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Karl Ernst von Baer

Karl Ernst von Baer (28 February [O.S. 17 February] 1792 ‚Äď 28 November [O.S. 16 November] 1876) was a Baltic German biologist and a founding father of embryology.

Statue of Karl Ernst von Baer on Toome Hill, Tartu. As a tradition, students wash the head of statue with champagne every Walpurgis Night[1].



Karl Ernst von Baer was born in Piibe manor (German: Piep), now in Rakke, L√§√§ne-Viru, Estonia; many of his ancestors had come from Westphalia. A knight by birthright, his full name was Karl Ernst Ritter von Baer, Edler von Huthorn. He was educated at the Cathedral School in Reval (Tallinn) and the University of Dorpat (Tartu). He continued his education in Berlin, Vienna, and W√ľrzburg where D√∂llinger introduced him to the new field of embryology.

In 1812, Baer was a volunteer in the war against Napoleon's invasion, serving as doctor[2].

In 1817, he became a professor at K√∂nigsberg University (Kaliningrad) and full professor of zoology in 1821, and of anatomy in 1826. In 1829 he taught briefly in St Petersburg, but returned to K√∂nigsberg. In 1834 Baer moved back to St Petersburg and joined the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, first in zoology (1834‚Äď46) and then in comparative anatomy and physiology (1846‚Äď62). His interests while there were anatomy, ichthyology, ethnography, anthropology and geography. The last years of his life (1867‚Äď76) were spent in Dorpat (Tartu), where he became one of the leading critics of the theories of Charles Darwin.

He was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1850.

A statue honouring him can be found on Toome Hill (Toomemägi) in Tartu. The two kroons (2 krooni) Estonian banknote bears his portrait.




Karl Ernst von Baer.

He studied the embryonal development of animals, discovering the blastula stage of development and the notochord. Together with Heinz Christian Pander and based on the work by Caspar Friedrich Wolff he described the germ layer theory of development (ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm) as a principle in a variety of species laying the foundation for comparative embryology in the book √úber Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere (1828). In 1826 Baer discovered the mammalian ovum. The first human ovum was described by Allen in 1928.(1) In 1827 he completed research "Ovi Mammalium et Hominis genesi" for Saint-Petersburg's Academy of Science (published at Leipzig[3][4]) and established that mammals develop from eggs.

Baer's laws (embryology)

He formulated what would later be called Baer's laws of embryology:

  1. General characteristics of the group to which an embryo belongs develop before special characteristics.
  2. General structural relations are likewise formed before the most specific appear.
  3. The form of any given embryo does not converge upon other definite forms but, on the contrary, separates itself from them.
  4. Fundamentally, the embryo of a higher animal form never resembles the adult of another animal form, such as one less evolved, but only its embryo.
In old age

Baer's law (geology)

The term Baer's law also refers to the proposition that in the northern hemisphere, erosion occurs mostly on the right banks of rivers, and in the southern hemisphere on the left banks.


Baer was interested in the Northern part of Russia and explored Novaya Zemlya in 1837 collecting biologic specimen. Other travels led him to the Caspian Sea, the North Cape, and Lapland. He was a founder and the first president of the Russian Geographical Society.


Baer contributed to studies in entomology and was a cofounder of the Russian Entomological Society.


Baer Island in the Kara Sea was named after Karl Ernst von Baer for his important contributions to the research of Arctic meteorology between 1830 and 1840.[5]

Subjective biology

Baer was a pioneer in studying biological time ‚ÄĒ the perception of time in different organisms. This approach was further developed by Jakob von Uexk√ľll.


  • Karl Ernst von Baer, Grigoriń≠ Petrovich Gel Ļmersen. "Beitr√§ge zur Kenntniss des russischen Reiches und der angr√§nzenden L√§nder Asiens". Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1839. On Google Books (German)

Further reading


  1. ^ K√Ķik algab munast
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  1. Wood C, Trounson A. Clinical In Vitro Fertilization. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1984, Page 6.
  2. Medical eponyms
  3. Baer, K E v. "√úber ein allgemeines Gesetz in der Gestaltung der Flu√übetten", Kaspische Studien, 1860, VIII, S. 1‚Äď6.

External links


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