Organic evolution is a phenomenon that has fascinated scientists and researchers for centuries. The theory of mutation in organic evolution is one of the most important concepts in this field.

The theory states that changes in genes or DNA sequences can lead to the development of new traits and characteristics, which can ultimately lead to the formation of new species. But who was the person behind this groundbreaking theory? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Mutation?

Before we dive into the history of mutation theory, it’s essential to understand what mutation means. Mutation is a change that occurs in DNA sequences, resulting in new genetic traits and characteristics. These changes can happen spontaneously or due to external factors like radiation and chemicals.

The Father of Mutation Theory

Hugo de Vries, a Dutch botanist, was the first scientist who propounded the theory of mutation in organic evolution. He was born on February 16, 1848, in Haarlem, Netherlands. De Vries studied botany at Leiden University and later worked as a professor at Amsterdam University.

In 1889, while studying evening primroses (Oenothera), de Vries noticed variations in the plants’ characteristics that could not be explained by traditional methods of inheritance proposed by Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel. After conducting extensive research on these variations for several years, he came up with his revolutionary theory of mutation.

De Vries’ Theory

According to de Vries’ theory, mutations are sudden changes that occur spontaneously and without any apparent cause or influence from external factors like natural selection. These changes result in new traits that can be inherited by future generations.

De Vries believed that mutations were responsible for the origin of new species rather than gradual accumulation of small variations proposed by Darwin’s theory of natural selection. He also suggested that mutations occurred more frequently than previously thought and that the rate of mutation was not constant.

De Vries’ Contributions

De Vries’ theory of mutation was a significant departure from the prevailing scientific thought of his time. His research on evening primroses and other plants led him to publish several books, including “Intracellular Pangenesis,” “Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation,” and “Plant Breeding: Comments on the Experiments of Nilsson and Burbank.”

His work on mutation theory laid the foundation for the study of genetics and evolution, leading to new discoveries in fields like molecular biology, biotechnology, and genetic engineering.


Hugo de Vries is known as the father of mutation theory in organic evolution. His groundbreaking work revolutionized the field of genetics and paved the way for future research into evolutionary processes. Today, scientists continue to build on his theories and ideas, advancing our understanding of how life on Earth has evolved over time.