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September 15, 1969

Kaspar Friedrich Wolff (1733-1794)

JAMA. 1969;209(11):1714-1715. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160240070024

K. F. Wolf produced, at the age of 26, a treatise entitled Theoria Generationis which formed the basis of the germ-layer theory of embryonic development and thereby refuted the preformation hypothesis espoused especially by Haller. Wolff was born in Berlin, the son of a master tailor. Little is known of his early education until 1753 when he entered the Medico-Chirurgicum College in Berlin (later the Kaiser-Wilhelm Academy for military surgeons).1 Being dissatisfied with the limited training in the institution, he continued in science at the Unversity of Halle where he added philosophy and botany to his embryologic and medical interests. In 1759, Wolff gained the doctor of medicine degree upon presentation of the famous dissertation on epigenesis. This was prepared in Latin, an Aristotelian concept of embryonic growth, which is recognized as the outstanding contribution in the field between the work of Malpighi in the 17th century and von