Text by Lauri Laanisto
On February 17th, in 1792 – thus 225 years ago – Karl Ernst von Baer (died 1876) was born in Piibe manor, in North-East Estonia (back then, of course, it was Russian Empire). Von Baer is probably the most eminent Estonian scientist ever (though, technically he was ethnic German, but he spoke Estonian as well).
He´s the guy who (re)discovered mammalian ovum. He is also the father of embryology and formulated the Baer’s laws of embryology:
- General characteristics of the group to which an embryo belongs develop before special characteristics.
- General structural relations are likewise formed before the most specific appear.
- The form of any given embryo does not converge upon other definite forms, but separates itself from them.
- The embryo of a higher animal form never resembles the adult of another animal form, such as one less evolved, but only its embryo.
He also studied geography, river erosion dynamics, freshwater fish populations. Baer was the first researcher to study perception of time in different organisms. A true polymath. “The great Von Baer” as Darwin mentioned him in “The Origin of Species”, even though Baer was not really proponent of evolution via natural selection.
Therefore this year´s Schola Biotheoretica – annual journal accompanying the Spring School of Theoretical Biology (edited by yours truly) is dedicated to von Baer and all the topics he studied. I´ll paste here the English version of the Table of Contents (the text themselves are in Estonian), and also add the beautiful cover by Vahram Muradyan, and then I have to start driving to the spring school. It starts in couple of hours…
Table of contents:
Kalevi Kull ja Lauri Laanisto – Introduction: Of Baer, theoretical biology and Estonian culture 7
Maie Remmel – Scientific research program „Baer and Darwin“ 13
Mati Kaal – Karl Ernst von Baer, discoverer of the mammalian ovum 87
Toomas Kukk ja Thea Kull – Baer´s herbarium 93
Raik-Hiio Mikelsaar – 225 years from the birth of Karl Ernst von Baer, appraising his scientific contribution in Estonia 107
Toivo Maimets – Randomness during the development of an organism 113
Elo Madissoon – From ovum to embryo: the role of genes 121
Kersti Tepp – Changes in the energy transfer pathways during development; systems biology approach 127
Oive Tinn – The embryos of our predecessors – who laid the first egg? 135
Tuul Sepp – Does urbanization slow down life-history continuum? 143
Sirgi Saar – Cognitive architecture and plant behaviour 149
Siim-Kaarel Sepp – Glomeromycota and human impact 157
Tanel Vahter – Chicken or crocodile – Glomeromycota inoculates in the environment 163
Mart Viikmaa – Francis Galton – XIX century polymath 173
Lauri Laanisto – Restless polymath Alexander von Humboldt 191
Margus Ott – Selection of Chinese natural philosophy 199
Kalevi Kull – Thinkers in the windings of evolutionary theory 215