Phylogenetic Systematics: Haeckel to Hennig, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Phylogenetic Systematics

Haeckel to Hennig, 1st Edition

By Olivier Rieppel

CRC Press

380 pages | 27 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781498754880
pub: 2016-06-30
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429154379
pub: 2016-07-06
from $28.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


Phylogenetic Systematics: Haeckel to Hennig traces the development of phylogenetic systematics against the foil of idealistic morphology through 100 years of German biology. It starts with the iconic Ernst Haeckel—the German Darwin from Jena—and the evolutionary morphology he developed. It ends with Willi Hennig, the founder of modern phylogenetic systematics. Written in English, the book presents a unique perspective on a vast body of German biological literature.

The book also offers a perspective on German biology in the Third Reich. The author looks at how idealistic morphology and phylogenetic systematics represented two antagonistic traditions in German biology, the first organicist-holistic, the latter empiricist-positivistic. In addition, he explains the ways in which both traditions acquired socio-political and ideological connotations, culminating in their accommodation to different strands of Nazi ideology.

The book’s nine chapters summarize a century of the conceptual development of systematics, describe both the history and philosophy of phylogenetic approaches to the understanding of the history of life, examine the role of important people such as Haeckel, Gegenbauer, Portman, von Bertalanffy, Stresemann, and Hennig, and critically evaluate the impact and influence of Nazism on evolutionary biology.

Chapter titles include: The Evolutionary Turn in Comparative Anatomy; Of Parts and Wholes; The Turn against Haeckel; The Rise of Holism in German Biology; The Rise of German ("Aryan") Biology; Ganzheitsbiologie; The Ideological Instrumentalization of Biology; A New Beginning: From Speciation to Phylogenetics; and Grundzüge: The Conceptual Foundations of Phylogenetic Systematics.


The whole is a complex and compelling story that requires attention to the details of the argument. The breadth and depth of Rieppel’s coverage of these controversies is the major strength of this book. Another major strength is the analysis of what can go wrong when science is subverted by politics. For those who wish to understand the roots of phylogenetic systematics and its philosophical basis, this volume is an essential resource. E. O Wiley in The Quarterly Review of Biology.

Table of Contents

The Evolutionary Turn in Comparative Anatomy

Carl Gegenbaur’s Idealistic Morphology

Haeckel’s Assault on Idealistic Morphology

The Gegenbaur Transformation

Of Parts and Wholes

Beobachtung und Reflexion

Single Cause, Complex Effect

Levels and Modes of Individuality

Species, Individuals, History, and Reality

Changing Metaphors of Order in Nature: The Ladder, The Tree, and The Web

Monophyly: The Evolution of Species and Languages

Reaching Out Beyond Jena

The Turn against Haeckel

The Poverty of Systematics

Hailing from the Hinterland

Logic Meets History

Plato’s Turntable

Biological Fragments Concerning an Understanding of Man

Limits of Scientific Knowledge

The Rise of Holism in German Biology

The Cell State

The Struggle among the Parts

Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Mechanics and Biology

Animal Psychology and Umwelt

The Congress in Prague

The Rise of German ("Aryan") Biology

A Time of Crisis

The Rebirth of Science in a Goethean Spirit

Science in the Name of the Volk

Deutsche Biologie


Enkapsis: Hierarchically Structured Complex Wholes

Bridging from Anatomy to Ecology

Singing the Praises of Forests and Lakes

Bringing Fossils to Life

Grotesquely Grandiose: The Evolutionary Synthesis in Völkisch Spirit

The Ideological Instrumentalization of Biology

The Reconstruction of Ernst Haeckel

The Deconstruction of Ernst Lehmann

Pioneers of Phylogenetic Systematics: Their Battle against Idealistic Morphology

A New Beginning: From Speciation to Phylogenetics

The Stresemann School

The Berlin School Branches Out to Dresden

Willi Hennig

A Prospectus for Phylogenetic Systematics

Grundzüge: The Conceptual Foundations of Phylogenetic Systematics

Systematics—"Speziesmacherei" or a True Science?

The Empirical Base of Phylogenetic Systematics

Phylogenetic Hierarchy

The Cladogram

Heterobathmy of Characters


Literature Cited

About the Author

Olivier Rieppel is Rowe Family Curator of Evolutionary Biology at The Field Museum in Chicago. His main current research interests focus on Triassic marine reptiles from southern China. He also contributed extensively to the comparative anatomy and evolution of modern reptiles, most notably the evolutionary origin of turtles and snakes. He published widely in the history and philosophy of comparative biology on topics as diverse as species concepts, mid-eighteenth-century French biology, and the history of phylogenetic systematics. Rieppel is on the editorial board of several peer-reviewed scientific journals and has, himself, published more than 350 scientific papers and 7 books.

About the Series

Species and Systematics

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
NATURE / Animals / General
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Botany
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Evolution