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A sketch of Goethe studying the form and shape of a skull, which me compares to a bust of Schiller (right) and another head (left) in an effort to understand the morphology of humans in respect origins, and his general chemical metamorphology theory of form change.[1]

In science, morphology (TR:48) (LH:3) (TL:51), from morpho- "shape" + -logy "study of", is the study of forms and and shapes; term first used in German morphologie (Goethe, 1817).[2] The related term "metamorphosis" (Ovid, 8AD) is the study of the transformation of forms.[3] The term "metamorphology" is the study of the relation of forms across species, plants, animals, and humans; aka comparative morphology.[4]


The 2700BC Egyptian model of the origin of humans, each person being "formed" or morphed out of a ball of clay, that brought to "life" via the magical power of the "Ankh" of Hathor.

In 2700BC, Egyptians developed the theory that the god Khnum, made or "formed" (or morphed) humans on his potter's wheel, as shown below, and then the goddess Hathor brought them to life, by putting the power of the ankh, a magic amulet, to their mouth:


In 1800BC, Sumerians and or Mesopotamians, developed a similar clay-formation of humans theory variant, mostly borrowed from the Egyptians, according to which humans were "formed" out of a mixture of blood and clay, by a goddess or god. Versions of this myth vary. Some say the goddess "Namma" kneaded clay into a human form, then put it into her womb, then gave birth to it, which were the first humans, made specifically to be a work force replacements for the gods.[5] Some say the god Enki created man by mixing clay and blood (Lambert, 1969).[6] Others say the goddess Nintu mixed clay with the blood of a slain god to make the first humans. Other versions say humans were formed with clay and water, and no blood. Some, to note, have attempted to argue that the Mesopotamian clay creation myth predates the Egyptian clay creation myth; but fragments corroborating this are too wanting to be definitive.


In 8AD, Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, a mythological hexameter poem, wherein he outlined an atomic theory based semi-secular reinterpretation of the Egyptian-Greek-Jewish rendition of Genesis, e.g. clay creation myth[7], which was en vogue at the time, he defines "life" as an "assumed shape" (i.e. form) brought about via heat operating on earth, moisture, slime, and ooze:

“All other forms of life the earth brought forth, in diverse species, of her own accord, when the sun’s radiance warmed the pristine moisture, and slime and ooze marshlands swelled with heat, and in that pregnant soil the seeds of things, nourished as in a mother’s womb, gained life, and grew and gradually assumed a shape.”
— Ovid (8AD), Metamorphosis (lines 419-436; pgs. 15-16) [8]


In 1770s, Goethe began to look for morphology evidence, in plants and animals so to prove that both meta-morphed evolved over time.

In 1809, Goethe, in his Elective Affinities, employed some of Ovid’s poem logic in his so-called “ECHO cypher”.

In 1790, Goethe published "The Metamorphosis of Plants", which was followed by "Metamorphosis of Animals" (1806), and Elective Affinities (1809), aka "Metamorphosis of Humans", in coded form, e.g. he employed some of Ovid’s Metamorphosis poem logic in his “ECHO cypher”. These three works are viewed as a three-part treatise on metamorphology or studies on the similarities of form.[4] Goethe later, between 1817 and 1824, published essays on morphology and general scientific topics in two series.

In 1859, Charles Darwin, building on Goethe and others, renamed metamorphosis by the term "evolution".


The following are related quotes:

“Form is a thing in motion, in the process of becoming, of passing away. The study of form is the study of transformation. The study of metamorphosis is the key to all the signs of nature.”
— Goethe (c.1817), Morphology (Hand-written note) [3]

End matter

See also


  1. Goethe and Schiller (skulls) –
  2. Morphology –
  3. 3.0 3.1 Engelstein, Stefani. (2008). Anxious Anatomy: the Conception of the Human Form in Literary and Naturalist Discourse (Metamorphology, pg. 28). SUNY Press.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Metamorphology – Hmolpedia 2020.
  5. Spar, Ira. (2009). “Mesopotamian Creation Myths”, Met Museum, Apr.
  6. Abusch, I. Tzvi. (2020). Essays on Babylonian and Biblical Literature and Religion (pg. 86). Publisher.
  7. Clay creation myth – Hmolpedia 2020.
  8. (a) Ovid. (8AD). Metamorphosis: Stories of Changing Form (translator: Rolfe Humphries) (heat, 5+ pgs; quote, pgs. 15-16). Indiana University Press, 1955.
    (b) Ball, Philip. (2011). Unnatural: the Heretical Idea of Making People (pg. 17). Vintage Books.

Further reading

  • Steiner, Rudolf. (c.1910). The Origin of Goethe’s Thinking on Animal Morphology, Two of Sixteen (abs). Publisher.

External links

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