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Endeavour. 2005 Dec;29(4):162-7. Epub 2005 Nov 4.

" soft wax in our hands": Paul Kammerer and the art of biological transformation.

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  • 1Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, 130 Goodbody Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Paul Kammerer's career ended in scandal in 1926 over tampering with his evidence for "Lamarckian" evolution--the infamous midwife toad. But although Kammerer's conclusions proved false, his evidence was probably genuine. In any case his arguments were not simply for Lamarckism and against Darwinism, as the theories are understood today. If we look beyond the scandal, the Kammerer story shows us a great deal about early 20th-century biology: the range of new ideas about heredity and variation, competing theories of biological and cultural evolution and their applications in eugenics, new kinds of laboratories and professional roles for biologists, and changing standards for documenting experimental results.

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