Above: plant physiologist Henri Devaux (1862–1956) demonstrating the physics of surface tension using a toy boat with a grain of camphor attached to the stern, sitting in a tub of water with oil on the surface.

I occasionally write posts about the historiography in history of science—musings or reading lists that I’ll mention in talks, but don’t publish. I’ll also post some rare publications or archives for download that are otherwise very hard to find.

  • Gavin Bridson, The History of Natural History: An Annotated Bibliography (1994)

    Here’s a book I stumbled upon today that I wish I knew about a long time ago: Gavin Bridson’s The History of Natural History: An Annotated Bibliography. It’s not just a bibliography of natural history resources, it’s a bibliography of history of natural history resources, which means this should go on the top of any grad student’s prelims or comps reading list for the history of the life sciences. When I was in grad school at UW-Madison (back before the History of Science department merged with the History Department in 2017—BTW a good thing for everyone involved, by all accounts) this book wasn’t in the main History of Science & Medicine stacks in Memorial Library. It was squirreled away in the Reference stacks, where I never went. My loss! (There’s another copy in Steenbock Library, which is an entire life sciences library, and back in the day not the only one—so I’m not surprised I never stumbled across it there either.)

    Bridson compiled and published a second, revised edition in 2008, which I have not seen; he passed away shortly afterward. As it is, this is an extremely good guide to the older literature, which tends to cover areas of the history of the life sciences that have been a bit neglected since the 2000s. Mark Barrow reviewed the second edition for the Journal of the History of Biology (paywalled, but here’s my copy), and he notes that this is very much an artifact of the pre-internet era.

    Nevertheless, the older literature, especially the older, non-English literature, remains out of easy reach from Google Scholar. Additionally, as a topical bibliography I find it much more valuable than the general bibliographies available for history of science, whose topic labelling/indexing has been getting better, but still feels too brief for me.

    I don’t have time to scan the whole volume, but here is the “Detailed Table of Contents” that is also impossible to find online. I’ve copied and pasted it below, and you can also download my not very good scan. If you see any topics of interest, I highly recommend seeking out Bridson’s Annotated Bibliography.

    📥 Download #1: Bridson-Natural-History-Bibliography-1994-ToC (1.6 MB)

    📥 Download #2: Barrow-JHB-review-Bridson-Nat-Hist-Bibliography-2008 (125 KB)




    PART A — Personnel, Organizations, Current Awareness

    • PREVIOUS GUIDES: Biology and general science A1-33; Related subjects A34-46
    • SOCIETIES & ORGANIZATIONS: Guides A51-56; Individual societies, etc. A57-73
    • NEWSLETTERS A74-80
    • PERIODICALS: Guides A81-88; Individual periodicals A89-155

    Part B – Background Bibliography

    Section Ba. Biographies of Naturalists

      • General Ba1-59; European (& Mediterranean) Ba60-75; North American Ba7699; South American Ba100-101; Asian Ba102; Australasian Ba103
      • Old directories of scientists Ba104-117
      • Bibliographies of general biographical literature Ba118-124
    • BOTANISTS (& plant collectors)
      • General Ba125-156; European (& Mediterrancan) Ba157-190; North American Ba191-216; South & central American (& Caribbean) Ba217-225; Asian Ba226-232; Australasian Ba233-242; African Ba243-250.
      • Cryptogamic botanists – General Ba251; Pteridologists Ba252; Bryologists Ba253-258; Lichenologists Ba259-263; Mycologists Ba264268; Microbiologists Ba269-271
      • Old directories of botanists Ba272-293
      • Bibliographies of botanical biography Ba294
    • ZOOLOGISTS (& anatomists)
      • General Ba295-317; Ornithologists Ba318-328; Herpetologists & ichthyologists Ba329-331; Entomologists & arthropodologists Ba332-340; Conchologists Ba341-344; Taxidermists Ba345
      • Old directories of zoologists Ba346-361; Old directories of entomologists & arachnologists Ba362-374
    • ARTISTS (& illustrators) Ba375-384
      • Portrait indexes & studies Ba385-395; Portrait collections Ba396-421
      • Medallic portraits – Studies & collections Ba422-429
      • Bibliographies of iconographical literature Ba430
    • INDIVIDUAL BIOGRAPHIES (& bibliographies) Ba431-1636

    Section Bb. Histories of Naturalists’ Societies

      • General Bb1-12; European Bb13-27; North American Bb28-36; Australasian Bb37-38
        • International Bb39-40; European Bb41-568; North American Bb569-670; Asian Bb671-689; Australasian etc. Bb690-706; African Bb707
        • General Bb708-775; International congresses Bb776-778; Cryptogamic botany Bb779-788
        • General Bb789-822; Ornithological Bb823-845; Herpetological & ichthyological Bb846-851; Entomological Bb852-894; Conchological Bb895-900
    • Bibliography of histories of societies Bb901

    Section Bc. Natural History Library Resources

      • General Bc1-10; Natural history (& science) Bc11-22; Botanical Bc23-26; Zoological Bc27-32; Map collections Bc33; History/description of individual libraries Bc34-158
      • Personal collecting Bc159-161; Individual collectors Bc162-182
      • Bibliographies of library resource literature Bc183-185
      • GENERAL — Union catalogues Bc 186-193; Individual general catalogues Bc 194-199
      • NATURAL HISTORY — General Bc200-338; Local natural history societics Bc339-357; Microscopical science Bc358-359
      • BOTANICAL — General Bc360-426; Cryptogamic botany Bc427-432
      • ZOOLOGICAL — General Bc433-449; Ornithological Bc450-462; Herpetological & ichthyological Bc463-466; Entomological Bc467-477; Conchological Bc478-479
      • Bibliographies of library history & catalogues Bc480-484
        • Natural history Bc485-519; Botanical Bc520-574; Zoological Bc575-602
        • Bibliographies of personal library & book-sale catalogues Bc603-613
      • Union catalogues Bc614-618; Individual catalogues, general Bc619-621; Natural history Bc622-627; Botanical Bc628-640; Zoological Bc641-643
      • Bibliographies of periodicals catalogues Bc644-650
      • Guides to repositories Bc651-660; Surveys of resources Bc661-707; Individual collections Bc 708-860
      • Bibliographies of manuscripts catalogues Bc861-864
      • Guides to resources Bc865-871

    Part C — Core Bibliography

    Section Ca. History of Natural History

      • General Cal-37; 15th to 18th centuries Ca38-55; 19th & 20th centuries Ca5673; Chronologies Ca74 -80; Encyclopacdias & dictionarics Ca81-82
      • Natural history bibliographies Ca83-105; Bibliographies of incunabula Ca106-107; Bibliographies of encyclopaedias & dictionaries Ca108-113; Bibliographies of dissertations Ca114-125; Periodical bibliographies Cal26-135; Bibliographies of periodicals Ca136-141; Chronological lists of periodicals Ca142-143
      • European Ca144-195; North American Cal96-236; South & central American (& Caribbean) Ca237-245; Asian Ca246-252; Australasian (& Pacific) Ca253-261; African Ca262-263 Regional natural history bibliographies – European (& Mediterranean) Ca264-292; North American Ca293-303; South & central American (& Caribbean) Ca304308; Asian (& Indian Ocean) Ca309-335; Australasian (& Pacific) Ca336-342; African Ca343-349; Polar Ca350-353
      • Biogeography Ca354-362; Ecology Ca363-384; Reproduction Ca385-393; Genetics & heredity Ca394-415; Evolution Ca416-489; Miscellancous Ca490-496
      • Topical bibliographies Ca497-500
      • General Ca501-535;
      • Microscopes & microtechniques Ca536-558
      • Microscopy bibliographies Ca559-566
      • Marine Ca567-601; Freshwater Ca602-606
      • Aquatic-biology & exploration bibliographies Ca607-628
      • General Ca629-650;
      • By region — European Ca651-652; North American Ca653-664; South & central American (& Caribbean) Ca665-676; Asian Ca677-682; Australasian (& Pacific) Ca683-695; African Ca696702; Polar Ca703-706; Individual expeditions & voyages Ca707-799
      • Exploration bibliographies Ca800-823
      • General Ca824-835; By region Ca836-854;
      • Individual museums — European Ca855-928; North American Ca929-964; South American Ca965-970; Australasian Ca971-974
      • Personal collections Ca975-989
      • Museums bibliographies Ca990-991
      • General Ca992-1000
      • Individual institutions – European Ca1001 -1035; North American Ca1036-1084: South American Cal085-1087; Asian Ca10881090; Australasian (& Pacific) Ca1091-1092; African Ca1093
      • Classification schedule Ca1119
      • Natural history terms, etymology Ca1120-1128
      • Bibliographies of illustration resources Cal139-1141

    Section Cb. History of Botany

      • General Cb1-19; 15th to 18th centuries Cb20-36; 19th & 20th centuries Cb3739; Chronologies Cb40; Plant exploration Cb41-55
      • Botanical bibliographies Cb56-82; Bibliographies of herbals Cb83-86; Bibliographies of various plant groups Cb87-94; Bibliographies of dissertations Cb95-98; Periodical bibliographies Cb99-115
      • European (& Mediterranean) Cb116-219; North American Cb220-267; South & central American (& Caribbean) Cb268-286; Asian Cb287-314; Australasian (& Pacific) Cb315-325; African Cb326-333
      • Regional bibliographies European (& Mediterranean) Cb334-384; North American Cb385-412; South & central American (& Caribbean) Cb413-429; Asian Cb430-460; Australasian (& Pacific) Cb461-465; African (& Indian Ocean) Cb466-473
      • Plant geography Cb474-481; Ecology (& forest botany) Cb482-499; Morphology, anatomy & embryology Cb500-523; Physiology Cb524-533; Floral biology Cb534-546; Genetics & heredity Cb547-551; Palaeobotany Cb552-560
      • Topical bibliographies Cb561-571
      • General Cb572-573
      • PTERIDOLOGY Cb574-580
        • Pteridological bibliographies Cb581 -593
      • BRYOLOGY Cb594-604
        • Bryological bibliographies C6605-612
      • LICHENOLOGY Cb613-623
        • Lichenological bibliographies Cb624-632
      • MYCOLOGY (including plant pathology) Cb633-670
        • Mycological bibliographies Cb671-684; Regional Cb685-700
      • PHYCOLOGY Cb701-717
        • Phycological bibliographies Cb718-731
      • General Cb732-749
      • Individual gardens – European (& Mediterranean) Cb750895; North American Cb896-923; South & central American (& Caribbean) Cb924-928; Asian Cb929-941; Australasian Cb942-950; African (& Indian Ocean) Cb951-955
      • Botanical gardens bibliographies Cb956-961
      • General Cb962-971; Cryptogamic herbaria Cb972-979;
      • Individual herbaria & museums — European Cb980-1013; North American Cb1014-1022; Asian Cb1023-1024; Australasian Cb1025; Personal herbaria Cb1026-1042
      • Individual institutions European Cb1043-1092; North American Cb10931106; South American Cb1107; Asian Cb1108-1113
      • General Cb1114-1137
      • Classification schedules Cb1138-1139
      • Botanical nomenclature Cb1140-1148
        • Codes of nomenclature & indexes Cb1149-1150; Spermatophyta Cb1151-1162; Pteridophyta Cb1163; Musci Cb1164; Hepatica Cb1165-1166; Lichens Cb1167-1169; Fungi Cb1170-1172; Alga Cb1173-1175. Botanical terms, etymology Cb1176-1185
      • General Cb1186-1214; Plant images in art Cb1215-1217
      • Bibliographies of illustration resources Cb1218-1230
    • PLANTS & MAN
      • General Cb1231-1253; Plant mythology & folklore Cb1253-1256

    Section Cc. History of Zoology

      • General Cc1-14; 15th to 18th centuries Cc15-18; Chronologics Cc 19-20
      • Zoological bibliographies Cc21-35; Bibliographies of dissertations Cc36; Periodical bibliographies Cc37-54
      • European (& Mediterranean) Cc55-80; North American Cc81-102; South & central American (& Caribbean) Cc103-104; Asian Cc105-110; Australasian Cc111-115; African Cc116-118
      • Regional bibliographies – European (& Mediterranean) Cc119-142; North American Cc143-151; South & central American (& Caribbean) Cc152; Asian Cc153-159; Australasian Cc160; African Cc161-163
      • Animal geography Cc164-168; Ecology Cc169-176; Morphology & anatomy Cc177-189; Embryology Cc190-207; Physiology & reproduction Cc208-253; Behaviour Cc254-271; Palacontology Cc272-285
      • General Vertebrate bibliographies Cc286-291
      • MAMMALOGY Cc292-306A
        • Mammalogical bibliographies Cc307-316; Regional bibliographies Cc317-327
      • ORNITHOLOGY, general Cc328-346; Ornithology, regional Cc347-374
        • Ornithological bibliographies Cc375-383; Regional – European (& Mediterranean) Cc384-405 North American Cc406-421; South & central American (& Caribbean) Cc422-423; Asian Cc424-427; Australasian (& Pacific) Cc428-431; African Cc432; Polar Cc433
      • HERPETOLOGY Cc434-442
        • Herpetological bibliographies Cc443-445; Regional bibliographies Cc446-461
      • ICHTHYOLOGY Cc462-476
        • Ichthyological bibliographies Cc477-482; Regional bibliographies Cc483-498
      • General
      • Invertebrate bibliographies Cc499-500
      • ENTOMOLOGY, general Cc501-523; Entomology, regional Cc524-561
        • Entomological bibliographies Cc562-571; Regional bibliographies Cc572-597; Bibliographies of insect groups Cc598-625; Periodical bibliographies Cc626-632
      • CONCHOLOGY Cc633-644
        • Conchological bibliographies Cc645-659
        • Arachnological & crustaceological bibliographies Cc673-683
      • HELMINTHOLOGY Cc684-690
        • Helminthological bibliographies Cc691-697; Periodical bibliographies Cc698
        • Bibliographies of other invertebrate zoology Cc709-722
      • PARASITOLOGY Cc723-733
        • Parasitological bibliographies Cc734-739
      • PROTOZOOLOGY Cc740-754
        • Protozoological bibliographies Cc755-759
      • General Cc760-764; Individual zoos Cc765-775; Personal menageries Cc775
      • General Cc776-792
      • Individual museums – European Cc793-841; North American Cc842-856; Asian Cc857-859; Australasian Cc860-862; African Cc863-864; Personal collections Cc865-890
      • Collections bibliographies Cc891
      • General Cc892
      • Individual institutions — European Cc893-930; North American Cc931-961; Asian Cc962
      • General Cc963-973
      • Classification schedules Cc974-975
      • Zoological nomenclature Cc976-978
        • Code of nomenclature & indexes Cc979-986
        • Zoological terms, etymology Cc987-996
      • General Cc997-1004; Ornithological Cc1005-1014; Ichthyological Cc 1015; Entomological Cc1016-1021; Anatomical Cc1022-1026; Animal images in art Cc1027-1032
      • Bibliographies of illustration resources Cc1033-1038
      • General Cc1039-1054; Mythology, folklore & cryptozoology Cc1055-1064

    Part D — Historical & Bibliographical Methods

      • Significance & use D49-73; Handwriting D74-79
      • Bibliographies of bibliographical literature D80-84
      • Bibliographical methods & problems D85-110
      • Analytical & descriptive bibliography D111-124
      • Historical bibliography D125-143; Publishing history D144-165; Some individual publishers D166-183; Dates-of-publication litcraturc D184-204; Natural history bookselling D205-210
      • Systematic bibliography D211-216; Periodical title abbreviations D217-222
      • General D223-234; Individual bibliographers & historians D235-290

    Part E — Indexes

    • Subject Index
    • Geographical Index
    • Name Index
  • Cell theory historiography and Gustav Gabriel Valentin’s Histiogeniae plantarum atque animalium (Histiogenia comparata) of 1835/37

    Not infrequently, histories of cell theory will mention Jan Purkyně (1787–1869) and his student Gabriel Gustav Valentin (1810–1883) as important forerunners to Schleiden and Schwann. Years before Schleiden’s 1838 “Beiträge zur Phytogenesis” and Schwann’s 1839 Mikroskopische Untersuchungen, Purkyně and Valentin both observed nuclei in animal cells, and both suggested a possible homology between plant cells and animal cells. Purkyně never wrote any essay, book, or treatise just on cell theory the way that Schleiden and Schwann had, but Valentin did exactly that in 1835.

    Probably fewer than 10 people have ever read Valentin’s 1835 treatise on cells, however. According to historian Erich Hintzsche, Valentin’s Histiogeniae plantarum atque animalium inter se comparatae specimen (A comparative study of histogenesis in plants and animals) consists of over 1,000 handwritten quarto pages in Latin, along with 45 hand-drawn plates. It was apparently not written with publication in mind. In 1833 the Académie des Sciences in Paris announced a competition for the Grand prix des sciences physiques for 1835, with the following prompt to compare the development of tissues across plant and animal species:

    Examine whether the mode of development of organic tissues in animals can be compared to the way in which tissues of plants develop. Recall, on this occasion, the various systems of the physiologists, repeat their experiments and see to what extent they agree with the rules of reasoning and the general laws of organization. Above all, ascertain whether the lower animals develop in a different way from the higher animals; additionally, whether there exists as many such differences in the growth of acotyledons, monocotyledons and dicotyledons, as some authors assert; finally, whether there are at the same time several modes of growth among the dicotyledons.*

    *: Examiner si le mode de développement des tissus organiques chez les animaux, peut être comparé à la manière dont se developpent les tissus des végétaux. Rappeler, à cette occasion, les divers systèmes des physiologistes, répéter leurs experiences et voir jusqu’à quel point elles s’accordent avec les règles du raisonnement et les lois générales de l’organisation. S’assurer surtout si les animaux d’un ordre inférieur se développent d’une autre manière que ceux d’un ordre supérieur; s’il existe aussi dans l’accroissement des acotylédones, monocotylédones et dicotylédones, alltant de différences que l’ont quelques auteurs; enfin si chez les dicotylédones il y a à la fois plusieurs modes d’accroissement.

    Valentin submitted Histiogenia comparata in January 1835 won the Academy’s 1835 Grand prix, which came with a financial reward of 3,000 francs. The cash allowed Valentin to purchase his own Schiek & Pistor microscope (made in Berlin) liberating him from needing to borrow Purkyně’s even more costly Plössl microscope (made in Vienna). The honor allowed Valentin to leave Purkyně’s institute in Breslau (Wrocław) in 1836, when the University of Bern offered him a full professorship in physiology, where he became the first, non-converted Jewish Ordinarius at a German-speaking university. The Academy asked Valentin to shorten the manuscript for publication, and in 1837 he submitted a revised and shortened draft, still in Latin. However, this was also never published, and in 1838/39 Schleiden and Schwann would write and publish their own, groundbreaking cell theories—in German, rather than Latin.

    Both Valentin’s 1835 and 1837 manuscripts are apparently deposited in the archives of the Académie des Sciences, or possibly with the library of the Academy’s parent institution, the Institut de France. Of the speculations for why Valentin never published his Histiogenia comparata the most convincing to me is that neither Valentin nor his mentor Purkyně actually believed that animal cells and plant cells were essentially the same: for Purkyně and Valentin (and Schleiden!) the similarities between plant and animal cells were superficial, whereas for Schwann and us today the similarities are fundamental.

    As I mentioned, the number of people who have ever read Valentin’s Histiogenia comparata in the original, handwritten Latin is very low. Purkyně surely read it before Valentin submitted the manuscript in January 1835. The 1835 Académie jury consisted of Mirbel, Blainville, Magendie, Étienne Serres, and Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart. In 1939 Miloš Volf looked the manuscript briefly, for an event commemorating the centenary of Schleiden and Schwann’s cell theory. In 1962 the aforementioned biographer of Valentin, Erich Hintzsche, examined both the 1835 and the 1837 manuscripts in detail. In 1963 Hintzsche published a ca. 100 page précis of Valentin’s manuscript as vol. 20 of his own monograph series, Berner Beiträge zur Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften. In addition to ca. 6 pages explaining the history of the Histiogenia comparata itself, 2 pages of illustrations, and about 60 pages in German summarizing the manuscript, Hintzsche also gives us 30 pages of excerpts in Latin, appended as endnotes.

    For the most part, historians have only bothered to mention Valentin’s Histiogenia comparata insofar as he won the Academy’s Grand prix by writing about cells 3–4 years before Schleiden and Schwann became famous for doing the same. As far as I am aware, nobody since Hintzsche has written anything new about Valentin’s Histiogenia comparata, and it’s possible that almost nobody else has since tried to look at the original 1835/37 manuscripts in Paris. There aren’t even that many historians who have read Hintzsche’s 1963 précis. It turns out that Valentin’s (and, by extension, Purkyně’s?) ideas about cell structure, function, and formation are both weird and complicated. Even though few of Schleiden and Schwann’s ideas about cells held up for more than a decade, at least their theories had the benefit of being simple and forceful—they had left to other biologists the work of sorting out the details of how cells actually work.

    Because the Berner Beiträge zur Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften is hard to find and definitely not digitized, I’ve decided to scan Hintzsche’s 1963 Zellen und Gewebe in G. Valentins “Histiogenia comparata” von 1835 und 1838 and make it available for here for people to download and read. My scan is not particularly high quality; if you need something in higher resolution, email me and I’ll see what I can do. Hintzsche himself wrote a short biography of Valentin in 1953, and this and the older literature is cited in the bibliography of Valentins “Histiogenia comparata”. My more recent sources of information are G. Rudolph, “Gabriel-Gustav Valentin (1810–1883): Grand prix de l’Académie des science (1835) correspondant de l’Académie de médecine (1846),” Histoire des sciences médicales 19, no. 4 (1985): 367–75; and Henry Harris, The Birth of the Cell (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), chapter 9.

    📥 Download: Hintzsche-1963-Valentins-Histiogenia-comparata (10 MB)

    p.s.: If you happen to know exactly where the original 1835/37 manuscripts are, please send me an email or leave a comment. In my brief search I could not figure out whether they were being held by the Bibliothèque de l’Institut de France or the Archives of the Académie de Sciences, as the catalogues for both institutions turned up blanks for me.

    Update 17 September 2022: I managed to misspell “Histiogenia” by dropping the second “i”—Histogenia instead of Histiogenia. I’ve corrected that now. But, I’m not the only one! Henry Harris and G. Rudolph also had spelled it “Histogenia.” I do not know Latin grammar, and so if it turns out that it is “Histogenia” and not “Histiogenia” then please email me or leave a comment.

  • CD-ROM 💿 for Dieter Gerlach’s Geschichte der Mikroskopie (2009)

    Dieter Gerlach’s book Geschichte der Mikroskopie (2009) is far and away the best single reference work on the history of microscopy.* It is also long out of print: the publisher Verlag Harri Deutsch closed its doors in 2013, and Dr. Gerlach passed away in 2015. Geschichte der Mikroskopie was clearly a labor of love and dedication, and Dr. Gerlach collected hundreds of pictures of both biologists and historical microscopes for the book. The book included a CD-ROM with these same images in higher resolution and in color. Since a lot of library copies no longer have the CD-ROM, I’ve uploaded it here for anyone who wants the full experience of this exhaustively researched book.

    📥 Download: Gerlach-2009-Geschichte-der-Mikroskopie-CD-ROM.iso (617 MB)

    Once you’ve mounted the .iso disk image, open either “index.html” or “mikroskope.html” in your web browser.

    *: The other contender for the title is the three volume Geschichte der Mikroskopie: Leben und Werk grosser Forscher, ed. Hugo Freund and (the controversial, former SS officer) Alexander Berg (Umschau Verlag, 1963–1966). Its subtitle “Life and Work of Great Scientists” only starts to indicate how different it is from Gerlach’s instrument-oriented book. The 132 biographical entries are written by important European microscopists. It’s a much more demanding and technical book: the Freund & Berg entries were written by microscopists for other microscopists, while Gerlach had extensive experience writing textbooks for beginner and intermediate students. Despite sharing titles Gerlach’s Geschichte der Mikroskopie and Freund & Berg’s Geschichte der Mikroskopie are complementary to the point of having almost no overlap, and both are essential starting points for any historian of microscopy.

  • Core historiography on 19th century cell theory

    In May 2022 Karl Matlin invited a few of us — Hanna Worliczek, Andrew Reynolds, Gina Surita, Anna Guerrero, and Jane Maienschein — out to the MBL to discuss our ideas for the future of the historiography of cell biology. I made some slides and pedantic comments. I thought I’d share my slides on what I’d consider to be core the scholarship on cell theory in the 19th century. If you see stuff that’s missing, email me (dan@dan-liu.net) and I’ll add it. (You can try using the comments section below, but I can’t guarantee I’ll see it.)

    I’d argue there are three clear categories in this scholarship:

    Core historiography on the origins of cell theory up to and around 1839:

    • Marc Klein, Histoire des origines de la théorie cellulaire (1936)
    • Arthur Hughes, A History of Cytology (1959)
    • Russell C. Maulitz, “Schwann’s Way: Cells and Crystals,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (1971)
    • Works by L. S. Jacyna on German + British Romanticism and cell theory
      • “Immanence or Transcendence: Theories of Life and Organization in Britain, 1790-1835,” Isis 74, no. 3 (September 1983): 311–29.
      • “Romantic Thought and the Origins of Cell Biology,” in Romanticism and the Sciences, ed. Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 161–68.
      • “‘A Host of Experienced Microscopists’: The Establishment of Histology in Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 75, no. 2 (2001): 225–53.
      • “Moral Fibre: The Negotiation of Microscopic Facts in Victorian Britain,” Journal of the History of Biology 36, no. 1 (2003): 39–85.
    • François Duchesneau Genèse de la théorie cellulaire (1987)
    • Willy Pelz, Zellenlehre: Der Einfluss Hugo von Mohls auf die Entwicklung der Zellenlehre, ed. Armin Geus and Irmgard Müller, Marburger Schriften zur Medizingeschichte 20 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1987; based on 1944 dissertation).
    • Henry Harris, The Birth of the Cell (1999)
    • Ohad Parnes, “From Agents to Cells: Theodor Schwann’s Research Notes of the Years 1835-1838,” in Reworking the Bench: Notebooks in the History of Science, ed. F. L. Holmes, Jürgen Renn, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Kluwer 2003), 119–39.
    • Daniel Liu, “The Cell and Protoplasm as Container, Object, and Substance, 1835–1861,” Journal of the History of Biology 50, no. 4 (November 2017): 889–925.
    • Florence Vienne, “Worlds Conflicting: The Cell Theories of François-Vincent Raspail and Theodor Schwann,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 47, no. 5 (Nov, 2017): 629–52.

    Core historiography of 19th c. cell theory vis-à-vis development, growth, heredity, regeneration, reproduction, etc.:

    • John R. Baker’s 5-part “The Cell-Theory: a Restatement, History, and Critique,” in Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science,1948–1955
    • William Coleman, “Cell, Nucleus, and Inheritance” Proc. Am. Phil Soc 109, no. 3 (June 15, 1965): 124–58.
    • John Farley, Gametes and Spores (1982), on cell theory and theories of reproduction
    • Marsha Richmond on British unease with German cell theory:
      • “T. H. Huxley’s Criticism of German Cell Theory: An Epigenetic and Physiological Interpretation of Cell Structure,” Journal of the History of Biology 33, no. 2 (October 2000): 247–89.
      • “British Cell Theory on the Eve of Genetics,” Endeavour 25, no. 2 (June 2001): 55–60.
    • J. Andrew Mendelsohn, “Lives of the Cell,” Journal of the History of Biology 36 no. 1 (Apr 2003)
    • 8+ articles by Fred Churchill from 1968–2010 on August Weismann and the history of chromosomal heredity, including:
      • “August Weismann and a Break from Tradition,” JHB 1, no. 1 (1968): 91–112.
      • “Hertwig, Weismann, and the Meaning of Reduction Division circa 1890,” Isis 61, no. 4 (December 1970): 428–57.
      • “The History of Embryology as Intellectual History,” JHB 3, no. 1 (April 1970): 155–81.
      • “From Heredity Theory to Vererbung: The Transmission Problem, 1850-1915,” Isis 78, no. 3 (September 1987): 337–64.
    • Fred Churchill, August Weismann: Development, Heredity, and Evolution (2015), arguably the most important work in this whole post
    • Florence Vienne on the longue durée history of spermatozoa/sperm cells (ongoing; see her excellent chapter “Eggs and Sperm as Germ Cells,” in Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day, Nick Hopwood, Rebecca Flemming, and Lauren Kassell, eds. (Cambridge University Press, 2018.)

    Articles and chapters by Ariane Dröscher on 19th c. cytology:

    Ariane Dröscher’s important body of work is fairly orthogonal to the historiography of cell biology as a whole, and her work has been pushing us to consider this history in novel ways. I wanted to highlight how broad and diverse her scholarship has been, so she got her own slide in my presentation last month.

    • “Microscopic Truths: The Multiple Realities of the Golgi Apparatus,” in L’esperimento Della Storia: Saggi in Onore Di Renato G. Mazzolini, ed. Massimiano Bucchi, Luca Ciancio, and Ariane Dröscher (Fondazione Museo Storico Trentino, 2015), 101–10
    • “Gregor Mendel, Franz Unger, Carl Nägeli and the Magic of Numbers,” History of Science 53, no. 4 (Dec 2015): 492–508,
    • “Images of Cell Trees, Cell Lines, and Cell Fates: The Legacy of Ernst Haeckel and August Weismann in Stem Cell Research,” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36, no. 2 (Oct 2014): 157–86, 
    • “Was ist eine Zelle? Edmund B. Wilsons Diagramm als graphische Antwort,” Verhandlungen zur Geschichte und Theorie der Biologie 14 (2008): 1–12
    • “Edmund B. Wilson’s ‘The Cell’ and Cell Theory between 1896 and 1925,” HPLS 24, no. 3/4 (Jan 2002): 357–89.
    • Die Zellbiologie in Italien im 19. Jahrhundert, Acta Historica Leopoldina 26 (1996).

    Updated 27 June 2022 w/Marc Klein.

Daniel Liu, PhD

Historian of the modern life and physical sciences.

Principal Investigator, DFG Project 463389772.

Research Associate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Historisches Seminar, Abteilung für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.

ORCID: 0000-0003-1119-1589