Anton Dohrn FRS
FRSE (29 September 1840 – 26 September 1909)
was a prominent German Darwinist and the founder and first director of
the first zoological research station in the world, the Stazione
Zoologica in Naples, Italy.
1 Family history
3 Introduction to Darwinism
4 Development of "zoological stations"
5 Foundation of the Stazione Zoologica
6 The "Bench" system
9 External links
Dohrn was born in Stettin (Szczecin), Prussian Province of Pomerania,
into a wealthy middle class family. His grandfather, Heinrich Dohrn,
had been a wine and spice merchant, and had made the family fortune by
trading in sugar. This wealth allowed Anton's father, Carl August, to
devote himself to his various hobbies; travelling, folk music and
insects. Anton, the youngest son, read zoology and medicine at various
German universities (Königsberg, Bonn,
Jena and Berlin). His brother
Heinrich Wolfgang Ludwig Dohrn
Heinrich Wolfgang Ludwig Dohrn was also a zoologist.
In 1874 Dohrn married sixteen-year-old Marie de Baranowska who he had
met in Messina. They had four children Boguslaw, Wolfgang, Harald und
Marie de Baranowska
The Dohrn family. Anton, Marie and their four sons Boguslaw, Wolfgang,
Harald und Reinhard.
Dohrn was initially interested in Hemiptera. In 1859, he published
Beitrag zur Kenntniss der Harpactoridae in Entomologische Zeitung and
the more important Catalogus hemipterorum. He gained his doctorate
Breslau in November 1865 with his thesis "On the Anatomy of
Hemiptera". At this time, he became associated with the English
scientific establishment through his father's friendship with Henry
Tibbats Stainton. In 1866, he published a paper on fossil insects Zur
Kenntniss der Insecten in den Primärformationen. In this he
describes Eugereon boeckingi (Palaeodictyoptera).
Introduction to Darwinism
Anton Dohrn and other naturalists in Heligoland
His ideas changed in summer 1862 when he returned to study at Jena,
Ernst Haeckel introduced him to Darwin's work and theories.
Dohrn became a fervent defender of Darwin's theory of evolution by
At that time comparative embryology was the keystone of morphological
evolutionary studies, based on Haeckel's recapitulation theory, the
idea that an organism during its embryonic development passes through
the major stages of the evolutionary past of its species. Morphology
became one of the major ways in which zoologists sought to expand and
develop Darwinian theory in the latter years of the 19th century.
Dohrn chose to become a "Darwinian morphologist".
Dohrn received his doctorate in 1865 at
Breslau under Eduard Grube,
Habilitation in 1868 at
Jena with Rudolf Virchow, Ernst
Haeckel and Carl Gegenbaur. The study subjects were
Zoology and his
Jena monograph was Studien zur Embryologie der
Arthropoden. From 1868-1870 he was a
Docent in zoology at Jena. During
these times, he worked several times at facilities located by the sea:
Heligoland alongside Haeckel in 1865,
Hamburg in 1866, Millport,
Scotland with David Robertson in 1867 and 1868 and moved to Messina,
Italy, during the winter of 1868 together with his friend and
Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay to work on the marine life of the
Straits of Messina. In 1870 Dohrn was called up to (briefly) serve in
the Franco-Prussian War.
Development of "zoological stations"
Work stations in the
Naples laboratory in 1901
From 1850 to 1852
Karl Vogt had lived in
Nice where he tried
unsuccessfully to enlist support for a marine zoological station (one
was later established as Observatoire Oceanologique de
Villefranche). In Messina, Dohrn and Miklouho-Maclay conceived a
plan to cover the globe with a network of zoological research
stations, analogous to railway stations, where scientists could stop,
collect material, make observations and conduct experiments, before
moving on to the next station.
Dohrn realised how useful it would be for scientists to arrive at a
location and find a ready to use laboratory. Dohrn rented two rooms
for the "
Stazione Zoologica di Messina", but quickly realized the
technical difficulties of studying marine life without a permanent
structure and support facilities, such as trained personnel and a
Foundation of the Stazione Zoologica
Main article: Stazione Zoologica
In 1870 Dohrn decided that
Naples would be a better place for his
Station. This choice was due to the greater biological richness of the
Naples and also to the possibility of starting a research
institute of international importance in a large university town that
itself had a strong international element.
After a visiting a newly opened aquarium in Berlin, the Berliner
Aquarium Unter den Linden he decided that charging the general public
to visit an aquarium might earn the laboratory enough money to pay a
salary for a permanent assistant. Naples, with a population of 500,000
inhabitants, was one of the largest and most attractive cities of
Europe and also had a considerable flow of tourists (30,000 a year)
that could potentially visit the aquarium.
Dohrn overcame the doubts of the city authorities and persuaded them
to give him, free-of-charge, a plot of land at the sea edge, in the
Villa Comunale on the condition that he promised to build
Stazione Zoologica at his own expense.
He opened the station to visiting scientists in September 1873, and to
the general public in January 1874.
In 1875 Dohrn published Der Ursprung der Wirbelthiere und das Princip
des Functionswechsels: Genealogische Skizzen which proposed the
"change of function" theory of the origin of vertebrates.
The "Bench" system
In order to promote the international status of the Stazione and to
guarantee its economic and hence political independence and freedom of
research, Dohrn introduced a series of innovative measures to finance
his project. Firstly, the rental of work and research space (the
"Bench system"), for an annual fee universities, governments,
scientific institutions, private foundations or individuals could send
one scientist to the Stazione for one year where he or she would find
available all that was required to conduct research (laboratory space,
animal supply, chemicals, an exceptional library and expert staff). He
contributed his own library and obtained donations of books from
publishers and authors, including Darwin. These facilities were
supplied with no strings attached, in the sense that investigators
were completely free to pursue their own projects and ideas.
This system worked extremely well, and when
Anton Dohrn died in 1909
more than 2,200 scientists from Europe and the United States had
Naples and more than 50 tables-per-year had been rented out.
It was in fact at
Naples that international scientific collaboration
in the modern sense was invented, based on quick and free
communication of ideas, methods and results.
Map showing location of the
Anton Dohrn Seamount
The success of the Stazione Zoologica, and the new way of thinking and
funding research are the main legacies of Dohrn. The model was copied
a number of times throughout the world. In 1878 Johns Hopkins
University founded the Chesapeake Zoological Laboratory, under the
direction of W.K. Brooks. Then, in 1888, the Marine Biological
Laboratory was founded at
Woods Hole and in 1892 the first laboratory
on the west coast, the Hopkins Marine Station, opened in California.
In Britain, current marine laboratories that originate from this time
include the Dunstaffnage Marine Station (today Scottish Association
for Marine Science, 1884), the Gatty Marine Laboratory (University of
St Andrews, 1884), the Marine Biological Association of the United
Kingdom (Plymouth, 1888), the
Dove Marine Laboratory
Dove Marine Laboratory (Newcastle
University, 1897), the Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory
(Aberdeen, 1899), and the Bangor Marine Station (Queen's University of
Dohrn's name has been immortalised in an undersea feature, the Anton
Dohrn Seamount, a seamount in the Rockall Trough, to the north-west of
the British Isles, which has become known for the great biodiversity
which lives on the cold-water coral, Lophelia pertusa, in this region.
The Carnegie Institution's Department of Marine
Biology laboratory at
Dry Tortugas, Florida placed the
Anton Dohrn in service in July 1911
for ocean science work. The vessel served in the United States Navy
as the patrol vessel
Anton Dohrn (SP-1086) from 1917 to 1919.
Anton Dohrn Palaeontographica , Bd.13, 1866: 333-340, Taf.41
^ Groeben 1985, p. 8.
^ Groeben 1985, p. 12.
^ Carnegie Institution of Washington 1911, p. 22.
^ Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: Anton Dohrn.
Theodor Heuss (in German: 1940)
Anton Dohrn in Neapel.
Atlantis-Verlag, Berlin; Rainer Wunderlich, Tübingen 1948 and 1962
(Title now: "Anton Dohrn"); in English 1991, transl. by Liselotte
Dieckmann, ed. Christiane Gröben Anton Dohrn. A Life for Science
Springer, NY ISBN 0-387-53561-6 Springer, Berlin
Karl Ernst von Baer &
Anton Dohrn Correspondence 1993. Ed.
Christiane Gröben. Amer Philosophical Society ISBN 0-87169-833-1
Theodor Boveri 2009:
Anton Dohrn (1910) Kessinger
Musgrave, A. 1932 Bibliography of Australian Entomology 1775 - 1930.
Semenov-Tjan-Schanskij, A. P. 1909 [Dohrn, F. A.] Revue Russe
Groeben, Christiane (1985). "Anton Dohrn: The Statesman of Darwinism:
To Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Death of Anton Dohrn".
Biological Bulletin. 168 (Supplement: The
Naples Zoological Station
and the Marine Biological Laboratory: One Hundred Years of Biology):
4–25. JSTOR 1541316.
Carnegie Institution of Washington (1911). The Carnegie Institution of
Washington, Founded by Andrew Carnegie. Washington: The Carnegie
Institution. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
Naval History And Heritage Command. "'Anton Dohrn". Dictionary of
American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History And Heritage Command.
Retrieved 12 July 2015.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Anton Dohrn.
Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn
Short biography, bibliography, letters and links on digitized sources
Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History
of Science Via Marine Station.Links to full text of Nunn, Emily. 1883.
Naples Zoological Station, I & II. Science 1: 479-481, 507-510
Anton Dohrn Café Blog
DEI ZALF Biographies of Entomologists of the World.
Stazione Zoologica and the development of embryology
Darwin Project. Letters to Charles Darwin
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