The homology concept has had a long and varied history, starting out as a geometrical term in ancient Greece. Here we describe briefly how a typological use of homology to designate organs and body parts in the same position anatomically in different organisms was changed by Darwin's theory of evolution into a phylogenetic concept. We try to indicate the diversity of opinions on how to define and test for homology that has prevailed historically, before the important books by Hennig (1950. Grundz¸ge einer Theorie der Phylogenetischen Systematik. Deutscher Zentralverlag, Berlin) and Remane (1952. Die Grundlagen des Nat¸rlichen Systems, der Vergleichenden Anatomie und der Phylogenetik. Geest & Portig, Leipzig) brought more rigor into both the debate on homology and into the usage of the term homology among systematists. Homology as a theme has recurred repeatedly throughout the history of the "Phylogenetisches Symposium" and we give a very brief overview of the different aspects of homology that have been discussed at specific symposia over the last 48 years. We also honour the fact that the 2004 symposium was held in Jena by pointing to the roles played by biologists active in Jena, such as Ernst Haeckel and Carl Gegenbaur, in starting the development towards a homology concept concordant with an evolutionary world view. As historians of biology, we emphasize the importance of major treatises on homology and its history that may be little read by systematists active today, and have sometimes also received less attention by historians of biology than they deserve. Prominent among these are the works of Dietrich Starck, who also happened to be both a student, and later a benefactor, of systematics at Jena University.