Form and Function (1916), by Edward Stuart Russell
AuthorUlett, Mark A.
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In 1916, at the age of twenty-nine, Edward Stuart Russell published his first major work, Form and Function: a Contribution to the History of Animal Morphology. This book has maintained wide readership among scientists and historians since its initial publication, and today is generally recognized as the first modern, sustained study of the history of morphology. In particular, Form and Function incorporates an extensive theoretical analysis of the relationship between embryological studies and comparative morphology in the nineteenth century. Russell employs a history-of-ideas approach in this book, describing the most significant morphologists and their theories. The first chapters of Form and Function discuss early investigators into morphology, such as Hippocrates and Aristotle. The book concludes with a discussion of the opening decade of the twentieth century and the works of Russell’s contemporaries, such as Ernst Mehnert, Hans Driesch, Oscar Hertwig, and Albert Oppel. The broad structure of these chapters, and thus Russell’s overall history, is organized into three main “currents”: a functionalist approach, which includes evolutionary morphologists; a transcendental or idealistic morphology; and finally a focus on experimental embryology or “causal morphology,” to use Russell’s terminology. Consequently the overall framework of Form and Function explains the emerging importance of embryology for an understanding of biological form.