Vogt, Carl

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(b. Giessen, Germany, 5 July 1817; d. Geneva, Switzerland, 5 May 1895), medicine, natural science.

Vogt was the son of Philipp Friedrich Vogt, a physician, who from 1835 taught pathology and pharmacodynamics at the University of Berne. He began his studies at Giessen, where he was one of Liebig’s best students and was encouraged to become a chemist. In 1835 Vogt went to Berne, where he enrolled in Valentin’s courses in anatomy and physiology. and decided to study medicine. He received the medical diploma in 1839, but the natural sciences had a greater appeal for him. He enthusiastically agreed to collaborate on a major treatise on Central European freshwater fish, a project headed by Louis Agassiz; his name appears as author of the volume on Salmonidae (1842). Vogt subsequently went to Paris, where he began to write his Lettres philosophiques et physiologiques, intended for friends in Germany. They were published in their entirety as Physiologische Briefe für Gebildete aller Stände (Tubingen, 1845-1847).

After returning to Giessen, where he taught zoology and became Reichregent (1842), Vogt also was active in the Revolution of 1848. His involvement forced him to flee to Geneva, where he taught geology because the chair of zoology was held by F. J. Pictet de la Rive. Having become a naturalized citizen of Geneva, Vogt entered politics, becoming conseiller aux états and later conseiller national. He also was influential in transforming the Académie de Genève into a university (1872).

A work from this period, Köhlerglaube und Wissenschaft (Giessen, 1853), caused a great stir and went through several editions. Vogt became the staunch supporter of scientific materialism, later made famous by Ernst Haeckel. His gift for polemic and oratory enabled Vogt to exert considerable influence through both his speeches and his numerous publications. In 1872 he was appointed to the chair of zoology and became director of the Institute of Zoology, a post he held until his death.

Above all, Vogt was a distinguished zoologist whose writings did much to further the development of this science. His Lehrbuch der praktischen vergleichenden Anatomie (Brunswick, 1855) was long a classic. In 1840, at the age of twenty-three, Vogt published an important work, Beiträge zur Neurologie des Reptilien. After having begun to study the embryology of certain freshwater fish under the guidance of Agassiz, he continued this work throughout his life.

The chair of geology, assigned to him by the Geneva government, gave Vogt the opportunity to write Lehrbuch der Geologie und Petrefakten kunde, the four editions of which (1846-1879) demonstrate its wide interest. It was, however, to marine biological research that Vogt devoted his energy, as is shown by his remarkable publications on hectocotyli, Cephalopoda, and Siphonophora. In 1863 Vogt published the two-volume Vorlesungen über den Menschen, seine Stellung in der Schöpfung und in der Geschichte der Erde, which assured his reputation as a scholar and materialist philosopher. “Mémoires sur les microcéphales ouhommes-singes” (1866) brought Vogt recognition as one of the first anthropologists. He espoused Darwin’s ideas and became a strong partisan of natural selection.


Vogt’s autobiography is Aus meinem Leben. Erinnerungen und Rückblicke (Stuttgart, 1896).

See also H. Buess, Reclierches, découvertes et inventions de médecins suisses, translated by R. Kaech (Basel, 1946), 65–66; E. Hirschman, K. Vogt als Politiker (Ph.D. diss., Berlin, 1924); E. Krause, “Carl Vogt,” in Allgemeine deutsche BiographieXL (leipzig, 1896), 181–189; H. Misteli, Carl Vogi. Seine Entwicklung vom angehenden naturwissenschaftlichen Materialisten zum idealen Politiker des Paulskirche (Ph. D. diss., Zurich, 1938); and W. Vogt. La vie d’un homme (Paris, 1896).

P. E. Pilet