Renegade Darwinist/zoologist and truly “mesmerizing” illustrator Ernst Haeckel may have caused quite a stir when he posited organic matter as originating from inorganic matter through spontaneous generation. However, he’s most surely better known for his incessant visual chronicling of our planet’s oddest lifeforms and their myriad variations of form and color. In his article on the Public Domain Review, Dr Mario A. Di Gregorio, professor of the History of Science at the University of L’Aquila and author of From Here to Eternity: Ernst Haeckel and Scientific Faith, offers insight into the origins of Haeckel’s theories and the mind-bending art that came from his obsessive depictions of the Kunstformen der Natur, or Art Forms in Nature, which Haeckel published in 1904.
You’ll stumble upon copies of this book in just about every format (Dover paperback with CD-ROM, for example, since its contents are in the public domain) in almost any new or used bookstore and should be a staple of your visual junk collection if there ever was one.
Also, keep your eye out for an equally staggering documentary film made in 2004 called Proteus about the life and work of this strange and gifted man.