Drawing of homunculus theory: human in sperm

Drawing of homunculus theory: human in sperm

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Credit: KLAUS GULDBRANDSEN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Homunculus. Illustration of the concept of the homunculus. This 17th century theory (also known as animalculism) states that the offspring of an organism exists encapsulated in a spermatozoan. Previously, ovists had believed that the egg of an organism contained the offspring of that organism. After the discovery of spermatozoa by van Leeuwenhoek in 1677, the concept of the homunculus became favoured, where a tiny but complete being existed within spermatozoa. The homunculus view was first proposed by Nicolaas Hartsoeker (1656-1725). Debate between the ovists and animalculists continued throughout the 18th century.

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Keywords: 17th century, anatomy, animalculism, genetics, historical image, historical reproductive theory, homunculus, human body, imagery, ovism, reproduction, theory

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