August Weismann on Germ-Plasm Variation

Journal of the History of Biology 34 (3):517-555 (2001)

Authors
Rasmus Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract
August Weismann is famous for having argued against the inheritance of acquired characters. However, an analysis of his work indicates that Weismann always held that changes in external conditions, acting during development, were the necessary causes of variation in the hereditary material. For much of his career he held that acquired germ-plasm variation was inherited. An irony, which is in tension with much of the standard twentieth-century history of biology, thus exists – Weismann was not a Weismannian. I distinguish three claims regarding the germ-plasm: (1) its continuity, (2) its morphological sequestration, and (3) its variational sequestration. With respect to changes in Weismann’s views on the cause of variation, I divide his career into four stages. For each stage I analyze his beliefs on the relative importance of changes in external conditions and sexual reproduction as causes of variation in the hereditary material. Weismann believed, and Weismannism denies, that variation, heredity, and development were deeply intertwined processes. This article is part of a larger project comparing commitments regarding variation during the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Keywords August Weismann  development  evolutionary developmental biology  externalism  genetics  germ-plasm  heredity  inheritance of acquired characters  nineteenth century  sexual reproduction  variation
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1023/A:1012950826540
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Parts and Theories in Compositional Biology.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (4):471-499.
Was James Psychologistic?Alexander Klein - 2016 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 4 (5).

View all 18 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Weismann Rules! OK? Epigenetics and the Lamarckian Temptation.David Haig - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (3):415-428.
Darwin on Variation and Heredity.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):425-455.
The Development of Francis Galton's Ideas on the Mechanism of Heredity.Michael Bulmer - 1999 - Journal of the History of Biology 32 (2):263 - 292.
Difference Mechanisms: Explaining Variation with Mechanisms.James Tabery - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):645-664.
Héréditaire, Inné, Génétique, Etc.André Pichot - 1993 - Acta Biotheoretica 41 (1-2):127-138.
Germinal Selection.August Weismann - 1895 - The Monist 6 (2):250-293.
Individual Differences: Variation by Design.Anthony J. Greene & William B. Levy - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (5):676-677.
The Varied Lives of Organisms: Variation in the Historiography of the Biological Sciences.L. G. & D. M. - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 32 (1):1-29.
Accounting for Female Strategic Variation.J. Michael Bailey - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (4):589-589.
Sex, Death, and Evolution in Proto- and Metazoa, 1876-1913.A. J. Lustig - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (2):221 - 246.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2011-06-11

Total views
1,120 ( #1,699 of 2,236,361 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
66 ( #7,617 of 2,236,361 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature