Theodor Boveri

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Theodor Boveri
Theodor Boveri high res-2.jpg
Born 12 October 1862
Bamberg, Bavaria
Died 15 October 1915 (1915-10-16) (aged 53)
Würzburg, Bavaria
Nationality German
Known for Embryonic development
Boveri-Sutton chromosome theory
Scientific career
Fields Genetics, Cell biology
Influenced Kristine Bonnevie

Theodor Heinrich Boveri (12 October 1862 – 15 October 1915) was a German biologist. He was notable for first hypothesising the cellular processes that cause cancer, and for describing chromatin diminution in nematodes. Boveri was married to the American biologist Marcella O'Grady (1863–1950). Their daughter Margret Boveri (1900–1975) became one of the best-known post-war German journalists.[1]


Boveri's work with sea urchins showed that it was necessary to have all chromosomes present in order for proper embryonic development to take place. This discovery was an important part of the Boveri–Sutton chromosome theory. His other significant discovery was the centrosome (1888), which he described as the especial organ of cell division. Boveri also discovered the phenomenon of chromatin diminution during embryonic development of the nematode Parascaris.

He also reasoned in 1902 that a cancerous tumor begins with a single cell in which the makeup of its chromosomes becomes scrambled, causing the cells to divide uncontrollably. He proposed carcinogenesis was the result of aberrant mitoses and uncontrolled growth caused by radiation, physical or chemical insults or by microscopic pathogens. It was only later that researchers such as Thomas Hunt Morgan in 1915 demonstrated that Boveri was correct.

Boveri described the structure of the kidneys in Amphioxus (Cephalochordata).[2]



  1. ^ Baltzer, Fritz (1967). "Theodor Boveri: The Life of a Great Biologist 1862–1915". Archived from the original on 28 February 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2007. . Extract published in Gilbert, SF (2006). DevBio: a companion to Developmental Biology, 8th ed. Sinauer Associates. 
  2. ^ Holland, Nicholas D. (2017). "The long and winding path to understanding kidney structure in amphioxus - a review". Int. J. Dev. Biol. 61: 683–688. doi:10.1387/ijdb.170196nh. 
  3. ^ Scheer, U., 2018. Boveri's research at the Zoological Station Naples: Rediscovery of his original microscope slides at the University of Würzburg. Marine Genomics (2018)


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