Haeckel Illustration 1

For our first wedding anniversary (traditionally considered the ‘paper’ anniversary), Violet Towne gave me a beautiful book: Visions of Nature: The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel.

Haeckel was a biologist and artist and an early subscriber to Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories. Although he famously made many erroneous assumptions about evolution,* his detailed naturalistic drawings, particularly his intricate observations of the microscopic sea creatures called radiolarians, are entirely accurate and strikingly beautiful.

Haeckel Illustration 2

Haeckel was also fascinated by the obvious mathematical influences that he observed in life-forms, and documented many of their geometrical characteristics in his drawings.

Haeckel Illustration 3

His ornate organic renderings were almost certainly one of the influences that came to bear on the Art Nouveau movement. It’s not hard to understand why – take a look at this beautiful collection of high quality pdfs of some of Haeckel’s astonishing work.


*Haeckel was a staunch believer in the outmoded ideas of Lamarckism and the now discredited recapitulation theory. Creationists love to wave Haeckel’s name about in reference to errors he made in embryonic illustrations that fulfilled his wishful speculation that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. In doing so they are demonstrating (once again) the profundity of their ignorance; Haeckel was never a believer of Darwin’s idea of natural selection, and in his zeal to advance his own preconceptions, some of his drawings became a little more ‘inventive’ than they had any right to be. Haeckel’s fabrications were never endorsed by Darwin, and in time succumbed to the scrutiny of rational examination, as all bad science necessarily must.