Adolf Naef

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Adolf Naef (1 May 1883 – 11 May 1949) was a Swiss zoologist and palaeontologist who worked on cephalopods and systematics.

Adolf Naef studied at the University of Zurich under the guidance of Arnold Lang (1855—1914), a former Professor of Jena University and close friend of Ernst Haeckel. Naef visited and worked in Anton Dorn’s Zoological Station in Naples, Italy in 1908, studying the squid Loligo vulgaris, the subject of his dissertation.[1][2] Naef returned to the Naples Zoological Station in the mid-1920s to study cephalopods, publishing a two-part monograph in the Station’s Fauna und Flora des Golfes von Neapel und der Angrenzenden Meers-Abschitte (Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli) series,[3][4][5][6] which formed the basis for his two short but significant monographs on systematic theory.[7][8] In 1922 he became Professor at the University of Zagreb, and in 1927 was Professor of Zoology at the University of Cairo. Naef died on 11 May 1949; few obituaries were published.

Naef’s studies were framed within Systematische Morphologie, the details of which he sketched out as early as 1913:

“Phylogenetic and natural systematics deal with the same factual material, and although each has different basic concepts, both disciplines can be united in a single concept because their objects are so similar. I have therefore proposed the name ‘systematic morphology’ for this concept [9] … It is intended to show that there is an inner relationship between natural systematics and (comparative) morphology” [3]

Naef’s concern was with the discovery of natural, as opposed to artificial classification, a problem examined in detail by A. P. de Candolle.[10] Naef expressed it as so:

“For decades, phylogenetics lacked a valid methodological basis and developed on the decayed trunk of a withering tradition rooted in the idealistic morphology and the systematics of pre-Darwinian times. There was talk of systematic ‘tact’ and morphological ‘instinct’, terms which were felt rather than understood and consequently insufficient to form the frame of a science which required sound definitions and clearly formulated principles”.[3]

And thus was born Systematische Morphologie, perhaps the beginnings of cladistics, in its most general form. Towards the end of his career, Naef published several detailed accounts of ‘Systematische Morphologie’,[11][12] including a succinct summary in the widely read 2nd edition of the Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften.[13]


  1. ^ Naef, A. (1909a). Die Organogenese des Cölomsystems und der zentralen Blutgefässe von Loligo. Jenaische Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaft, 45, N.F. 38:221—266.
  2. ^ Naef, A. (1909b). Die Organogenese des Cölomsystems und der zentralen Blutgefässe von Loligo. Inaugural-Dissertation, Univers. Zurich, 46pp.
  3. ^ a b c Naef, A. (1921—23). Die Cephalopoden (Systematik). In: Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli, Monograph 35 (I-1), Pubblicazioni della Stazione Zoologica di Napoli. R. Friedländer and Sohn, Berlin, pp. 1—863.
  4. ^ Naef, A. (1972a). Cephalopoda. Fauna and Flora of the Bay of Naples (Fauna und Flora des Golfes von Neapel und der Angrenzenden Meers-Abschitte), Monograph 35, Part I, [Vol. I], Fascicle I. Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Washington.
  5. ^ Naef, A. (1972b). Cephalopoda (systematics). Fauna and Flora of the Bay of Naples (Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli), Monograph 35, Part I, [Vol. I], Fascicle II. Washington, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
  6. ^ Naef, A. (2000). Cephalopoda. Embryology. Fauna and Flora of the Bay of Naples [Fauna und Flora des Golfes von Naepel]. Monograph 35. Part I, Vol. II [Final part of the Monograph No. 35], pp. 3-461. Washington, Smithsonian.
  7. ^ Naef, A. (1917). Die individuelle Entwicklung organischer Formen als Urkunde ihrer Stammesgeschichte: (Kritische Betrachtungen über das sogenannte “biogenetische Grundgesetz”). Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena.
  8. ^ Naef, A. (1919). Idealistische Morphologie und Phylogenetik (zur Methodik der systematischen). Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena.
  9. ^ Naef, A. (1913). Studien zur generellen Morphologie der Mollusken. 2. Teil. Das Cölomsystem in seinen topographischen Berziehungen. Ergebnisse und Fortschritte der Zoologie 3: 329—462.
  10. ^ Candolle, A.-P. de (1813). Théorie élémentaire de la botanique ou exposition des principes de la classification naturelle et de l'art de décrire et d'étudier les végétaux. Deterville, Paris.
  11. ^ Naef, A. 1931a. Allgemeine Morphologie. I. Die Gestalt als Begriff und Idee, pp. 77—118 in BOLK, L, GÖPPERT, E., KALLIUS, E. & LUBOSCH, W., (editors) Handbuch der vergleichenden Anatomie der Wirbeltiere 1. Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg.
  12. ^ Naef, A. 1933a. Die Vorstufen der Menschwerdung. Eine anschauliche Darstellung der menschlichen Stammesgeschichte und eine kritische Betrachtung ihrer allgemeinen Voraussetzungen. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.
  13. ^ Naef, A. 1933b. Cephalopoda, pp. 293—310 in DITTLER, R., JOOS, G, KORSCHELT, E. LINCK, G., OLTMANNS, F. and SCHAUM, K. (editors) Handwörterbuch der Naturwissenschaften, 2nd edition, volume 2. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rieppel Olivier (2012). "Adolf Naef (1883–1949), systematic morphology and phylogenetics". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 50 (1): 2–13. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2011.00635.x.