BioConcepts is a multilingual database which documents the origin and definition of basic biological concepts. It serves as a guide to the first uses of words, influential definitions and shifts of meaning through history. The database started life in 2008 as a supplement to the handbook Historisches Wörterbuch der Biologie. Geschichte und Theorie der biologischen Grundbegriffe (HWB) which was published in three volumes by Verlag J.B. Metzler in 2011 and which is now online.

BioConcepts is focused on terms of general biology, i.e. those concepts which apply to all living beings (e.g. ‘organism’, ‘evolution’, or ‘gene’); terms related to particular forms of life (e.g. ‘flower’, ‘heart’, or ‘seeing’) are for the most part not included (the exceptions to this rule refer to important concepts for wide spread phenomena like ‘sexuality’, ‘social behaviour’, or ‘symbiosis’).

Currently, the database comprises approximately 8,000 quotations in about 2,000 main entries. In order to find the oldest occurrences of the words the huge corpora of digitalized texts (e.g. JSTOR or GoogleBooks) have been systematically searched. As many of the quotations have been included by students and are not yet checked and revised there are still inconsistencies and incomplete quotations in the database. They will be removed in the process of revision that is currently taking place.

You may help to improve the database by including quotations or hints to quotations in the section “Your feedback” at the end of each entry.

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