Lamarckism (sometimes written as Lamarkism) is the name given to an obsolete scientific theory proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and used to explain how characteristics are passed from parent to offspring. The theory centers around individuals losing characteristics that they do not use and developing those that are useful. These characteristics are then passed to their offspring.
Perhaps the commonest example used to explain the theory is that of long-necked animals such as giraffes. The theory suggests that the stretching of animals to reach high leaves causes them to grow longer necks. The characteristic of a long neck is then passed to their offspring.
Modern understanding of evolution, genetics and inheritance mean that Lamarckism is no longer a supported theory.
A photograph of a statue of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
Photograph by Jastrow.
Related groups of terms
Back to Glossary