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Carl Gustav Carus

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Carl Gustav Carus (1789 – 1869) was a German physiologist and painter, born at Leipzig.

A friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he was a many-sided man: a doctor, a naturalist, a scientist and a psychologist and an advocate of the theory that health of body and mind depends on the equipoise of antagonistic principles. A landscape painter, he had drawing lessons from Julius Diez and subsequently studied under Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld at the Oeser drawing academy. From 1814 to 1817 he taught himself oil painting working under Casper David Friedrich, a Dresden landscape painter.

In 1811 he graduated as a doctor of medicine and a doctor of philosophy. In 1814 he was appointed professor of obstetrics and director of the maternity clinic at the teaching institution for medicine and surgery in Dresden. He wrote on art theory.

He is best known to scientists for originating the concept of the vertebrate archetype, a seminal idea in the development of Darwin's theory of evolution.


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