Monday, 19 December 2016

Haeckel's Tree of Life

In 1866 in Berlin, in his attempt to visualize the difficult concepts of phylogenetic relationships, but also likely inspired by many religious and philosophical traditions, the German zoologist Haeckel drew his biological theory as a tree of life. This ended up supporting many of the ideas of Charles Darwin and laying the foundation for modern ecology and ecosystem studies. 150 years later we have so much technology to assist but rarely demonstrate our ideas as clearly or beautifully in science.

It strikes that this image is something that we might be equally likely to see on the walls of a herbal medicine ayurvedic healer as in a biotechnology lab. More artful than the modern stick-figure phylogenetic trees of genetic sciences, yet more structured and logical than information we might find in the sacred world trees of many of the world's religions.

Árbol de la vida según Haeckel, E. H. P. A. (1866). Generelle Morphologie der Organismen : allgemeine Grundzüge der organischen Formen-Wissenschaft, mechanisch begründet durch die von C. Darwin reformirte Decendenz-Theorie. Berlin.

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