Form and function in Evo Devo: Historical and conceptual reflections

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Scopus citations


The success of grand historical narratives and conceptual reflections rests, in no small part, on the selection of their central characters and features. If, as in our case here, the focus is on the development and integration of those ideas that have shaped our understanding of the living world, it is hardly possible to think of one pair of concepts more appropriate to structure a longue durée narrative than form and function. These linked concepts are uniquely suited to organizing the rich diversity and idiosyncratic developments within the history and philosophy of the life sciences in general, and within evolutionary developmental biology in particular. The concepts of form and function, and everything connected to them, have been used as an organizing principle in several influential analyses of the development of the biological sciences. Their symbiotic and often dialectic relationship forms the backbone of such treatises as Ernst Mayr's The Growth of Biological Thought, William Coleman's Biology in the Nineteenth Century, Ernst Cassirer's Theory of Knowledge (specifically the section on the biological sciences), Edmund Beecher Wilson's The Cell in Development and Heredity, and, of course, Edward Stuart Russell's Form and Function: A Contribution to the History of Animal Morphology (Cassirer 1950; Coleman 1971; Mayr 1982; Russell 1916; Wilson 1925).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationForm and Function in Developmental Evolution
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9780511576188
ISBN (Print)9780521872683
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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