Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Proteus: A Nineteenth Century Vision

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Proteus: A Nineteenth Century Vision

Article excerpt

Proteus: A Nineteenth Century Vision (David Lebrun, Icarus Films and First Run Features, 2004)

Nineteenth-century scientist Ernst Haeckel reconciled the profound conflict between objective, cold science and subjective, emotional art to become one of his century's preeminent biologists, artists, and naturalists. His work has been translated into 20 languages. Today, we revere him for discovering, describing, and drawing 4000 species of Radiolaria: tiny, single-celled sea organisms that absorb silica and extrude glass-like skeletons, "amoeba-like drops of protoplasm, each species a translucent cage."

David Lebrun has produced "Proteus," a visually gorgeous film that commands the interest of students and teachers of art, humanities, science, and the history and philosophy of science. I previewed this 1-hour film for my community-college biology students to their evident delight and amazement. I recommend the purchase of this DVD by secondary schools, universities, and community colleges for interdisciplinary use.

LeBrun explores conceptions of nature, including those of Aristotle, the alchemists, the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment rationalists, and the 19th-century romantic poets, the last of which viewed the "outer" world of nature as a window to the "inner" landscape of the soul. Haeckel merged the outer and inner worlds. Art Forms in Nature, his 50-volume magnum opus drawn from specimens brought back from the 3-year voyage of the HMS Challenger, took 10 years to compile. …

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