Conferència de Taschwer + pel·lícula “Salamandra”

El 30 de setembre, Klaus Taschwer, periodista del diari austriac “Der Standard” impartirà la conferència “The Toad Kisser and the Bear Cave. Revisiting the Case of Paul Kammerer” a la Residència d’Investigadors del CSIC (10:00-11:30).

La conferència anirà seguida de la presentació exclusiva de la pel·lícula Salamandra (12:00-13:00), sent la primera sessió d’un cicle de CINE i CIÈNCIA que tindrà lloc a Barcelona durant els pròxims mesos mitjançant la col·laboració entre la SCHCT, el CEHIC, i l’IMF. L’acte de Taschwer està organitzat i serà presentat per Oliver Hochadel, de la Institució Milà i Fontanals.

A continuació, el resum de la conferència i pel·lícula presentades per Klaus Taschwer:

The Toad-Kisser and the Bear-Cave. Revisiting the Case of Paul Kammerer

Paul Kammerer (1880–1926) was one of the most controversial and tragic figures in the history of biology of the early 20th century. For a  quite short time, the Viennese zoologist became world-famous with his  experiments with toads and salamanders that showed the inheritance of  acquired characteristics.

In 1926, a zoologist from New York came to Vienna and found out that a  conserved midwife-toad, one of the crucial specimens of Kammerer’s collection, had been manipulated. A few weeks after this discovery was revealed in the magazine Nature, Kammerer committed suicide, which of  course was interpreted as a confession of guilt. Consequently, his neo-Lamarckist theories were banned in the West (but not in Soviet-Union,  where it served as a basis for Lyssenkoism) until very recently.  (Today, his experiments are being re-evaluated in the light of  epigenetics.)

The criminal case itself, the topic of hundreds of accounts (one book, book-chapters, articles, dissertations), is still unsolved. In my presentation, I will offer a new theory, which for the first time names a possible suspect other than Kammerer and a surprising motive for the manipulation. Thereby, I will also shed new light on the intense politicisation of science and especially biology already in the 1920ies.


Salamandra: a rare science movie

Kammerer’s story and his tragic fate became the subject of the movie “Salamandra”, a German-soviet co-production, which was shot 1928 in Germany. The Soviet secretary of culture himself, Anatoli Lunatscharskij, wrote the script, his wife played the part of Mrs. Kammerer. The highly controversial silent movie was forbidden in Weimar Republic for political reasons and only shown in Russia. Therefore most of the existing summaries are completely distorted. If you wish to see this rare movie, I’d be happy to provide a copy with translated Russian inserts and a short introduction.