Born Dec. 7, 1864, in Breslau; died Dec. 14, 1949, in Tübingen. German histologist. Son of R. Heidenhain. Prosector in the department of comparative anatomy, embryology, and histology of the University of Wurzbürg (1894); professor of anatomy at the University of Tubingen (1917).
Heidenhain’s main work dealt with the microscopic structure of the cell. He discovered the centrosomes of resting cells and studied them using a staining technique that he devised in 1896 (Heidenhain’s hematoxylin stain). Heidenhain is well known for his research on the structure of the cell nucleus, muscle fibers, and muscular tissue of the heart. In his Plasma and the Cell (1907-1911), he criticized R. Virchow’s mechanistic interpretation of the cell theory. According to Heidenhain, the organism cannot be considered an aggregate of individual cells, and its total vital activity is not the arithmetic sum of the functions of the individual cellular elements. Heidenhain advanced the theory of “divisibility of the body’s parts” whereby the organism consists of separate systems of lower and higher orders. In his theory, later called synthesiology, Heidenhain tried to contrast the integrity of the organism with its divisibility.
WORKSPlasma und Zelle: Allgemeine Anatomie der lebendigen Masse, vols. 1-2. Jena, 1907-11.
Formen und Kräfte in der lebendigen Natur, Leipzig, 1923.