Baron Raphael Slidell von Erlanger and
the tardigrade tail-plate
Baron Raphael Slidell von Erlanger (1865 - 1897) was a surprisingly
multi-faceted personality. It is a pity that there are only a few scarce
written sources referring to his biography:
that he was a member of a banker family with international affiliations, that
he was able to finance his own laboratory at the Heidelberg University,
that he married the 'beautiful' Miss Blannerhassett who became very famous
later on as Lady Galway in politics, charity and female right affairs -
and that he died early.
As a consequence he was no more able to publish some of his tardigrade
results as planned and announced in 1895 (missing "Part
Baron Erlanger's scientific results are not always in concordance
with today's point of view. But there is no doubt that indeed very
few scientists were publishing so much in-depth about tardigrade
development - before 1900!
Baron Erlanger studied hundreds of tardigrade
eggs in various stages of development and ended up with a long
series of schematic diagrams illustrating the development steps of the
tardigrade egg from the one-cell stage until to hatching.
We have already been mentioning Erlanger's discovery that the tardigrades
have delicate eye-lenses,
a finding which he published in 1894. Prof. Reinhardt M. Kristensen from
Denmark came up with a similar result in a thin section investigated under
an electron microscope, in 1987, about 100 years after Erlanger.
Erlanger used 26 (!) colour (!) illustrations in order to present his
viewpoint of tardigrade egg development in 1895. We should keep in mind
that even today many scientific publications are only ash-grey black and
white at best, some of them moreover in poor printing quality. So, this
was really what we today would call an 'innovation':