Darwin and Modern Science: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species

By A. C. Seward | Go to book overview

VI
THE MINUTE STRUCTURE OF CELLS IN RELATION TO HEREDITY

By EDUARD STRASBURGER

Professor of Botany in the University of Bonn.

SINCE 1875 an unexpected insight has been gained into the internal structure of cells. Those who are familiar with the results of investigations in this branch of Science are convinced that any modern theory of heredity must rest on a basis of cytology and cannot be at variance with cytological facts. Many histological discoveries, both such as have been proved correct and others which may be accepted as probably well founded, have acquired a fundamental importance from the point of view of the problems of heredity.

My aim is to describe the present position of our knowledge of Cytology. The account must be confined to essentials and cannot deal with far-reaching and controversial questions. In cases where difference of opinion exists, I adopt my own view for which I hold myself responsible. I hope to succeed in making myself intelligible even without the aid of illustrations: in order to convey to the uninitiated an adequate idea of the phenomena connected with the life of a cell, a greater number of figures would be required than could be included within the scope of this article.

So long as the most eminent investigators 1 believed that the nucleus of a cell was destroyed in the course of each division and that the nuclei of the daughter-cells were produced de novo, theories of heredity were able to dispense with the nucleus. If they sought, as did Charles Darwin, who showed a correct grasp of the problem in the enunciation of his Pangenesis hypothesis, for histological connecting links, their hypotheses, or at least the best of them, had reference to the cell as a whole. It was known to Darwin that the cell multiplied by division and was derived from a similar preexisting cell. Towards 1870 it was first demonstrated that cell-nuclei do not arise de novo, but are invariably the result of division of pre-

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1
As for example the illustrious Wilhelm Hofmeister in his Lehre von der Pflanzenzelle ( 1867).

-102-

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