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The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought


  • Page extent: 296 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.41 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521703970)

In this book Ron Amundson examines two hundred years of scientific views on the evolution-development relationship from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). This perspective challenges several popular views about the history of evolutionary thought by claiming that many earlier authors had made history come out right for the Evolutionary Synthesis. The book starts with a revised history of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought. It then investigates how development became irrelevant with the Evolutionary Synthesis. It concludes with an examination of the contrasts that persist between mainstream evolutionary theory and evo-devo. This book will appeal to students and professionals in the philosophy and history of science, and biology.

• Was the first history of evolution biology to adopt the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology • Challenges a number of traditional beliefs about nineteenth-century evolutionary theory • Written in a clear, accessible style


1. Introduction; Part I. Darwin's Century: Beyond the Essentialism Story: 2. Systematics and the birth of the natural system; 3. The origins of morphology, the science of form; 4. Owen and Darwin, the archetype and the ancestor; 5. Evolutionary morphology: the first generation of evolutionists; 6. Interlude; Part II. Neo-Darwin's Century: Explaining the Absence and the Reappearance of Development in Evolutionary Thought: 7. The invention of heredity; 8. Basics of the evolutionary synthesis; 9. Structuralist reactions to the synthesis; 10. The synthesis matures; 11. Recent debates and the continuing tension.


'This is revisionist history at its best. The death of Ernst Mayr, the last surviving father of the modern synthesis, makes the publication of this important book all the more timely. Highly recommended.' Choice

'The Changing Role of the Embryo paints a fascinating portrait of the ways in which histories of biology have served as philosophical weapons legitimizing specific forms of biological theory and practice … Philosophers of biology, historians of biology, and practicing biologists with an interest in history, should all read this book.' Journal of the History of Biology

'Amundson has written an interesting book, one worth reading. As a systematist with a concern for history rather than 'good causes', it still leaves me feeling much of interest is neglected (Williams & Ebach Submitted). Until that time comes, 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it', and those who invent is should simply be condemned.' The Systematist

'… as The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought demonstrates, understanding the deep epistemological and conceptual foundations of current research practices is clearly valuable. Amundson has taken an important first step, focusing largely on conceptual and ontological incompatibilities between scientific theories, thus suggesting some order among the ruins.' Science

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