Leopold Auerbach's heritage in the field of morphology and embryology with special emphasis on gametogenesis of invertebrates

Rom J Morphol Embryol. Apr-Jun 2020;61(2):587-593. doi: 10.47162/RJME.61.2.32.


Plexus myentericus Auerbachi and Friedreich-Auerbach disease are widely used eponyms that are associated with eminent morphologist Leopold Auerbach (1828-1897), whose life is relatively little known due to limited access to his German-written XIX century biographies and lack of English biographical papers about him in world literature. Hereby we focused on hardly known achievements of Leopold Auerbach in the field of gametogenesis and embryology of invertebrates. Auerbach did not only confirm unicellularity of amoebas, which was previously discovered. He described cleavage of fertilized eggs of Ascaris nigrovenosa and Strongylus auricularis. Moreover, his accurate descriptions on germination of Paracentrotus lividus inspired a recognized German zoologist Oscar Hertwig (1849-1922). Auerbach also profoundly studied an encystation of Oxytricha pellionella on morphological grounds. His descriptions referred to karyokinesis as well as oogenesis and spermatogenesis to discover conjugations of spermatozoa in pairs in the epididymis of a beetle, Dytiscus marginalis. He also distinguished two types of spermatozoa of Paludina vivipara: the hairlike-shaped (German: haarförmigen) and the worm-shaped (wurmförmigen) ones of these fresh water (river) snails. His studies on germination (including cell division during cleavage of nematodes) inspired the others, e.g., Oscar Hertwig, and following generations to conclude that "Auerbach deserves the credit for having provided the first scientific foundation for modern teaching on fertilization" according to professor of anatomy Gustav Born (1851-1900) at Breslau University.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryology / methods*
  • Gametogenesis / physiology*
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates / pathogenicity*
  • Male

Personal name as subject

  • Leopold Auerbach