des pedanios dioskurides
R126 D56 1988
Facsimile. Ca. seventh century, Italy? This manuscript is one of the oldest in the tradition of Materia medica, a pharmacological treatise written by Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides in the first century. Dioscorides’ work was used by the medieval world for centuries. In the sixth century it was translated into Latin. By the ninth century it had been translated into Arabic, Syrian and Hebrew. More than four hundred plants are described in this illustrated herbal, each illustration outlined in red ink. The binding of wooden covers and leather replicates the character of the contemporary binding.
C. Plinii Secvndi
Basilae: in officina Frobeniana, 1530
First printed in Venice in 1469, this is an uncritical account of medicine and natural history – in effect, an encyclopedia of science. This edition came from the press of Johannes Froben (1460-1527), a German printer who established himself at Basel. Froben became famous for printing scholarly texts, in part because Erasmus edited many of Froben’s publications. Froben also employed the as yet unknown Hans Holbein as a designer. University of Utah contemporary binding pastedowns are manuscript leaves.
During the Middle Ages and European Renaissance, medical treatments were based on botany, but the herbals and other books available to practitioners often inaccurately identified plants. This herbal, The History of Plants, established a new standard of scientific observation and accurate illustration. Leonhart Fuchs compiled his text from various classical sources but added his own field observations. The remarkably detailed woodcuts, drawn by Heinrich Fullmaurer and Albrecht Meyer and cut by Veit Rudolf Speckle represent the first published illustrations of American plants, including the pumpkin, the marigold, maize, and tobacco – all native to Mexico and introduced into Europe as a consequence of the Columbian Encounter. The plants were identified in Latin, Greek, and German. Leonhart Fuchs was a child genius, matriculating at Erfurt University at the age of twelve. He went on to take a degree in medicine at Ingolstadt. His medical work during an outbreak of plague in 1529 was outstanding and contributed to his already growing reputation. In De Historia Stirpium he gave full recognition to his artists by praising them in his preface and publishing their portraits in the back of the book. Their renderings demonstrate the Renaissance shift to accurate observation and drawing of plants from life. Fuchs would be immortalized in the genus Fuchsia.
Guillaume Rondelet was one of the first of sixteenth century scientists to break with the eighteen-hundred-year-old tradition among natural historians of quoting or commenting on Aristotle’s knowledge of animals and begin the practice of gathering and reporting information gained firsthand. This book contains accurate illustrations of the egg cases and immature eggs of several fish, based upon Rondelet’s own meticulous studies. The work is an example of the change in attitude about science in the sixteenth century.
Of all the classical Greek scholars, the most influential was Aristotle. He defined for the first time basic fields of inquiry: logic, physics, political science, economics, psychology, rhetoric, and ethics. In the process, Aristotle also established a method of study which profoundly influenced scholarship for nearly two thousand years. The Organum is a collection of four Aristotelian treatises. This edition is a new and corrected version of an edition done by the learned French humanist Nicolas de Gouchy (ca. 1520-1572). University of Utah copy has widely scattered underscoring or brief neat annotations in an early hand. Printer’s device on title, woodcut initials and headpieces.
Francis Bacon’s belief in man’s sovereignty over nature was sorely tried by his conviction that the knowledge possessed by man was practically useless. It was this frustration that motivated him to found a new scientific methodology. In this work, commonly known as The Advancement of Learning, Francis Bacon suggested that it was impossible to accept that either all knowledge had been discovered by Aristotle or could be logically derived from his writings. Instead, Bacon proposed that knowledge should be based on direct observation of perceived facts, whether or not this contradicted the authority of the ancients. His emphasis on direct observation strongly influenced the development of an experimental method of scientific thinking in England. Bacon’s reorganized scientific method included careful and purposeful thought to the relation of science to public and social life. Charles Darwin began his Origin of Species with a quote from Advancement of Learning.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
London: Billium, 1620
The foundations of modern objective science were laid down by Francis Bacon in this book. The title is in reference to the Organum of Aristotle. Bacon’s Novum Organum, as the title implies, advanced a new method of empirical reasoning. Bacon believed that experimentation was necessary to determine truth. He criticized the inadequate existing methods of scientific interpretation and provided a system based upon empirical methodology and the accumulation of reliable data. The title page of Novum Organum was a prophetic metaphor. In 1620, the course of philosophy, with Bacon as pilot, was substantially altered. Sailing through the Pillars of Hercules, the limit of the Old World, Bacon’s ship set out into new and uncharted seas, leaving behind a legacy of superstition and outdated methodologies. This voyage, as daring and influential as any undertaken by Renaissance explorers, ushered in a new era of scientific discovery.
English physician William Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. Harvey studied medicine at Cambridge and at Padua University. Harvey was ahead of his time in obstetrics. This work contains the first original work on obstetrics published by an English author. Harvey included a careful anatomical description of the ovary of the hen, described the new-laid egg, then gave an account of the appearance seen on the successive days of incubation, and described the process of hatching. He described the uterus of the doe, the process of impregnation, and the subsequent development of the fetus. Harvey insisted from these and other studies that all animals arise from ova. The theories proposed in this book would not be proved until 1827. The engraved title-page depicts Jove holding a broken egg, out of which bursts all manner of animal and plant life, including a man, a reindeer, a grasshopper, and a dolphin.
As tutor to several children of various noblemen, Abraham Trembley became interested in the study of nature. He began studying polyps (today called hydra), which at the time were thought to be plants. In 1740, Trembley observed movement in the polyp’s appendages. Unsure of what he was witnessing (was it animal, mineral or vegetable?), Trembley experimented by cutting the polyp in half. If animal, it would die. If plant, it would live. Or so he surmised. Within a few days the two halves had grown into two new and perfect polyps. The tail grew a head and the head grew a tail. Trembley’s discovery, the blurring between plant and animal, had theological as well as scientific implications. What, for instance, happened to the animal’s soul? Did it divide in two as well? In fact, Trembley had isolated protoplasm and had found a common building block of life. The publication of Trembley’s findings included beautiful illustrations. It was important to Trembley that the readers of his book feel as though they witnessed the results themselves. Trembley understood the necessity of well-crafted, finely detailed illustrations in making his argument. To further legitimize his work he discussed the drawings and engravings in the preface and gave the credentials of the artists and the engravers.
Englishman John Hill was an apothecary by trade. He collected plants for use in herbal remedies and undertook several large projects in plant classification. The University of Utah copy is signed by past owner Jules Remy, a noted French naturalist and explorer who wrote a history of the Mormons. Sixteen uncolored plates of specimens. Bound in contemporary red morocco, rebacked, corners restored.
Jean Lamarck began his career as a botanist in 1778, eventually moving on to the study of zoology. In 1800, he began his study on the variation of species, which would lead him to conclude “…aided by much time and by a slow but constant diversity of circumstances [nature] has gradually brought about…the state of things which we now observe. How grand is this consideration, and especially how remote is it from all that is generally thought on this subject!” While in Paris he became a contributor to the Encyclopedie methodique. Lamarck invented the term “invertebrate,” preferring the title “Professor of Invertebrates” to “Professor of Worms and Insects.” He believed that few species died out, but, instead, went through modification. In spite of his findings, he staunchly placed the authority of the Bible over his own ideas. Of Lamarck, Darwin wrote: “[He] was the first man whose conclusions on the subject excited much attention…he first did the eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all changes in the organic, as well as in the inorganic world, being the result of law, and not of miraculous interposition.”
the botanic garden
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)
London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1795
PR3396 A7 1795
Erasmus Darwin was the grandfather of Charles Darwin. He was one of the leading intellectuals of eighteenth century England – a respected physician, philosopher, botanist, naturalist, and inventor. He formed one of the first formal theories on evolution. This long poem, The Botanic Garden, established Erasmus Darwin as one of the leading English poets of his day – Coleridge called him “the first literary character of England.” Some of the illustrations for this book were engraved by William Blake, after designs by Henri Fuselli.
The Temple of Nature, published posthumously is Erasmus Darwin’s conception of evolution. It traces the progression of life from microorganisms to civilized society. With the exception of natural selection, Erasmus Darwin anticipated much of what his grandson, Charles Darwin, would later write about. Erasmus wrote: "Organic life beneath the shoreless waves/Was born and nurs’d in ocean’s pearly caves;/First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,/Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;/These, as successive generations bloom,/New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;/Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,/And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.” The original drawing for the engraving for the frontispiece was by Henry Fuseli.
Around 1838, as Darwin began developing his theory of evolution, he read Malthus’ writings regarding factors limiting human population growth. Reading Malthus’ works, Darwin later recalled thinking, “Why do some die and some live?...it suddenly flashed upon me…in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain – that is, the fittest would survive.” Darwin credited Malthus, among others, as his inspiration.
Charles Lyell studied geology under naturalist William Buckland. He traveled the English countryside to observe geological formations for himself. Much of the information in Principles, his first book, was based on these observations. The book had a huge influence on Charles Darwin, who took a copy of it with him on the HMS Beagle. Darwin looked at rock formations on this voyage “through Lyell’s eyes,” and Lyell’s information about stratigraphy inspired Darwin to think in terms of geologic time when it came to evolving organisms. After Darwin’s return from the Beagle voyage in October 1836, Lyell invited him to dinner, a meeting that began their close friendship. Throughout this friendship, Lyell rejected the idea of evolution. Darwin was hurt by Lyell’s reserve on the subject but, loyal through and through, said “Considering his age, his former views, and position in society, I think his action has been heroic.”
Georges Cuvier, anatomist and paleontologist, did not believe that life forms evolved over time. He believed any change in an organism would upset a natural balance, making it unable to survive. Cuvier classified animals into four branches, each sufficiently different from the other so as to disallow the possibility of any connection due to an evolutionary transformation. Similarities were due to common function, not common ancestry. Cuvier thus repudiated, quite harshly, the theories of contemporaries such as Lamarck. Cuvier’s most fundamental contribution to biology was to establish as fact the extinction of organisms – something that had been theorized by earlier scientists but was rejected still by those who could not believe that God, creator of all things “good” would allow their complete demise. Disappeared species were a matter not of change, said Cuvier, but “…the existence of a world previous to ours, destroyed by some kind of catastrophe.” Cuvier’s classic work was Règne Animal, which first appeared in 1817. It presented the results of his research on the structure of living and fossil animals and was translated into English many times, often with substantial notes and supplementary material as updates became available.
Robert Mudie was a newspaper editor and author, a self-taught artist and naturalist. His works, such as Popular Guide, were written for the layperson. Mudie’s writings were what the man-on-the-street would have been reading about the natural world just as Darwin began writing of his observations while on the H.M.S. Beagle. Mudie wrote that geophysical changes on the landscape, such as depleted forests or reclaimed marches, would effect climate which would then effect “wild production” and “the entire extinction of some of…both plants and animals…and the introduction of not varieties only, but species altogether new.” He further argued that, “it’s the general character only which descends by hereditary succession. When the young leaves the parent and becomes an independent being, it is controlled by circumstances, and must accommodate itself to them.” Reading this, the layperson would have been acquainted with some of what Darwin would soon put together in his coherent, well-argued and well-documented way.
Charles Darwin became a fellow of the Geological Society in January 1837. One year later he was elected secretary. He served, unpaid, as a naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle during a British naval surveying voyage to South America in 1831. He became well-known for his diary of this voyage. First published as the third volume of Robert Fitzroy’s The Narrative of the Voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle in 1839, it was published separately in the same year. The name of this work was changed four times during subsequent editions and is now known as “The Voyage of the Beagle.” In his diary, Darwin often mentions finding previously unknown species of plants and animals: “In my collections from these islands…there are twenty-six different species of land birds. With the exception of one, all probably are undescribed kinds, which inhabit this archipelago, and no other part of the world…”
Zoology was first published as a five volume unbound book in nineteen parts as they were edited and printed between February 1838 and October 1843. The parts were written by various authors, directed and edited by Charles Darwin. Darwin also contributed items to the Mammals and the Birds sections. The text of the Fish and the Reptiles sections include many notes by Darwin. Part 3, “The Birds,” was written by John Gould (1804 – 1881). Gould was an English ornithologist. Darwin turned to Gould for help in identifying bird species collected during voyage of the Beagle. It was Gould who told Darwin that Galapagos finches were a separate species, providing Darwin with essential information leading to his development of the theory of evolution. Gould also provided the bird illustrations for Zoology.
The first edition of Vestiges appeared in 1844 in London. More than twenty thousand copies were printed in various editions, including foreign editions, over the next sixteen years. The book caused a stir among naturalists of the day and the sensation it caused helped prepare the public for Darwin’s Origins in 1859. The at-first anonymous author placed evolutionary ideas amidst a broad history of the cosmos. Robert Chambers, an Edinburgh journalist, later revealed to be the author, declared that humans had arisen from monkeys and apes, as part of a progression of improving life-forms. The book became a Victorian best-seller – it quickly became the topic of conversation at soirees throughout Britain. The clergy hated the book and so, too, did many scientists of the day. It was not just bad theology, it was bad science. A review in the April 1845 issue of the North American Review said, “The writer has taken up almost every questionable fact and startling hypothesis, that have been promulgated by…pretenders in science… - he adopts them all, and makes them play an important part in his own magnificent theory, to the exclusion…of the well-credited facts and established doctrines of science.” Darwin’s reaction to Vestiges was mixed and cautionary. He, like other scientists, despaired of its speculation and factual carelessness. Another, younger biologist, Alfred Wallace, was far more receptive and would go on to formulate his own ideas toward theory of evolution. In the end, Darwin gave credit to both Wallace and “Mr. Vestiges” in his On the Origin of Species.
Alexander von Humboldt studied geology in Frieberg under A.G. Werner, then recognized as one of the premier geologists in Europe. While in Frieberg, Humboldt met George Forester, the scientific illustrator who traveled with James Cook on his second voyage. The two hiked across Europe together. In 1792, Humboldt began work as a mines inspector. After the death of his mother he received a substantial inheritance, quit his job and headed to South America with a botanist, studying the flora, fauna and topography of the continent. In 1800 he mapped more than 1700 miles of the Orinco River. Humboldt returned to Europe and published, often at his own expense, many books about his findings. Charles Darwin described Humboldt as “the greatest scientific traveler who ever lived.”
Physician Josiah Nott is credited as the first to apply the insect vector theory to yellow fever, a serious health problem in his native South Carolina. He lost four of his own children to the illness. Nott is, however, perhaps better known for his theories on race. Types was his popular thesis on the polygenist theory; that is, the separate origins of races of humans. Based on the work of others writing at the time, Nott credited, in part, his personal observations in medicine as evidence. Nott used his theory to justify slavery, but also as a somewhat startling theological argument, saying that the human race must have descended from many different original pairs. Darwin cited this theory in The Descent of Man, later concluding that there was only one species of humans.
After his return from his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle, the significance of his observations led Darwin to revolutionary conclusions. Darwin was not the only scientist to advance the theory of evolution, but he spent twenty years working out its operation through the processes of natural selection before publishing this seminal work. The data he collected, the experiments he conducted, and the theories he proposed were all extremely influential in the disciplines of anthropology, zoology, geology, and ecology. The book caused a sensation, and the controversy over the mechanism of evolution continues unabated. His conclusions continue to be condemned, supported and debated one hundred and fifty years after this publication. Edition of one thousand two hundred and fifty copies. University of Utah's copy has author’s autograph mounted on title page.
Published in the United States one year after the London first edition, on the eve of the Civil War, one American reviewer wrote, “Is it too much to say that, in the good old times, opinions like these would have been strongly redolent of fagot and flame?” It was not until the 1870s that serious opposition to Darwin’s theories about natural selection began to mount in the United States. The argument against them was not scientific, but rather theological, much as it remains to this day.
Thomas Huxley was well respected by his peers, in no small part, not in spite of, but because of his quick defense of Darwin. One contemporary reviewer of this work by Huxley wrote in North American Review January 1865, “He has faith in the doctrine of Transmutation of Species; and the instant Mr. Darwin’s book appeared, he published an earnest plea that it might have a fair and respectful hearing.”
Scientist and philosopher Thomas Huxley became one of Darwin’s most immediate and vociferous defenders, publishing numerous articles and essays supporting Darwin’s theories on natural selection. Even so, Huxley differed with Darwin on some key points, namely Darwin’s slow, gradual evolution vs. Huxley’s belief in a sudden explosion of new species. Around 1855, Huxley began a series of lectures designed specifically for working-class men, calling them “People’s Lectures.” They were well attended and Huxley enjoyed speaking to these groups very much: “I want the working class to understand that Science and her ways are great facts for them – that physical virtue is the base of all other, and that they are to be clean and temperate and all the rest – not because fellows in black and white ties tell them so, but because there are plain and patent laws which they must obey ‘under penalties.’” The essays contained here were written for “working men.”
Thomas Huxley jumped at the chance to defend Darwin. In a letter regarding the publication of Origin of Species, dated November 23, 1859, he wrote, “As for your doctrines I am prepared to go to the Stake if requisite. . . I trust you will not allow yourself to be in any way disgusted or annoyed by the considerable abuse & misrepresentation which unless I greatly mistake is in store for you. . . And as to the curs which will bark and yelp – you must recollect that some of your friends at any rate are endowed with an amount of combativeness which (though you have often & justly rebuked it) may stand you in good stead – I am sharpening up my claws and beak in readiness.” Huxley expanded on Darwin’s theories. He wrote that the visible characteristics of man differed less from the more sophisticated apes than did the latter from the lower members of the same order of primates. Evidence was Huxley’s most important work, offering the first synthesis of the anatomical and embryological evidence of human evolution. The frontispiece is an illustration comparing the skeletons of various apes to that of man.
Variation includes, along with Darwin’s study of variation in pigeons and plants, his provisional theory of “pangenesis,” an attempt to explore the causes of variant forms beyond their survival or selection.
“Man still bears…the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” In Descent Darwin used the word ‘evolution’ (vol. 1, p. 2) for the first time. Darwin reflected on whether humans, like other species, are descended from a pre-existing form and considered the means of homo sapien development. More than a decade after the publication of Origin of Species, Darwin applied his theory of natural selection to the emergence of the human species. He had the benefit of debates that were already under way, and he included these discussions in his theory.
In Descent, Darwin presented examples supporting his contention that humans and animals shared cognitive attributes like wonder, curiosity, long-term memory, the ability to focus, the ability to imitate the behavior of others, and the ability to reason. Darwin wrote Expression to refute current speculation that human ability to manifest emotion through a wide variety of facial expressions indicated a species separated from evolutionary concepts. The book was based upon and included a pamphlet Darwin wrote on the topic in 1867. Darwin had done no research on the subject, but included the thinking of many of his peers in his denial of the theory. Edition of seven thousand copies.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
London: J. Murray, 1875
First edition, later issue
In this study of the adaptations of plants to impoverished conditions, Darwin described the assimilations for survival purposes, in some cases, as “murderous propensities.” Darwin drew figures 7 and 8, while his sons produced the rest of the drawings. The book was published in a standard binding without inserted advertisements, announcing a print run of three thousand, twenty-seven hundred of which were sold to the book trade. The book was not printed again in Darwin’s lifetime. University of Utah copy inscribed on title-page “From the Author.”
Effects is a highly technical and detailed study of natural systems that favored cross-fertilization and the advantages of those mechanisms. Darwin wrote, “…the results…explain, as I believe, the endless and wonderful contrivances for the transportal of pollen from one plant to another of the same species.” Fifteen hundred copies sold in less than two months.
Asa Gray, a respected American botanist, corresponded with Charles Darwin regarding his study of plant distribution, helping Darwin with the theories elaborated upon in On the Origin of Species. He was a staunch supporter of Darwin in America. His collection of essays, Darwiniana was very influential. In these essays, Gray suggested that Darwinian evolution and the tenets of Protestant Christianity were not mutually exclusive. Gray wrote, “the most puzzling things of all to the old-school teleologists are the principia of the Darwinian.” Gray said that he was convinced that the present species were not special creations, but rather derived from previously existing species.
Much of the content of Different Forms had been published already in the Journal of the Linnean Society of London and other journals. Like The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation, the work was too technical to draw a large readership. The first edition was a print run of twelve hundred and fifty copies. Only two thousand copies were sold in Darwin’s lifetime. Sales, however, meant nothing to Darwin’s own enthusiasm in the minutiae of his work. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote of this study, “no little discovery of mine ever gave me so much pleasure as the making out the meaning of heterostyled flowers.”
This study on phototropism in plants is a continuation of Darwin’s work on climbing plants. Darwin’s son, Francis, contributed to the experiments for this book and helped write it. The book sold fewer copies than any of Darwin’s other books, with a first issue of only fifteen hundred, although the two further issues printed before 1882 consisted of a thousand copies more each.
Alfred Russel Wallace corresponded with Charles Darwin for many years. Wallace first contacted Darwin while living in what is now Indonesia, collecting biological specimens and sending them home to England. Wallace, in his travels and studies, had come to a theory of evolution much like the theory that Darwin had been carefully developing for decades. Wallace described his theory as a “struggle for existence.” When Vestiges was first published, Wallace was particularly receptive to many of its ideas regarding the natural world. Vestiges inspired Wallace to collect his own evidence “with a view to the theory of the origin of species.” By 1848 he had saved enough money from his wages as a railroad surveyor to sail for the Amazon. As Wallace began collecting specimens he considered the distribution of species and whether geographic barriers, such as a mountain range or a river, could be a key to their formation. Returning to England in 1852, Wallace’s ship caught fire and sank. His drawings, notes, journals, and specimens were all destroyed. Wallace immediately began another collecting trip in the islands of Southeast Asia. In 1856, he published his first paper on evolution, focusing on the island distribution of closely related species. Darwin encouraged Wallace but cautioned him to work slowly and publish carefully. In 1858, recovering from malaria, Wallace wrote to Darwin, “It occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live?...it suddenly flashed upon me…in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain – that is, the fittest would survive.” Of his many publications, Island Life is considered Wallace’s finest thinking and writing, treating the causes and influences of glacial processes, and the nature of insular biota.
Darwin never lost his early interest in geology. For thirty years, Darwin dug in fields behind his house that had been undisturbed by man for years. He found that substances that had been on the surface of the ground were buried inches beneath the grass. He hypothesized that activity of earthworms was the reason for the upheaval. He used a flat stone, or, as he called it, a “wormstone” to measure the movement of soil due to earthworms. For Darwin, this movement had important implications. A small force, over thousands or millions of years, could have significant impact on the geology of the earth. This book was immensely popular, selling six thousand copies within one year and thirteen thousand before the turn of the century. It sold faster than Origin had.
On 7 January 1860, John Murray published the second edition of Darwin’s Origin of species, printing off another 3000 copies to satisfy the demands of an audience that surprised both the publisher and the author. One week later Darwin was stunned to learn that the book was on sale even in railway stations (letter to Charles Lyell, 14 January ). By May, with the work continuing to sell well in England and with editions out in the United States and in Germany, he expressed to Asa Gray his astonishment at the widespread interest it had aroused: ‘No doubt the public has been shamefully imposed on! for they bought the book, thinking that it would be nice easy reading.’ (letter to Asa Gray, 22 May ).
Origin: reactions and reviews
But it was the opinion of scientific men that was Darwin’s main concern. He eagerly scrutinised each new review and was heartened to find that many of the early notices were favourable. He later learned that they came from some of those whose support he most wanted: Thomas Henry Huxley, William Benjamin Carpenter, and Joseph Dalton Hooker. Others were not quite as supportive but were nonetheless appreciated for their honest critiques of his views. ‘One cannot expect fairness in a Reviewer’, Darwin commented to Hooker after reading an early notice that gave ‘good and well deserved raps’ on his discussion of the geological record; but this criticism, he told Hooker, did not at all concern his main argument (letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January ).
Darwin’s magnanimous attitude soon faded, however, when ‘the stones began to fly’. His ‘dearly beloved’ theory suffered a series of attacks, the most vicious of which came from Richard Owen in the April issue of the Edinburgh Review. Indeed, after reading not only critical but ‘unfair’ reviews that misrepresented his ideas, Darwin began to feel that without the early favourable notices his theory would have been ‘utterly smashed’ (letter to T. H. Huxley, 3 July ). (A chronological list of all the reviews mentioned in the volume is given in Correspondence vol. 8, Appendix VII.)
The difficulties that members of the scientific community found in Origin in the twelve months after its publication make an impressive list. Adam Sedgwick, not surprisingly, attacked the book on a number of fronts. But it was his methodological criticism in the accusation that Darwin had ‘deserted the inductive track, the only track that leads to physical truth’ (Sedgwick 1860) that most wounded Darwin. Having spent years gathering the evidential underpinning for his theory, he had hoped to deflect such criticism. ‘I can perfectly understand Sedgwick or any one saying that nat. selection does not explain large classes of facts; but that is very different from saying that I depart from right principles of scientific investigation.—’ (letter to J. S. Henslow, 8 May ).
Above all else Darwin prided himself on having developed a theory that explained several classes of facts— those of geological succession, geographical distribution, classification, homology, and embryology—which were inexplicable by the theory of creation. Asa Gray’s statement in his March review that natural selection was a hypothesis, not a theory, therefore also displeased Darwin. Comparing natural selection to the undulatory theory of light or to the theory of gravity, he retorted: ‘It seems to me that an hypothesis is developed into a theory solely by explaining an ample lot of facts.’ (letter to Asa Gray, 18 February ). To those who objected that his theory could not be a vera causa, he similarly stated that ‘it seems to me fair in Philosophy to invent any hypothesis & if it explains many phenomena it comes in time to be admitted as real.’ (letter to C. J. F. Bunbury, 9 February ). This helps to explain why Darwin was delighted by the defence of his scientific method by the young Cambridge fellow Henry Fawcett in the December issue of Macmillan’s Magazine. Fawcett asserted that Darwin’s theory accorded well with John Stuart Mill’s exposition of the deductive method of scientific investigation, consisting of direct induction, ratiocination, and then verification.
Darwin and his critics
Specific difficulties were raised against the theory on the basis of existing scientific evidence. Several correspondents, such as his cousin Hensleigh Wedgwood and Heinrich Georg Bronn, expressed their concerns about the question of the origin of life itself, which the theory did not address. Darwin chose to treat this as an entirely separate problem from the origin of species, believing that current knowledge could not illuminate this ‘mystery’. Charles Lyell worried, among other things, about the multitude of still living simple forms. Darwin readily admitted that his failure to discuss this point was a ‘most serious omission’ in his book and explained how natural selection did not necessarily lead to progression (letter to Charles Lyell, 18 [and 19 February 1860]). To this and Lyell’s many other queries he responded carefully and patiently, knowing that Lyell was earnestly attempting to understand natural selection and incorporate it into his method of reasoning about global change. Darwin also knew that Lyell was a powerful potential ally. Indeed, the letters between Darwin and Lyell are some of the most fascinating in the volume.
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites questioned Darwin about how natural selection could explain the production of beauty, pointing to organisms such as the desmids, whose intricate patterned forms seemed to offer no obvious selective advantage to the creatures themselves. The evolutionist Hewett Cottrell Watson argued for the concept of ‘convergence’ of species to join that of divergence. Andrew Murray challenged the explanation of the origin and distribution of blind cave animals. Darwin attempted to answer each of these issues in his letters; several were considered in future editions of Origin. William Henry Harvey wondered, in addition to questioning gradual versus saltatory species change, how natural selection could ever alter and improve various ‘simple’ protozoans that were seemingly identical to one another. Harvey’s letters reveal aspects of Darwin’s theory that gave contemporary naturalists the greatest conceptual difficulty, and theological discomfort. After several long letters were exchanged, Darwin finally decided that Harvey and other working naturalists simply did not yet understand the concept of natural selection.
Even Huxley, an avowed supporter, proved a formidable critic. Huxley extolled the analogy between artificial selection among domestic varieties and natural selection in a lecture before the Royal Institution. Yet he also noted the difficulty that varieties are not sterile when crossed, whereas sterility had long been recognised by naturalists as a criterion of specific difference. He concluded the lecture by asserting that until naturalists could find ‘derivatives from a common stock, whose offspring should be infertile, inter se,’ Darwin’s theory would remain unproven (T. H. Huxley 1860a).
Darwin had long reflected on the origin of sterility between incipient species but knew that much work was needed before the problem could be conclusively resolved. He also recognised that, owing to experimental difficulties, advances were more likely to come from studies of crossing among plant species and varieties than from animal breeding. With Lyell also questioning how interbreeding among animal groups could give rise to new species, Darwin found Huxley’s lecture irritating and ultimately considered it more a failure than a success (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 February ).
I think geologists are more converted than simple naturalists because more accustomed to reasoning
As Darwin himself well recognised and fully anticipated in Origin, several major criticisms arose from evidence (or the lack thereof) in the geological record. Several critics pointed out that the earliest geological formations already contained relatively advanced forms of life. Many singled out Darwin’s own discussion of the absence of transitional or intermediate forms between related groups and the vast time required for one or more primordial forms to have evolved into the multitude of the earth’s present inhabitants. Darwin agreed, for example, with Alfred Russel Wallace’s assessment that the imperfection of the geological record was one of the weakest parts of his theory. Yet he nonetheless noted that in fact ‘there are almost more Geological converts than of pursuers of other branches of natural science.’ As for why this should be so, he confided to Wallace: ‘I think geologists are more converted than simple naturalists because more accustomed to reasoning.’ (letter to A. R. Wallace, 18 May 1860).
Darwin began to tabulate (and categorise) his various followers as early as March. Dividing up his supporters on the basis of their professional affiliations, he counted among this number four geologists, four zoologists or palaeontologists, two physiologists, and five botanists (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 March ). Others, like François Jules Pictet de la Rive, he judged would eventually be converted, for he found them somewhat ‘staggered’ by his theory—and once staggered, he believed, it was only a matter of time before a person would become an adherent.
About weak points I agree. The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder
Certainly Darwin was disappointed by the small number of physiologists who initially supported his theory. Even Carpenter, whom he included as a proponent in this group, offered only partial support, for he hesitated at going so far as to derive all vertebrates from a single progenitor. The major stumbling block for most anatomists and physiologists was the difficulty of conceiving of the selection of chance variations being able to produce such a marvellously perfected structure as the eye. As Darwin admitted to Lyell, Gray, and others, imagining how selection could account for highly adapted organs had sometimes given even him a ‘cold shudder’. Yet it was more trifling structures, ones for which it was difficult to see clear selective advantages, that caused him greater discomfort. As he readily admitted to Gray: ‘The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!’ (letter to Asa Gray, 3 April ).
By the end of 1860, Darwin was disheartened that so few of his reviewers had noticed what he considered to be ‘the strongest single class of facts in favour of change of form’, namely those of embryology (letter to Asa Gray, 10 September ). Only his theory, he believed, could explain the basis for the correlation of the facts of embryology, homology, morphology, and classification and thereby account, as the creationist view could not, for anomalous structures such as rudimentary organs and the general resemblance of embryos of the same class. But it was precisely the physiologists, steeped in a heavily developmental conception of nature, who had more difficulty reconciling the seemingly directed process of embryogenesis with a theory of change based upon the selection of chance variations. Few could imagine how such a process could actually alter the developmental patterns of species. Darwin took some comfort from news that the doyen of embryology, Karl Ernst von Baer, had expressed support for species change based on his study of the geographical distribution of species (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 August 1860). But Baer in fact eventually opposed Darwin’s theory on the grounds that it failed to account for the purposiveness of embryonic development.
The British Association meeting, Oxford: natural selection and humans
Among the formidable array of problems confronting Darwin’s theory, perhaps most telling of all was that arising from the implications it had for human ancestry. Certainly this was a major difficulty standing in the way of Lyell’s acceptance of the theory, as Darwin well knew. Even though he had not discussed this problem explicitly in Origin — only one sentence, he told Lyell, showed that he believed ‘man is in same predicament with other animals’ (letter to Charles Lyell, 10 January )— he and others were well aware that the continuity of humankind with the animal kingdom was an obvious logical consequence of his theory. The question of man’s ‘descent from apes’ was explicitly raised in February in Thomas Vernon Wollaston’s review in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History. The question would not disappear with Darwin’s dismissal of the issue as having more to do with theology than with science. It emerged with force and in full public view in June at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
many heavy guns fired by great men
Darwin first learned that he and his book had become ‘topics of the day’ at the meeting in a letter from Hooker written from Oxford. Hooker’s letter, one of the few known eyewitness accounts, well captures the excitement of the legendary episode. After avoiding earlier sessions, including the Thursday meeting at which Huxley and Owen ‘had a furious battle over Darwins absent body’, Hooker attended the fabled Saturday session of Section D. He told Darwin how ‘between 700 & 1000 people’ crowded into the as yet unfurnished library of the new Oxford Museum to hear Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, reply to John William Draper’s paper giving a Darwinian view of the development of Western civilisation. Wilberforce, Hooker recounted, responded by shouting ‘for half an hour’, ridiculing Darwin ‘badly & Huxley savagely’. Huxley rose in response and ‘answered admirably’, but ‘could not throw his voice over so large an assembly, nor command the audience’. With his blood boiling and his heart pounding, Hooker threw down the gauntlet and became a ‘referee on Natural Selection’. His performance surprised many: he ‘smashed’ Wilberforce ‘amid rounds of aplause’ and the meeting adjourned, leaving Darwin ‘master of the field after 4 hours battle’ (letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 July 1860). Other correspondents informed Darwin about further, less dramatic incidents, including John Lubbock’s retort to Wilberforce on the embryological evidence supporting Darwin’s views and Robert FitzRoy’s denunciations in both the Saturday meeting and in the geography section. Darwin, who had been kept away by illness, was glad to have avoided such public confrontation. ‘I would as soon have died as tried to answer the Bishop in such an assembly,’ he told Huxley; nonetheless he believed that ‘this row is best thing for subject.—’ (letter to T. H. Huxley, 3 July ). Further details of the meeting, taken from the contemporary report in the Athenæum, are given in Correspondence vol. 8 Appendix VI.
Wilberforce’s review of Origin, published in the Quarterly Review, appeared shortly after the Oxford meeting. In its arguments Darwin clearly recognised the clever touch of his now arch-foe Owen. It specifically addressed the question of man, among other difficult scientific problems, and set the tone for future theological controversy over evolution theory.
The response to Origin by theologians, however, was not entirely negative, as the approval of the scientifically literate clergymen Baden Powell and Charles Kingsley attested. Moreover, theological opinion has to be gauged as much in terms of the response to the publication of the theological reform tract Essays and reviews in January 1860 as to that of Origin itself. This volume of seven essays, whose authors (six of whom were clergymen) were liberal critics of prevailing Church doctrine, was more inspired by the German movement of historico-literary criticism of biblical texts than it was by new developments in science. But the correspondence shows that the two separate attacks on orthodoxy were related. Sedgwick, for example, stated publicly at a meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society in May that ‘his chief attacks were directed against Powell’s late Essay’ in Essays and reviews rather than against Darwin’s book per se. Prodded by Henslow’s defence of the integrity of Darwin’s scientific motivation, Sedgwick admitted that he was distressed that Powell had, in his opinion, ‘accepted all Darwin had suggested, & applied these suggestions (as if the whole were already proved) to his own views.—’ (letter from J. S. Henslow to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1860). What worried Darwin most about such attacks was what the effect might be ‘of so many heavy guns fired by great men’, believing that they might retard the theory’s gaining any new converts or even cause earlier proponents (like Lyell) to retract their support altogether (letters to Charles Lyell, 1 June  and 11 August ).
As the months passed by, Darwin read each review with less trepidation, commenting on each, and the private communications he received, in letters to his closest confidants Hooker, Lyell, and Gray. Initially he found it curious ‘how differently different opposers view the subject’ (letter to Charles Lyell, 15 February ); later he became ‘fairly sick’ of the notices as he increasingly realised that one of the reasons for the paucity of novel objections to his views was that very few reviewers actually understood his theory. Somewhat exasperated after reading William Hopkins’s hostile critique of his geological argument, he wrote to Lyell on 6 June : 'I am beginning to despair of ever making the majority understand my notions. Even Hopkins does not thoroughly . . . I must be a very bad explainer.'
Asa Gray and design in nature
This was not, however, his opinion of Asa Gray, who Darwin thought understood his argument perhaps better than anyone else. Having been impressed by Gray’s review in the American Journal of Science and Arts, Darwin was elated by his series of three (unsigned) articles published in the Atlantic Monthly. Although intended to counter the powerful opposition to Origin in America by Louis Agassiz and his followers, Gray’s essays, Darwin believed, could also serve a purpose in Britain. He immediately wrote to Gray on 10 September after studying the first published piece: 'I said in a former letter that you were a Lawyer; but I made a gross mistake, I am sure that you are a poet. No by Jove I will tell you what you are, a hybrid, a complex cross of Lawyer, Poet, Naturalist, & Theologian!— Was there ever such a monster seen before?'
Gray’s essays attempted to show that the operation of natural selection was compatible with continued belief in Design in nature. Even though unable to believe in design himself, Darwin recognised that Gray’s argument could be a powerful antidote to the theological attacks on his book that were rife in England. He immediately set about arranging for the publication of Gray’s articles in Britain: the first article appeared in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, and all three pieces were published together under Gray’s name in a pamphlet (Gray 1861) with the publication costs shared equally by Darwin and Gray.
Marshalling great quantities of facts
Darwin was not, however, entirely preoccupied in 1860 with his critics and the reception of Origin. This work was, after all, only an ‘abstract’ of his theory. His critics merely reinforced his agenda: their remarks led to detailed arguments in his subsequent works. Only two days after the second edition was issued, on 9 January 1860, he turned to preparing the first part of his planned three-volume work intended to buttress the compressed arguments of Origin. Many of the letters of 1860 pertain to his collection of further facts in support of his postulate of a vast amount of variation among plant and animal species on which natural selection could operate. He wrote to various correspondents in the hope of finding more cases of striping in dray and cart horses, of inheritance in fowls, of the intercrossing among sweet-pea plants, of variation in the nests of bees and wasps, and of a myriad of other phenomena that provided empirical support for his arguments. He recommenced writing his chapter on pigeons (interrupted in 1858 by the receipt of Wallace’s manuscript and the subsequent drafting of Origin), and he wrote up anew a chapter discussing the origin of various breeds of dogs.
By June it was clear that his materials on variation alone would fill one volume exclusively; in the event, they ran to two. The work drained him, yet he persevered, strongly believing in the importance of the task. It would provide evidence in support of his theory that would help to ‘stagger’ the new generation of naturalists, who Darwin felt were crucial to the ultimate triumph of his theory. ‘I can pretty plainly see’, he commented to Huxley on 2 December, ‘that if my view is ever to be generally adopted, it will be by young men growing up & replacing the old workers, & these young ones finding that they can group facts & search out new lines of investigation better on the notion of descent, than on that of creation.—’ The new book on which he laboured was intended to provide just that mass of documentary evidence by which this process could best be advanced.
Adaptation: studying orchids
But Variation was not the only ‘evolutionary tract’ on which Darwin worked in the months after publishing Origin. Turning to pursue a number of topics about which he had long been curious, he began a serious study of several different botanical problems. For more than twenty years, Darwin had observed the role of insects in the fertilisation of plants. In the spring and summer of 1860, he began to investigate the problem in detail, focusing on specific aspects of the structure of the flower parts of various species. He drew up a list of those species in which the pistil appeared to be bent toward the nectar-secreting surface of the flower. ‘Why I care about it,’ he confided in Hooker, ‘is that it shows that visits of insects are so important, that these visits have led to changed structure.’ (letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 April ). Tracing the complicated contrivances by which insects, in getting at the nectar, inadvertently become transporters of pollen (and hence agents effecting cross-pollination between different plants) necessitated meticulous microscopic examination of the fructifying structures of many plant species. Orchids in particular came to his attention as being ‘beautifully adapted’ to insect visitation. The project engrossed Darwin, as he examined one genus after another. ‘I am intensely interested on subject,’ he told Hooker several months later, ‘just as at a game of chess.’ (letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 [July 1860]). With the work halted by the coming of winter, Darwin carried over the investigation to the next year and published the results of the orchid study in 1862.
Back to the origin of sex: primroses and cowslips
Another botanical project was a study of primroses and cowslips, which Darwin had discussed in Origin in regard to whether the oxlip, intermediate in form between the two, could be considered as a hybrid offspring and hence an example of an incipient species. But it was the evolution of sex, not speciation, that captured his interest, just as it had in his earlier study of the cirripedes. A chance observation of two different forms of the flower parts of cowslips soon evolved into an extensive piece of botanical research. Keeping Hooker closely informed on the progress and results of his study, he wrote on 7 May : 'I have this morning been looking at my experimental Cowslips & find some plants have all flowers with long stamens & short pistils which I will call ‘male plants’—others with short stamens & long pistils, which I will call “female plants” . . . I cannot help suspecting that the cowslip is in fact dioicous—but it may turn out all blunder, but anyhow I will mark with sticks the so-called male & female plants & watch their seeding. It would be fine case of gradation between an hermaphrodite & unisexual condition.—'
He presented the results of his study in a paper of 1862 and in The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species (1877).
Plants that behave like animals: carnivorous plants
Serendipity led to the commencement of what was to become a fifteen-year-long investigation. During visits to Hartfield in July and Eastbourne in September and October, he amused himself by observing how the common sundew of the Sussex heaths, Drosera rotundifolia, was able to capture insects. A casual observation soon turned into a passionate investigation of one very curious point, soon revealed to Hooker: ‘The leaves are first rate chemists & can distinguish even an incredibly small quantity of any nitrogenised substance from non=nitrogenised substances.’ (letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 [August 1860]). Relying in part on his youthful experiences in chemical experimentation (see Correspondence vol. 1), and the tenaciousness exhibited in all his undertakings in natural history, he tested the sensitivity of various insectivorous plants to a large variety of substances, observing their digestive processes at the cellular level. Describing her husband’s current enthusiasm, Emma Darwin wrote to Mary Lyell: ‘At present he is treating Drosera just like a living creature, and I suppose he hopes to end in proving it to be an animal.’ (Emma Darwin 2: 177).
As was so frequently the case with his research topics, Darwin was able to solicit the assistance of a number of other specialists who also became deeply engrossed in his experimental regime. In this instance, he drafted the services not only of Hooker but also of a newly appointed Kew botanist, Daniel Oliver; his old friend and neighbour Edward Cresy; and Cresy’s acquaintances August Wilhelm von Hofmann, the renowned German organic chemist, and Alfred Swaine Taylor, an authority on poisons and tests for chemical sensitivity. After finding ‘one suspicious case’ in his experimental record, however, Darwin abandoned his original intention to publish a short paper on the subject, fearing that his estimate of the astonishing sensitivity of the leaves of these plants to minute quantities of nitrogenous substances would scarcely be believed without further supporting evidence (letter to Edward Cresy, 12 December ). This work was not published until 1875, when Insectivorous plants appeared.
These studies offered naturalists different perspectives of the marvellous adaptive mechanisms of plants; moreover, they showed how the design of such structures could be interpreted on the basis of the theory of natural selection. As the letters between Darwin, Hooker, and Oliver indicate, the novelty of this approach to botanical research was striking even to experts in that field who were favourably disposed to his views. In future years, his botanical work served as models for investigation in natural history, graphically illustrating the conceptual and methodological power of the theory. This is not to say that Darwin himself was conscious of attempting to initiate an evolutionary ‘research programme’. Indeed, he was rather apologetic about having spent so much time on the Drosera study in particular, admitting to Lyell ‘how much better fun observing is than writing.—’ (letter to Charles Lyell, 12 September ). Despite the fact that he cared ‘more about Drosera than the origin of all the species in the world’, he told Oliver he was going to put away his mass of notes, ‘for I am convinced that I ought to work on Variation & not amuse myself with interludes.—’ (letters to Charles Lyell, 24 November , and to Daniel Oliver, 20 October ).
In the event, however, Darwin’s work on variation had to be interrupted for other reasons. His health was still a source of continued anxiety and annoyance, disturbing his work and causing him to miss the British Association meeting. But it was the health of his daughter Henrietta that caused the family the greatest concern. Having suffered intermittent bouts of illness for the past few years, Etty fell seriously ill late in April 1860 with what was eventually diagnosed as a form of typhus fever. With the memory of their older daughter Anne’s fatal illness never far from their minds, Charles and Emma did whatever they could to promote Etty’s recovery, even if it meant interrupting his precious studies.
His work was also halted abruptly late in November when Murray again called for a new edition of Origin. This gave Darwin the opportunity to make a number of corrections and additions ‘in the hopes of making my many rather stupid reviewers at least understand what is meant.— I hope & think I shall improve the Book considerably.—’ (letter to John Murray, 5 December ). Although he took Lyell’s advice not to name any names when responding to his reviewers, he nonetheless added a considerable amount of new material in support of his various arguments, as well as including in the third English edition the historical preface (acknowledging naturalists who had propounded views about species change) previously printed in the German and American editions.
In light of the criticism his book had received over the past year, Darwin was determined to do what he could to make his doctrines more generally understood, realising that the process of acceptance would be a long and gradual one. ‘I never expected to convert people under 20 year,’ he told his friend John Innes, ‘though firmly convinced now that I am in the main right.— For a week hardly passes without my hearing of some good judge coming some little way with me.’ (letter to John Innes, 28 December ).