de Bary, Heinrich Anton


Heinrich Anton de Bary (1831–1888), Professor of Botany at the German universities in Freiburg i.Br., Halle a.S. and Strassbourg (now in France), discovered sexual and asexual propagation of fungi by microscopically observing the different stages of development. His experimental approach and concept, based on Darwin's theory of evolution, were the starting points for a phylogenetic taxonomy, which, however, could not realise before present time. He defined several species and subspecies and their delimitation experimentally. de Bary also exactly described the entire process of infection of plants by fungi. The terms parasitism, symbiosis, heterospory and heteroecy were coined or redefined based on his experimental studies. His numerous studies on algae, lichens, ferns and higher plants enriched the knowledge of the time. As a teacher, de Bary was very modern – not authoritarian and promoted self‐reliance, observation skills, self‐control and a critical evaluation of one's own results and conclusions. He was internationally acknowledged, and many scientists worldwide came to visit his modern‐equipped laboratory.

Key Concepts:

  • The great achievements of biological research in the nineteenth century were the setting up of cell biology, disproof of spontaneous generation and Charles Darwin's proposal of the formation of species by natural selection.

  • Anton de Bary founded the developmental biology of fungi, that is, he identified the sequence of sexual and asexual stages and their fructification organs.

  • Different rust fungi are heteroecic, that is, the different developmental stages are dependent on different host plants.

  • de Bary proposed that the classification of fungi should be based on their evolution instead of on pure morphological criteria.

  • de Bary is the one who first defined the term symbiosis as a closed spatial coexistence of different species.

  • de Bary mastered his life as Professor of Botany, Director of Botanical Gardens, successful researcher and teacher of students through a high degree of self‐discipline and a sense of duty.

Keywords: de Bary; evolutionary biology; fungal development

Figure 1.

The heteroecious infection cycle of P. graminis on wheat and barley. Picture from Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture. Leonhard and Szabo . This image is in the public domain and can be freely used. Please refer Leonard and Szabo at the CDL website.

Figure 2.

Anton Heinrich de Bary at age 33 years. Photo taken by photographer A. Schwendy, Berlin, 1864, by courtesy of Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.



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Drews, G(Jun 2013) de Bary, Heinrich Anton. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025051]