My work was of considerable use to me, when I had to discuss in the "Origin of Species" the principles of a natural classification. Nevertheless, I doubt whether the work was worth the consumption of so much time. But, alas, how frequent, how almost universal it is in an author to persuade himself of the truth of his own dogmas. My only hope is that I certainly see many difficulties of gigantic stature.
Publication of the book "On the various contrivances by which Orchids are fertilised by Insects".
The Coleoptera of the British Islands Series by William Weekes Fowler
Published as a book in Skip the whole of Vol. I, except the last chapter, and that need only be skimmed , and skip largely in the 2nd volume; and then you will say it is a very good book. An unverified hypothesis is of little or no value; but if anyone should hereafter be led to make observations by which some such hypothesis could be established, I shall have done good service, as an astonishing number of isolated facts can be thus connected together and rendered intelligible.
It took me ten days merely to glance over letters and reviews with criticisms and new facts. It is a devil of a job. I cannot endure being idle, but heaven knows whether I am capable of any more good work. As far as I can judge it will be a curious little book. I feel no remorse from having committed any great sin, but have often and often regretted that I have not done more direct good to my fellow creatures. The quotations in the above Epitome are taken from the Autobiography and published Letters:—.
Edited by his son, Francis Darwin, 3 Vols. Edited by his son, Francis Darwin, London, A record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished Letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and A. Seward, 2 Vols. The publication of a Series of Essays in Commemoration of the century of the birth of Charles Darwin and of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of "The Origin of Species" is assuredly welcome and is a subject of congratulation to all students of Science.
These Essays on the progress of Science and Philosophy as affected by Darwin's labours have been written by men known for their ability to discuss the problems which he so successfully worked to solve. They cannot but prove to be of enduring value, whether for the information of the general reader or as guides to investigators occupied with problems similar to those which engaged the attention of Darwin.
The essayists have been fortunate in having for reference the five published volumes of Charles Darwin's Life and Correspondence. For there is set forth in his own words the inception in his mind of the problems, geological, zoological and botanical, hypothetical and theoretical, which he set himself to solve and the steps by which he proceeded to investigate them with the view of correlating the phenomena of life with the evolution of living things. In his letters he expressed himself in language so lucid and so little burthened with technical terms that they may be regarded as models for those who were asked to address themselves primarily to the educated reader rather than to the expert.
I may add that by no one can the perusal of the Essays be more vividly appreciated than by the writer of these lines. It was my privilege for forty years to possess the intimate friendship of Charles Darwin and to be his companion during many of his working hours in Study, Laboratory, and Garden. I was the recipient of letters from him, relating mainly to the progress of his researches, the copies of which the originals are now in the possession of his family cover upwards of a thousand pages of foolscap, each page containing, on an average, three hundred words.
That the editorship of these Essays has been entrusted to a Cambridge Professor of Botany must be gratifying to all concerned in their production and in their perusal, recalling as it does the fact that Charles Darwin's instructor in scientific methods was his lifelong friend the late Rev. Henslow at that time Professor of Botany in the University. It was owing to his recommendation that his pupil was appointed Naturalist to H. In seeking to discover Darwin's relation to his predecessors it is useful to distinguish the various services which he rendered to the theory of organic evolution.
I As everyone knows, the general idea of the Doctrine of Descent is that the plants and animals of the present-day are the lineal descendants of ancestors on the whole somewhat simpler, that these again are descended from yet simpler forms, and so on backwards towards the literal "Protozoa" and "Protophyta" about which we unfortunately know nothing.
Now no one supposes that Darwin originated this idea, which in rudiment at least is as old as Aristotle. What Darwin did was to make it current intellectual coin. He gave it a form that commended itself to the scientific and public intelligence of the day, and he won wide-spread conviction by showing with consummate skill that it was an effective formula to work with, a key which no lock refused. In a scholarly, critical, and pre-eminently fair-minded way, admitting difficulties and removing them, foreseeing objections and forestalling them, he showed that the doctrine of descent supplied a modal interpretation of how our present-day fauna and flora have come to be.
II In the second place, Darwin applied the evolution-idea to particular problems, such as the descent of man, and showed what a powerful organon it is, introducing order into masses of uncorrelated facts, interpreting enigmas both of structure and function, both bodily and mental, and, best of all, stimulating and guiding further investigation.
But here again it cannot be claimed that Darwin was original. The problem of the descent or ascent of man, and other particular cases of evolution, had attracted not a few naturalists before Darwin's day, though no one except Herbert Spencer in the psychological domain had come near him in precision and thoroughness of inquiry. III In the third place, Darwin contributed largely to a knowledge of the factors in the evolution-process, especially by his analysis of what occurs in the case of domestic animals and cultivated plants, and by his elaboration of the theory of Natural Selection, which Alfred Russel Wallace independently stated at the same time, and of which there had been a few previous suggestions of a more or less vague description.
It was here that Darwin's originality was greatest, for he revealed to naturalists the many different forms—often very subtle—which natural selection takes, and with the insight of a disciplined scientific imagination he realised what a mighty engine of progress it has been and is. IV As an epoch-marking contribution, not only to Aetiology but to Natural History in the widest sense, we rank the picture which Darwin gave to the world of the web of life, that is to say, of the inter-relations and linkages in Nature.
For the Biology of the individual—if that be not a contradiction in terms—no idea is more fundamental than that of the correlation of organs, but Darwin's most characteristic contribution was not less fundamental,—it was the idea of the correlation of organisms. This, again, was not novel; we find it in the works of naturalist like Christian Conrad Sprengel, Gilbert White, and Alexander von Humboldt, but the realisation of its full import was distinctively Darwinian.
While it is true, as Prof.
Osborn puts it, that "'Before and after Darwin' will always be the ante et post urbem conditam of biological history," it is also true that the general idea of organic evolution is very ancient. New York and London, We must acknowledge our great indebtness to this fine piece of work. Osborn has shown that several of the ancient philosophers looked upon Nature as a gradual development and as still in process of change. In the suggestions of Empedocles, to take the best instance, there were "four sparks of truth,—first, that the development of life was a gradual process; second, that plants were evolved before animals; third, that imperfect forms were gradually replaced not succeeded by perfect forms; fourth, that the natural cause of the production of perfect forms was the extinction of the imperfect.
But the fundamental idea of one stage giving origin to another was absent. As the blue Aegean teemed with treasures of beauty and threw many upon its shores, so did Nature produce like a fertile artist what had to be rejected as well as what was able to survive, but the idea of one species emerging out of another was not yet conceived.
Aristotle's views of Nature See G. Berlin Akad. To discern the outcrop of evolution-doctrine in the long interval between Aristotle and Bacon seems to be very difficult, and some of the instances that have been cited strike one as forced. Epicurus and Lucretius, often called poets of evolution, both pictured animals as arising directly out of the earth, very much as Milton's lion long afterwards pawed its way out.
Even when we come to Bruno who wrote that "to the sound of the harp of the Universal Apollo the World Spirit , the lower organisms are called by stages to higher, and the lower stages are connected by intermediate forms with the higher," there is great room, as Prof. Osborn points out op.
The awakening of natural science in the sixteenth century brought the possibility of a concrete evolution theory nearer, and in the early seventeenth century we find evidences of a new spirit—in the embryology of Harvey and the classifications of Ray. Besides sober naturalists there were speculative dreamers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who had at least got beyond static formulae, but, as Professor Osborn points out op. It is evident that they were groping in the dark for a working theory of the Evolution of life, and it is remarkable that they clearly perceived from the outset that the point to which observation should be directed was not the past but the present mutability of species, and further, that this mutability was simply the variation of individuals on an extended scale.
Bacon seems to have been one of the first to think definitely about the mutability of species, and he was far ahead of his age in his suggestion of what we now call a Station of Experimental Evolution.
Leibnitz discusses in so many words how the species of animals may be changed and how intermediate species may once have linked those that now seem discontinuous. Osborn refers, who were, indeed, more scientific than the naturalists of their day.
It must be borne in mind that the general idea of organic evolution—that the present is the child of the past—is in great part just the idea of human history projected upon the natural world, differentiated by the qualification that the continuous "Becoming" has been wrought out by forces inherent in the organisms themselves and in their environment. Fritz Schultze, "Kant und Darwin", Jena, In a famous passage he speaks of "the agreement of so many kinds of animals in a certain common plan of structure" Osborn alludes to the scientific caution which led Kant, biology being what it was, to refuse to entertain the hope "that a Newton may one day arise even to make the production of a blade of grass comprehensible, according to natural laws ordained by no intention.
Haeckel finely observes, Darwin rose up as Kant's Newton. Mr Alfred Russel Wallace writes: "We claim for Darwin that he is the Newton of natural history, and that, just so surely as that the discovery and demonstration by Newton of the law of gravitation established order in place of chaos and laid a sure foundation for all future study of the starry heavens, so surely has Darwin, by his discovery of the law of natural selection and his demonstration of the great principle of the preservation of useful variations in the struggle for life, not only thrown a flood of light on the process of development of the whole organic world, but also established a firm foundation for all future study of nature.
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See also Prof. Karl Pearson's "Grammar of Science" 2nd edition , London, , page See Osborn, op. Page The scientific renaissance brought a wealth of fresh impressions and some freedom from the tyranny of tradition, and the twofold stimulus stirred the speculative activity of a great variety of men from old Claude Duret of Moulins, of whose weird transformism Dr Henry de Varigny "Experimental Evolution".
London, Similarly, for De Maillet, Maupertuis, Diderot, Bonnet, and others, we must agree with Professor Osborn that they were not actually in the main Evolution movement. Some have been included in the roll of honour on very slender evidence, Robinet for instance, whose evolutionism seems to us extremely dubious. See J. Arthur Thomson, "The Science of Life". The first naturalist to give a broad and concrete expression to the evolutionist doctrine of descent was Buffon , but it is interesting to recall the fact that his contemporary Linnaeus , protagonist of the counter-doctrine of the fixity of species See Carus Sterne Ernest Krause , "Die allgemeine Weltanschauung in ihrer historischen Entwickelung".
Stuttgart, Chapter entitled "Bestandigkeit oder Veranderlichkeit der Naturwesen". Buffon's position among the pioneers of the evolution-doctrine is weakened by his habit of vacillating between his own conclusions and the orthodoxy of the Sorbonne, but there is no doubt that he had a firm grasp of the general idea of "l'enchainement des etres. Erasmus Darwin , probably influenced by Buffon, was another firm evolutionist, and the outline of his argument in the "Zoonomia" "Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life", 2 vols.
London, ; Osborn op. Lamarck seems to have become an evolutionist independently of Erasmus Darwin's influence, though the parallelism between them is striking. He probably owed something to Buffon, but he developed his theory along a different line. Whatever view be held in regard to that theory there is no doubt that Lamarck was a thorough-going evolutionist.
Professor Haeckel speaks of the "Philosophie Zoologique" as "the first connected and thoroughly logical exposition of the theory of descent. Besides the three old masters, as we may call them, Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, there were other quite convinced pre-Darwinian evolutionists. The historian of the theory of descent must take account of Treviranus whose "Biology or Philosophy of Animate Nature" is full of evolutionary suggestions; of Etienne Geoffroy St Hilaire, who in , before the French Academy of Sciences, fought with Cuvier, the fellow-worker of his youth, an intellectual duel on the question of descent; of Goethe, one of the founders of morphology and the greatest poet of Evolution—who, in his eighty-first year, heard the tidings of Geoffroy St Hilaire's defeat with an interest which transcended the political anxieties of the time; and of many others who had gained with more or less confidence and clearness a new outlook on Nature.
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It will be remembered that Darwin refers to thirty-four more or less evolutionist authors in his Historical Sketch, and the list might be added to. Especially when we come near to do the numbers increase, and one of the most remarkable, as also most independent champions of the evolution-idea before that date was Herbert Spencer, who not only marshalled the arguments in a very forcible way in , but applied the formula in detail in his "Principles of Psychology" in It is right and proper that we should shake ourselves free from all creationist appreciations of Darwin, and that we should recognise the services of pre-Darwinian evolutionists who helped to make the time ripe, yet one cannot help feeling that the citation of them is apt to suggest two fallacies.
It may suggest that Darwin simply entered into the labours of his predecessors, whereas, as a matter of fact, he knew very little about them till after he had been for years at work. The second fallacy which the historical citation is a little apt to suggest is that the filiation of ideas is a simple problem.
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