Adolph Herluf Winge (1857-1923)

Vice-curator at the Zoological Museum 1892-1923, MSc zoology 1881, assistant at the Zoological Museum 1885-92, expert on mammals and birds, palaeontologist.

From 1881, when he published a systematic and phylogenetic paper on Greek mammals in the proceedings of the Danish Natural History Society, Herluf Winge was a whole-hearted supporter of Lamarckian evolutionism. His detailed studies of the anatomy of past and present vertebrates, especially the phylogenetic development of mammal teeth, convinced him that the mechanism of evolution was use and disuse of the organs rather than natural selection. He seems to have supported a kind of psychological Lamarckism in which the animals consciously worked their way through the evolutionary process. This was a rather extreme position in the 1910s and 1920s, but it was embraced by the Nobel Prize winning writer and debater of Darwinism, Johannes V. Jensen, who wrote a hagiographical article on his scientific mentor. Jensen had consulted Winge when working on Dyrenes Forvandling [The Transformation of Animals] (1927). Winge’s exceptional skills in identifying species on the basis of remains of bones was of great importance to the classification of the fossils found by the naturalist P.W. Lund in Brazil, and to geologists and archaeologists who used his analyses of kitchen mittens to conclude that domesticated animals only became common in the Neolithic Age. As his scientific testament he wrote the three-volume work Pattedyr-Slægter [Genera of Mammals] (Copenhagen: Hagerup, 1923-24) which was praised in Nature as the finest scientific work on the class mammalia ever written. Winge lived a quiet and regular life and after his brother’s death in 1889 he never attended professional meetings or public lectures. Neither did he engage in polemics. However, the geneticist Wilhelm Johannsen who was a harsh critic of Lamarckism often ridiculed him, while the botanist Eugen Warming was on good terms with Winge. Warming and Winge were in their respective disciplines the strongest advocates of Lamarckism in Danish natural history in the decades around 1900.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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