Weber, Max Wilhelm Carl

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(b. Bonn, Germany, 6 December 1852; d. Eerbeek, Netherlands, 7 February 1937), zoology.

After attending schools in Oberstein an der Nahe, Neuwied, and Bonn, Weber began the study of medicine at the University of Bonn. His teachers included the zoologists Franz Hermann Troschel and Franz von Leydig (for whom he worked as an assistant) and the anatomist Adolph La Valette St. George. In the winter semester of 1875– 1876 Weber studied at Berlin, mainly under the zoologist Eduard von Martens. In 1877 he received the Ph.D. from Bonn for the dissertation “Die Nebenorgane des Auges von einheimischen Lacertiden.” Soon afterward he was invited by the anatomist Max Fübringer to serve as prosector at the anatomy institute of the University of Amsterdam. In 1879 he went to the University of Utrecht as lecturer in anatomy. He was recalled to Amsterdam in 1883 to teach zoology and comparative anatomy.

Weber went on an expedition in the North Atlantic, primarily to study the anatomy of whales. He was aided in this research by his wife, Anna van Bosse, who had studied under Hugo de Vries. Their findings were published in 1886 as the first part of his Studien über Säugethiere. In 1888 the couple traveled to the Dutch East Indies, where they visited Sumatra, Java, Celebes, and Flores. On Flores especially, Weber gathered extensive zoological material, as well as ethnographic data. A number of scientists collaborated in publishing descriptions of this material in Ergebnisse einer Reise nach Niederländisch Ost-Indien (Leiden, 1890-1907). Weber himself described the freshwater sponges, the trematode genus Temnocephalus, and several fish, reptiles, and mammals. With his wife he also investigated the symbiotic algae of the freshwater sponge Spongilla. The Webers soon embarked on another voyage, this time to South Africa. Their findings were published in 1897.

The second part of Studien über Säugethiere appeared the following year. In 1899 Weber and his wife participated in the Dutch Sibolga expedition, which was sent to examine the marine fauna and flora of Indonesia. Weber himself recorded part of the findings in The Fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago (Leiden, 1911-1936); the seven-volume work contained descriptions of 131 new species. Weber had acquired an interest in biogeography during his first trip to the Dutch East Indies, and the Studies of the Sibolga expedition on freshwater fauna led him to reexamine the well-known differences between the freshwater fauna of Java, Borneo, and Sumatra. on the one hand, and of Celebes, Timor, and Flores, on the other. Weber drew attention to the zoogeographical differences between the northern and southern halves of Celebes and noted the existence of the deepwater zone around the island, the temperature of which differs markedly from that of the rest of the ocean.

During the period of his expeditions and of assessing the material they yielded. Weber also worked on his greatest scientific publication, Die Säugetiere (1904), an exposition of both the anatomy and the systematics of the mammals; the second edition is still a standard work.

Weber confined his scientific labors to descriptive zoology. He explicitly defended the old methods of comparative anatomy, although he also recognized the importance of the new experimental areas of biological research.


A list of Weber’s more important works follows D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’;s biography in Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society of London, 2 (1938), 347–352, with portrait. They include Studien über Säugethiere, 2 pts. (Jena, 1886-1898), comprising “Ein Beitrag zur Frage nach dem Ursprung der Cetaceen” and “Über Descensus testiculorum, Anatomische Bemerkungen über Elephas” the results of Weber’;s voyage to South Africa, published as “Zur Kenntnis der Süsswasser-Fauna von Südafrika,” in Zoologische Jahrbücher, 10 (1897), 135–200; Der indo-australische Archipel und die Geschichte siener Tierwelt (Jena, 1902); and Die Säugetiere (Jena, 1904), which appeared in a 2nd, ed., 2 vols. (Jena, 1927-1928), completed by a section on pelenotology by Othenio Abel.

Hans Querner

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Weber, Max Wilhelm Carl

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