Paul Nelson replies:
Actually, the situation is quite the reverse. It is Haeckel's questionable drawings which have survived in textbooks and popular publications, whereas the evidence casting doubt on his "biogenetic law" lives in the primary literature, largely neglected.
The biogenetic law is not the basis of modern developmental biology. In fact, the biogenetic law was collapsing under (a) the weight of contrary evidence and (b) its impracticality as a research tool, even before the rise of the neo-Darwinian synthesis (Rasmussen 1991). In 1894, Edmund Wilson, in his lectures to the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, held the biogenetic law primarily responsible for "the vast number of elaborate hypothetical phylogenies which confront the modern student in such bewildering confusion" (1895, p. 103). As he continued:
The biogenetic law is false, and has been known to be so for well over a century.
For further information, see Michael Richardson et al., "There is no highly conserved stage in the vertebrates: implications for current theories of evolution and development," Anatomy and Embryology 196 (1997): 91-106.
Hall, Brian. 1995. Homology and Embryonic Development. Evolutionary Biology 28: 1-37.
Horder, T.J.. 1989. Syllabus for an Embryological Synthesis. In Complex Organismal Functions, eds. D.B. Wake and G. Roth. New York: John Wiley.
Nieuwkoop, P.D. and Sutasurya, L.A. 1976. Embryological evidence for a possible polyphyletic origin of the recent amphibians. Jl. Embry. exp. Morph. 35(1):159-167.
Raff, Rudolf, Gregory Wray, and Jonathan J. Henry. 1991. Implications of Radical Evolutionary Changes in Early Development for Concepts of Developmental Constraint. In New Perspectives in Evolution, eds. L. Warren and H. Koprowski; New York: Wiley-Liss; pp. 189-207.
These citations provide a good introduction to the relevant literature.
Bateson, W. 1894. Materials for the Study of Variation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press [1992 reprint].
Garstang, W. 1922. The Theory of Recapitulation: A Critical Re-Statement of the Biogenetic Law. Linnean Journal - Zoology 35: 81-101.
Rasmussen, N. 1991. The Decline of Recapitulationism in Early Twentieth- Century Biology: Disciplinary Conflict and Consensus on the Battleground of Theory. Journal of the History of Biology 24:51-89.
Sedgwick, A. 1909. The Influence of Darwin on the Study of Animal Embryology. In Darwin and Modern Science, ed. A.C. Seward. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, pp. 171-184.
Wilson, E. 1895. The Embryological Criterion of Homology. Sixth Lecture, Summer Session 1894. Biological Lectures Delivered at the Marine Biological Laboratory of Wood's Hole. Boston: Ginn & Co., pp. 101-124.
2010 Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.