Day 34. Nature as art

In September 2012 on September 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

The Blue Dragon Mollusk: a dainty, teal blue and occasionally cannibalistic sea dweller.

I first saw this image thanks to Science Alert (quoting blog thisisthestoryof), and it immediately reminded me of one of my favourite books, Artforms of Nature by Ernst Haeckel.

Haeckel (1834-1919) was a physician, anatomist, zoologist, naturalist, biologist and artist renowned for his meticulous attention to anatomical details. He is the originator of the Biogenetic Law, stated as ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’, more recently referred to as the recapitulation theory. In plain English, this means,

the way a living creatures looks and develops during its life reflects how that species developed over the course of evolution.

Haeckel used embryology as a case in point, considering that very early embryos went through stages of development which resembled early ancestors of complex life, such as fish. This theory is now rejected in modern biology. However the law has been applied in modified forms in other fields, such as the origin of language, cognition and mental activities, anthropology, education theory and developmental psychology.

Despite the misgivings of his theories on development, Haeckel’s drawings still stand the test of time for their beauty, precision and styling. You can preview images here and here.

I’m seriously considering removing pages from my Artforms of Nature and framing them for my walls.


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