ARTICLE: A bridge-builder: Wolf-Ernst Reif and the Darwinisation of German paleontology

From Historical Biology: A Journal of Paleobiology:

A bridge-builder: Wolf-Ernst Reif and the Darwinisation of German paleontology

Georgy S. Levit and Uwe Hoßfeld

Abstract Wolf-Ernst Reif was an outstanding German paleontologist, who, along with his empirical studies (biomechanics, functional and constructional morphology, etc.), paid significant attention to theoretical issues and the history of his discipline. Reif was a bridge-builder, skillfully synthesising history, theory and empirical studies within German-language paleontology. This paper briefly discusses sophisticated relationships between German paleontology and Darwinism based on the historical studies of Wolf-Ernst Reif. German paleontology did not fully embrace Darwinism until the 1970s. There are several reasons for this. First, alternative evolutionary theories (saltationism, neo-Lamarckism, orthogenesis) occupied a significant segment of the theoretical landscape in the German life sciences. Second, typological thinking persisted in German paleontology after the Second World War. Third, German paleontologists were relatively uninterested in discussing mechanisms of evolution, concentrating instead on reconstructing phylogenetic history.

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