Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777)
AuthorLawrence, Cera R.
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Victor Albrecht von Haller was an 18th century scientist who did extensive work in the life sciences, including anatomy and physiology, botany, and developmental biology. His embryological work consisted of experiments in understanding the process of generation, and led him to adopt the model of preformationism called ovism (the idea that the new individual exists within the maternal egg prior to conception). Haller was born in Bern, Switzerland, on 16 October, 1708. His mother was Anna Maria Engel, and his father was Niklaus Emanuel Haller. The Hallers were an old family in Bern, and Haller spent the majority of his life there. During his life, Haller made many important contributions to medicine, botany, anatomy, and physiology. Haller became one of the most outspoken supporters of preformationism, and the long debate between Haller and Caspar Friedrich Wolff, who supported the competing theory of epigenesis in which form emerges gradually, is a hallmark of this time period in developmental biology. Haller also formulated an accurate model of the rate of fetal growth during gestation, demonstrating statistically that development at the beginning is more rapid than growth later on.