The eyes of the olms

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschung


The experiments of the Austrian biologist Paul Kammerer to breed eyes in blind olms is probably one of the most notable manifesations of Lamarckian thinking and research at the beginning of the 20th century. If living in the environment of the dark caves in the Slovenian Kraijna for thousands of years has reduced the eyes of the olms until they nearly disappeared, then is it possible to influence the development in the other direction and speed it up? Will a transformed milieux or media (in a Lamarckian sense) conduct olms to vision, to the mysteries of light? Kammerer's legendary skill in taking care of animals (especially amphibians), the highly modern research environment of an institution unique in whole Europe and America at that time (the Biologische Versuchsanstalt Wien), years of experimental crossings, and, finally, the convergence of biological media and technical media (for example media of development in photography), provided the opportunity for Kammerer to succeed. The olm experiments are part of an elaborate research program of the Viennese Versuchsanstalt and its facilities that assume the environment of animals to be the critical point in developmental, hereditary, and evolutionary research. Theoretically Kammerer's olms ask questions about vision in general and its organ, the eye.
ZeitschriftHistory and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Seiten (von - bis)215-238
Anzahl der Seiten24
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2009