August Weismann

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to August Weismann: Germ plasm theory

Weismann, August

(ou`go͝ost vīs`män), 1834–1914, German biologist. He taught zoology at the Univ. of Freiburg from 1866 to 1912. He is known as the originator of the germ-plasm theory of heredityheredity,
transmission from generation to generation through the process of reproduction in plants and animals of factors which cause the offspring to resemble their parents. That like begets like has been a maxim since ancient times.
..... Click the link for more information.
. His doctrine, formerly called Weismannism, stresses the unbroken continuity of the germ plasm and the nonheritability of acquired characteristics. His works include The Germ-Plasm (1892, tr. 1893) and a series of essays translated into English as Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems (2d ed., 2 vol., 1891–92).


See G. J. Romanes, An Examination of Weismannism (1903).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Weismann, August


Born Jan. 17, 1834, in Frankfurt-am-Main; died Nov. 5, 1914, in Freiburg. German zoologist and theoretician of the evolutionary school. He studied in Göttingen (1852-56). In 1863 he became assistant professor, and from 1873 to 1912 he was a professor at the University of Freiburg.

Weismann’s early work was devoted to the histology of muscle tissue, the development of insects, and the biology of freshwater organisms. Beginning at the end of the 1860’s he shifted his main efforts to theoretical studies devoted to the defense, corroboration, and development of the teachings of C. Darwin. Taking a position of materialism, Weismann defended the mechanistic concept of life phenomena. He argued against vitalism and rejected Lamarckism, which recognized the inherently expedient response of living organisms to the impact of the environment and the inheritance of changes arising in this way. Weismann correctly stated that the problem of the inheritance of acquired characteristics could only be resolved through experimentation, and he proved experimentally the noninheritance of mechanical injuries. Weismann was the author of the speculative theories of inheritance and of individual development, which were inaccurate in details but which anticipated in principle the contemporary notions of the discrete nature of the carriers of hereditary information and their links with chromosomes. He was also the author of a concept of the role of inherited instincts in the individual’s development.

At the end of the 1940’s, Weismann’s teachings, which he called neo-Darwinism, were erroneously pronounced unscientific and reactionary by certain Soviet geneticists. In actuality, Weismann’s teachings were a further development of Darwin’s theory of evolution.


Das Keimplasma: Eine Theorie der Vererbung. Jena, 1892.
Vorgänge über Deszendenztheorie, 3rd ed. Jena, 1913.


Gaupp, E. August Weismann: Sein Leben und sein Werk. Jena, 1917.
Löther, R. “August Weismann—Wegbereiter des Darwinismus und wissenschaftlicher Vererbunglehre.” Wissenschaft und Fortschritt, 1963, vol. 13, no. 10.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
What a reader is left with in The Prisoner of Zenda is an image of a man who has benefited from numerous positive traits bestowed upon him through a system of heredity as described by August Weismann, but who recognizes the value of directing those traits toward the development of a better society--perhaps along the lines of Herbert Spencer's teachings.
August Weismann, The Evolution Theory (London, 1904); August Weismann,
What we now loosely call `neo-Darwinism' was born a century ago in August Weismann's separation of somatoplasm from germ plasm.
Contra Spencer, Kidd denied that there can be improvement of a species by means of use-inheritance, for this alleged mechanism of evolution was incompatible with what biologist August Weismann in the 1880s called the `continuity of the germplasm'.
(13.) August Weismann, "Semons Mneme und die Vererbung erworbener Eigenschaften," Archiv fir Rassen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie, 3 (1906); Heinrich Ernst Ziegler, Die Vererbungslehre in der Biologie und in der Soziologie.
56, citing August Weismann, Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems, [Oxford, 1892], II, iii, 36, 47, 51n., 65-69.) (9) For example, and an even earlier article in the Boston Evening Transcript (September 10, 1902, p.
Ever since 1893, when August Weismann formulated his theory of the continuity of all life through the germ plasm, it has been universally recognized that the beginning of life dates back to the very origin of life on earth.