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Kammerer, Paul

Category: Scientist


Paul Kammerer (1880–1926) was an Austrian biologist who studied and advocated a rather novel theory of inheritance.

  The text books say he studied “the now largely abandoned Lamarckian theory of inheritance” – but to me his theory was new and rather special.  What he proposed was that organisms may pass functions they have acquired in their lifetime to their offspring.

He began his academic career at the Vienna Academy studying music but graduated with a degree in biology.  If you are looking for a reason for his insights I think they were [ironically enough] probably inherited genes.

Kammerer undertook numerous biological experiments, largely involving amphibians – mostly salamanders. In a very large number of lesser-known experiments, however,  he also manipulated and bred olms and midwife toads – experiments later described by Arthur Koestler.  He also experimented with sea squirts  and other animals. His findings caused considerable controversy.

The midwife toad

Historian of biology Professor Sander Gliboff, Ivan Slade Prize winner (British Society for the History of Science) has commented that, he believes that Kammerer's evidence was genuine. 

In fact there appears to be little reason for Kammerer to falsify anything, given the number of experiments he did and the number of people who saw them and the results of his work.

His work seems to be totally misunderstood.

Paul - eccentric but not dishonest

If you are a materialist whose religion is [manipulated] Darwinism, none of what Kammerer found can be explained, as such he tends to be dismissed or worse.  But it is clear he found out some very interesting things which seems to imply that although form is inherited via DNA, function can also be inherited. 

In effect where useful learned function has been invented by a member of a species, the function joins the functions of the Intelligence that controls them and is available for use by other members of the species.  Here we have the Intelligence hierarchy, the gradual accumulation of function in a 'bottom up' manner.

No biologist would explain it this way, of course, because biologists do not think in terms of spirit or function, but that is what Kammerer appears to have discovered. To me this was hugely important.  It somewhat supports the notion that the  Objectives of the Great Work is the increase in function from, as it were, the bottom up.  And that one of our purposes on earth [in the physical] is to continue to co-create function – function that is added to the sum total of functions in each system and hence  Intelligence.


Kammerer beavered away most of the time in his laboratory but his work came to the notice of one Dr. G. K. Noble, Curator of Reptiles at the American Museum of Natural History.  In the scientific journal Nature,  Noble claimed that poor Kammerer had falsified his experiments.  Kammerer’s world collapsed after this accusation and funding and support for his work also collapsed.

Arthur Koestler was a sympathetic supporter of Kammerer and revived interest in his work  in 1971 with the publication of his book, The Case of the Midwife Toad. But the trouble was that Noble’s accusations hung over poor Kammerer like a black pall.  It reminded me of the days of the Spanish Inquisition – those who do not toe the party line or the religious line of dogma are destined to suffer and indeed poor Kammerer truly suffered.


Six weeks after the accusation by Noble, Kammerer committed suicide in the forest of Schneeberg.  A truly tragic ending to this story. 

In 2009, developmental biologist Alexander Vargas, Professor in the Department of Biology, University of Chile, suggested that the inheritance of acquired traits that Kammerer reported to observe in his toad experiments could be authentic. 

He too has been slapped down in a number of equally nasty rebuffs from the scientific establishment.  Scientific dogma cannot be challenged.  Clever men but not wise men.

Alexander Vargas

Paul Kammerer, a renowned Lamarckian experimentalist in the early 20th century, committed suicide in 1926, shortly after an article published in Nature (Noble, ’26) suggesting he might have committed fraud in his experiments of inheritance of acquired traits in the midwife toad, Alytes obstetricians.  These demanding experiments spanned several years and have never been properly re-attempted. The case remains unsolved: several different authors have considered that Kammerer’s experiments were authentic (Koestler, ’71; Gould, ’72; Gliboff, 2005, 2006), ….…. Here, I point out some aspects of the description of Kammerer’s midwife toad experiments in his book ‘‘ The Inheritance of Acquired traits ’’ (Kammerer, ’24) that shows remarkable resemblances to currently known epigenetic mechanisms, which are very unlikely to have been a fabrication of Kammerer’s imagination.

Kammerer's other passion was collecting coincidences – synchronous events.  Carl Gustav Jung drew upon Kammerer's work in his essay Synchronicity. Koestler reported that, when researching for his biography about Kammerer, he himself was subjected to "a meteor shower" of coincidences - as if Kammerer's Higher spirit was there, looking over his shoulder saying, "I told you so”.

And incidentally, Paul Kammerer was left handed.


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