While it may not be a bicentennial, the year 2009 marks what would have been the 175th birthday of August Weismann, a German biologist and one of the founders of the science of genetics.
Perhaps Weismann's best known contributions to genetics were his opposition to the doctrine of the inheritance of modern traits and his germ plasm theory, which served as the forerunner to the modern day DNA theory. His observations led him to the idea that the germ cell contains "something that must be carefully preserved and passed on from one generation to another," thus birthing the theory of the germ plasm in his writings from 1886, which states that all living things contain a special hereditary substance.
This still holds validity today, though we now speak of chromosomes, genes and DNA in place of germ plasms.
To celebrate the achievements of this trailblazer of genetics, the Biodiversity Heritage Library
has digitized many of his best-known works, which include The Germ Plasm: a Theory of Heredity and On Germinal Selection as a Source of Definite Variation. In addition, Die Continuität des Keimplasma's als Grundlage einer Theorie der Vererbung (which discusses Weismann's development of a germ plasm) has been included in the Heralds of Science collection. Next time you think about DNA (or the germ plasm), think of Dr. Weismann!—Brett Lambert