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Oscar Hertwig

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Oscar Hertwig (21 April 1849, Friedberg, Hesse – 25 October 1922, Berlin) was a German zoologist, anatomist and professor, who also wrote about the theory of evolution over 55 years after Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species.

Oscar Hertwig was a leader in the field of embryology. He discovered fertilization of sea urchins, he recognized the role of the cell nucleus during inheritance and chromosome reduction during meiosis. In 1876, he found that fertilization includes the penetration of a spermatozoon into an egg cell. He thought, correctly, that the vectors of hereditary traits resided in the nuclei of the egg and sperm.[1]

His work on the development of sea urchin eggs was fundamental and lasting; his work on evolution was not. He was opposed to 'chance', as he thought was Charles Darwin's theory. He wrote: Das Werden der Organismen, eine Widerlegung der Darwinschen Zufallslehre (Jena, 1916) (translation: "The Origin of Organisms: a refutation of Darwin's theory of chance").

Hertwig was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1903.


  1. Harris, Henry 1995. The cells of the body: a history of somatic cell genetics. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Plainview N.Y.