Wilhelm Hofmeister

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Hofmeister, Wilhelm


Born May 18, 1824, in Leipzig; died Jan. 12, 1877, in Lindenau. German botanist.

Hofmeister was professor at the universities of Heidelberg (1863) and Tübingen (1872); he was one of the founders of the science of plant embryology. He described the formation of pods and of the embryo sac and the process of fertilization and development of the embryo in angiospermous plants (1849). Having studied the development cycles of higher plants (bryophytes, pteropsids, and gymnosperms), he established their alternation of generations—asexual (sporo-phytes) and sexual (gametophytes). At the same time he predicted the discovery of motile spermatozoids in gymnosperms (the discovery was made in 1896–97). His works were of great importance in confirming the theory of evolution, since even before Darwin he showed the phylogenetic identity of cryptogams and phanerogams. He wrote a number of works on the physiology of plants.


Die Entstehung des Embryo der Phanerogamen. Leipzig, 1849.
Vergleichende Untersuchungen der Keimung, Entfaltung und Fruchtbildung höherer Kryptogamen . . . und der Samenbildung der Coniferen. Leipzig, 1851.


Baranov, P. A. Istoriia embriologii rastenii. . . Moscow-Leningrad, 1955.
Goebel, K. E. von. Wilhelm Hofmeister: Arbeit und Leben. Leipzig, 1924.


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GROWTH SPIRAL In 1868, German botanist Wilhelm Hofmeister suggested that the mechanisms of plant development might help explain spiral phyllotaxis.
To understand why Fibonacci numbers predominate in spiral plants, Gole and Atela started with the theories of 19th-century botanist Wilhelm Hofmeister, who observed that a plant's leaves emerge at the least-crowded spot around a circular meristem, or growing tip.