Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny



The history of the so-called “law of Recapitulation” is briefly examined from its inception down to Ernst Haeckel who finalized it as the “Biogenetic Law.” Because of many short-comings discovered since Haeckel’s day, the idea of “Recapitulation” is no longer generally recognized as a “Law” and some modern texts on evolution omit all reference to the topic. Some post-1960 textbooks, however, still present the illustrations of supposed embryological stages by Ernst Haeckel as support for the theory of evolution. Original criticisms of the honesty of Haeckel’s arguments and illustrations are presented here, based on translated excerpts from the original German reviews by L. Rutimeyer, professor of science at the University of Basel, and early critic of Haeckel. These original sources indicate that Haeckel’s woodcut series illustrating ova and embryos were fraudulent. Articles by Wilhelm His, Sr., embryologist and anatomist of the University of Leipzig, also demonstrate that Haeckel’s works contained distortions that were evidently perpetrated with the direct intent to deceive. It is suggested that future editions of science texts eliminate all use of Haeckel's questionable materials. Perpetuating these distorted drawings as true representations of the embryos in question and as having weight in the argument for evolution is certainly regrettable