Robert Richards
University of Chicago
Many revolutionary proposals entered the biological disciplines during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, theories that provided the foundations for today’s science and gave structure to its various branches. Cell theory, evolutionary theory, and genetics achieved their modern form during this earlier time. The period also saw a variety of new, auxiliary hypotheses that supplied necessary supports for the more comprehensive theories. These included ideas in morphology, embryology, systematics, language, and behavior. These scientific developments forced a reconceptualization of nature and the place of human beings therein. The legacy for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been a materialization and mechanization of the most fundamental processes of life. From our current perspective, it’s easy to look back and assume that the foundational ideas of our contemporary science must have had the same character as they now seem to manifest. I think a closer inspection of biological science of this earlier period will reveal a discipline whose philosophic assumptions are quite different from those of its present incarnation. This becomes especially vivid when 1 we focus on the contributions of German Idealism and Romanticism to the biology of the earlier dispensation
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