, over 55 years after Charles Darwin's book The Origin of Species. He was the elder brother of zoologist-professor Richard Hertwig (1850–1937).The Hertwig brothers were the most eminent scholars of Ernst Haeckel (and Carl Gegenbaur) from the University of Jena. They were independent of Haeckel's philosophical speculations but took his ideas in a positive way to widen their concepts in zoology. Initially, between 1879–1883, they performed embryological studies, especially on the theory of the coelom (1881), the fluid-filled body cavity. These problems were based on the phylogenetic theorems of Haeckel, i.e. the biogenic theory (German = biogenetisches Grundgesetz), and the "gastraea theory".

Within 10 years, the two brothers moved apart to the north and south of Germany. Oscar Hertwig later became a professor of anatomy in 1888 in Berlin; however, Richard Hertwig had moved 3 years prior, becoming a professor of zoology in Munich from 1885–1925, at Ludwig Maximilian University, where he served the last 40 years of his 50-year career as a professor at 4 universities.

Hertwig was a leader in the field of comparative and causal animal-developmental history. He also wrote a leading textbook. By studying sea urchins he proved that fertilization occurs due to the fusion of a sperm and egg cell. He recognized the role of the cell nucleus during inheritance and chromosome reduction during meiosis: in 1876, he published his findings that fertilization includes the penetration of a spermatozoon into an egg cell. Hertwig's experiments with frog eggs revealed the 'long axis rule', or Hertwig rule. According to this rule, cell divides along its long axis.

In 1885 Hertwig wrote that nuclein (later called nucleic acid) is the substance responsible not only for fertilization but also for the transmission of hereditary characteristics. This early suggestion was proven correct much later in 1944 by the Avery–MacLeod–McCarty experiment which showed that this is indeed the role of the nucleic acid DNA.

While Hertwig was well interested in developmental biology, he was opposed to chance as assumed in Charles Darwin´s theory. His most important theoretical book was: "Das Werden der Organismen, eine Widerlegung der Darwinschen Zufallslehre" (Jena, 1916) (translation: "The Origin of Organisms – a Refutation of Darwin's Theory of Chance").

Hertwig was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1903.

Hertwig is known as Oscar Hedwig in the book "Who discovered what when" by David Ellyard. A history of the discovery of fertilization for mammals including scientists like Hertwig and other workers is given by the book "The Mammalian Egg" by Austin.


  • Die Elemente der Entwicklungslehre des Menschen und der Wirbeltiere : Anleitung und Repetitorium für Studierende und Ärzte. Fischer, Jena 5th ed. 1915 Digital edition by the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Das Problem der Befruchtung und der Isotropie des Eies. Eine Theorie der Vererbung. Jenaische Zeitschrift fur Naturwissenschaft 18, 276–318.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 08 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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