Hans Spemann

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Spemann, Hans


Born June 27, 1869, in Stuttgart; died Sept. 12, 1941, in Freiburg, Baden. German embryologist.

Spemann studied medicine, physics, and botany at the universities in Heidelberg, Munich, and Würzburg. He was a professor at the universities of Rostock (1908–14) and Freiburg (1919–37). From 1914 to 1919 he was director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Biology in Berlin.

Spemann’s main studies were devoted to the experimental embryology of amphibians. Spemann developed microsurgical techniques for use on the embryos of amphibians and designed several microinstruments, including glass needles, hair loops, and micropipettes. He discovered the relationship between the development of one part of an embryo and that of another, specifically, the relationship between the development of the crystalline lens and the optic cup and between the central nervous system and the chorda and mesoderm. These studies laid the foundation for Spemann’s theory of organizers of development, that is, those parts of the embryo that differentiate before other parts and then act on the development of the latter, thereby determining the direction of their differentiation (seeINDUCTION and ORGANIZER). The research of Spemann and his school contributed greatly to our knowledge of the relations between the various parts of the developing embryo and the processes of determination.

Spemann received a Nobel Prize in 1935.


Embryonic Development and Induction. New Haven-London, 1938.
Experimentelle Beiträge zu einer Theorie der Entwicklung. Berlin, 1936.
Forschung und Leben. Stuttgart, 1943.
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