Frantisek Vejdovsky

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(b. Kouřm, Bohemia [now Czechoslovakia], 24 October 1849; d. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 4 December 1939)


The son of a furrier, Vejdovský graduated from the academic grammar school in Prague and then entered the philosophical faculty of Charles University, from which he received the Ph.D. in 1876. From 1877 to 1907 he was assistant professor of zoology at the Technical University in Prague, as well as associate professor (1884– 1892) and full professor (1892– 1920) of zoology at Charles University in Prague. He was elected dean of the philosophical faculty in 1895 and rector of Charles University in 1912.

Vejdovský’s scientific interest covered all groups of animals except mollusks. insects, and vertebrates (in the last category he dealt only with the evolution of lampreys). His work encompassed zoogeography, comparative anatomy, morphology, embryology, cytology, and taxonomy. Among fauna his best-known discovery was Bathynella natans, an ancient species of crustacean that had survived until modern times by being isolated in underground waters; and he contributed to comparative anatomy (particularly of worms) and taxonomy (especially of fungi and Agaricus maceron). Vejdovský’s most important work consisted of his embryological and cytological studies, conducted mainly on Rhynchelmis limosella (Annelida). Although his methods of fixation and of preparation were very imperfect, he achieved remarkable results, particularly concerning the ripening, fertilizing, and grooving of ovules. In 1887, almost simultaneously with Boveri and Edouard van Beneden, Vejdovský showed that nuclear fission in an ovule is preceded by the splitting of the centrosome (which he called the periplast); he also was apparently the first to observe the centriole. In addition, he showed that during the fertilization of the ovule, the centrosome of the ovular nucleus disappears and the male gamete transfers its centrosome into the ovule.

In studying ovular grooving, Vejdovský found that cytological changes occur during the generation of the first blastomeres; he showed that in the four-blastomere stage only the largest blastomere-actually, only one of its parts containing just a few yolk grains—generates mesomeres. He not only managed to disprove Aleksandr Kovalevsky’s incorrect opinion concerning the generation of the mesomeres from all four blastomeres, but also was the first to find the presumptive embryonal centers in very young embryos.

Although Vejdovský did not check his results experimentally and at the beginning of the twentieth century cytology began to revert to the study of live, undisturbed cells (as opposed to Vejdovsky’s tendency to use fixation and staining methods), his cytological and embryological st udie belong to the classical beginnings of modern cytology and embryology.


A complete list of Vejdovský’s papers, containing 117 titles, is in Sborník praci vydaný k 90. narozeninám prof. dr. F. Vejdovského Královskou českou společnostá nauk a Českoshvenskou zoologickou společností v Praze (Prague, 1939)

Unsigned secondary works are “Prof. F. Vejdovský” (Note on His 90th Birthday),” in Nature, 144 (1939), 276 with portrait: and an obituary, ibid., 156 (1945), 530. See also S. Hrabě.“Prof. Dr. František Vejdovský.” in Zpràvy Československé společnosti pro dějiny věd a techniky Praha, 11 (1969), 23–29.

VĚra EisnerovÀ

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(b. Kouřim, Bohemia [now Czechoslovakia], 24 October 1849; d. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 4 December 1939)


For a detailed study of his life and work, see Supplement.