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Wolff, Caspar Friedrich

WOLFF, CASPAR FRIEDRICH (1733-1794), German anatomist and physiologist, justly reckoned the founder of modern embryology, was born in 1733 at Berlin, where he studied anatomy and physiology under the elder J. F. Meckel. He graduated in medicine at Halle in 1759, his thesis being his famous Theorla generationis. After serving as a surgeon in the Seven Years' War, he wished to lecture on anatomy and physiology in Berlin, but being refused permission he accepted a call from the empress Catharine to become professor of those subjects at the academy of St Petersburg, and acted in this capacity until his death there in 1 794.

While the theory of " evolution " in the crude sense i.e. a simple growth in size and unfolding of organs all previously existent in the g erm was i n possession of the field, his researches on the development of the alimentary canal in the chick first clearly established the converse view, that of epigenesis, i.e. of progressive formation and differentiation of organs from a germ primitively homogeneous. He also largely anticipated the modern conception of embryonic layers, and is said even to have foreshadowed the cell theory.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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