Pauly, August

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(b, Munich, Germany, 13 March 1850; d, Munich, 9 February 1914)

zoology, entomology

Pauly’s development as a scientist was completely self-motivated and self-directed. His father, Cölestin Pauly, was from the south of France; formerly a farrier, and during Pauly’s childhood a wine merchant and innekeeper in Munich, he was known for his hot temper. Pauly’s mother, Johanna Riehle, a Bavarian, was more sympathetic toward the boy, but neither parent understood his deep longing for a good education. They intended him for a career in commerce, but in the depths of the wine cellar Pauly secretly read to provide himself with the equivalent of the Gymnasium studies. Adolf Bayersdorfer, a lifelong friend of Pauly and later his brother-in-law, helped him in his plans to pass the examinations and enter the University of Munich. Whenever Pauly could, he attended lectures on a wide variety of subjects at the Konservator an der alten Pinakothek in Munich. He had a sensitive disposition, was interested in art, and thought that he might become a printer.

Pauly took his examinations in 1873, and in 1877 received the doctorate with a dissertation in zoology. His interest in biology had most probably been influenced by his teacher Carl Theodor Ernst von Siebole, professor of zoology and comparative anatomy, whose assistant Pauly became. From 1877 to 1885 Pauly edited an ornithological journal; since he had access to a large store of histological material, he became an expert in avian pathological and practical aspects of lectures on both the theoretical and practical aspects of forest entomology, and donated considerable material for the study of insects, insect damage, and forest zoology to the Royal Institute for Experimental Forestry in Munich. He was appointed extraordinary professor of applied zoology at the University of Munich in 1896. His wife, Mathilde von Portheim, gave him invaluable help in his work as he suffered progressive difficulties with his vision, including retinal detachment.

Since Pauly set zoology within the framework of a philosophically oriented outlook combined the love of nature with a broad interest in art, pressing biological questions were frequently discussed within the group of his friends, which included artists and a poet, and later, the scientists Boveri and Spemann when he came to Munich.

Pauly’s zoological lectures reflected his dissatisfaction with Darwin’s explanation of the evolutionary process, for Pauly thought it highly unlikely that chance variations could accumulate and coincide to account for the adaptation and correlation of organs. Pauly looked back, rather, to Lamarck, discounting the emphasis that had been placed on Lamarck’s view of the role of use and disuse and stressing the psychis factor that entered into the Lamarckian doctrine. Darwinismus und Lamarckismus Entwurf einer psychophysischen Teleologie, published in 1905, represented the sum of Pauly’s thirty years’ work in evolutionary theory.

Pauly conceived of evolution as being the result of an “inner teleology,” a capacity for change in response to a consciously apprehended need within the organism itself. Adaptation was a “discovery,” a change in response to this necessity. Adaptive changes were inherited but could be maintained only through use; the changed organ or organism tended to revert to its former condition should the function cease. Pauly referred the underlying psychic circumstances not only to the brain but also to each organ and cell; variation on this psychological basis was, of course, present in the plant as well as the animal world. He maintained this neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theory—a vitalistic viewpoint that he believed was derived from Lamarck, but which was actually uniquely his own—throughout his lifetime.


I. Original Works. Pauly’s most important work was Darwinismus und Lamarckismus. Entwurf einer psychophysischen Teleologie (Munich, 1905). He also published his aphorisms in that year and wrote short essays on his evolutionary beliefs.

II. Secondary Literature. On Pauly and his work, see Fritz Baltzer, Theoder Boveri, Life and Work of a Great Biologist 1862–1915, trans, by Dorothea Rudnick (Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1967), 8–10, 36, 48, 130–131, 141–142, which describes their friendship and correspondence and the milieu in Munich. See also Fredrich Wilhelm Spemann, ed., Hans Spemann, Forschung und Leben (Stuttgart, 1948), 145–150, 157–164, which presents a valuable reminiscence of Pauly and his background, as well as an excellent account of his theory.

Obituaries are M. Merk-Buchberg, “Zum Gedachtnis August Papulys,” in Zoologischer Beobachter (1914), 87–88; K. Escherich, “August Pauly,” in Zeitschrift für angewandte Entomologie,1 (1914), 370–373; Max Friedemann, “psychobiologie. Zum andenken an August Pauly,” in Berliner klinische Wochenschrift,51, pt. 2 (1914), 1441–1443; Adolf Leiber, “August Pauly,” in Suddeutsche Monatshefte,11, no. 2 (1914), 161–166; and the Deutsche biographisches Jahrbuch, 1914–1916 (Berlin, 1925), 303, which has further biographical references.

Gloria Robinson

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