Field of Science

Erasmus Darwin for some credit

A correspondence in the newest edition of Nature, quote in full:
Nature 461, 167 (10 September 2009) | doi:10.1038/461167b; Published online 9 September 2009

Evolution pioneers: celebrating Lamarck at 200, Darwin 215

William E. Friedman1
1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA


I take issue with the contention that Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles, tackled evolution only in poetic terms, as implied by Dan Graur and colleagues in their insightful Book Review ('In retrospect: Lamarck's treatise at 200' Nature 460, 688–689; 2009).

Erasmus Darwin's most important contributions to evolutionary thought will be found in the very unpoetic prose of the first volume of his major medical and zoological treatise, Zoonomia, published in 1794.

Here, notably in Section 39, are discussions of deep time and the descent of all life from a single ancestor, bauplan homology among vertebrates, the analogy of artificial selection as a means of understanding descent with modification, and a brief but clear enunciation of the process of sexual selection.

One need only to look at the backlash against Erasmus Darwin's evolutionary ideas, in the savage political cartoons of James Gillray in 1798 and of others, to understand that — years before Lamarck made his contributions to evolutionary thought — Erasmus Darwin was triggering strong reactions for promoting a transformist view of biodiversity.

This year is justly celebrating the history-altering contributions of Charles Darwin. But it is equally important to take stock of the critical intellectual steps before 1859 that made scientific and social acceptance of evolution possible.

Besides Erasmus Darwin and Jean Baptiste Lamarck, a host of other influential evolutionists, including Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Robert Chambers, Baden Powell, Herbert Spencer and Alfred Russel Wallace, deserve to be recognized (as well as read) for having laid a path to a modern view of descent with modification.
(Emphasis added.)

This is most fascinating information. I had no idea that Erasmus Darwin had written about so many of the concepts that Charles are famous for. I just checked out Zoonomia on Amazon. It can be downloaded to the Kindle for free (as can many other books). However, next best to that, my library has a free electronic version that I have just accessed online. Yeah!

On the second page of that is a humorous erratum:

THE reader will pleafe to excufe en error of the corrector of the prefs - the paging from 154 - 171 is omitted, although the fubftance and fubject of the work is correctly continued - and he will pleafe to alter one figure with his pen that follows 235, by making it 236, &c. to page 250.

The Bookbinder will pleafe to obferve, that there is no fignature M, and that the book is perfect wanting it.
I have noticed before that old s's looks like f's, but in this case there are also properly looking s's, such as in 'prefs.'

Also, you gotta love the request for the reader to add page-numbers by pen. I seriously think I'll do the same with my first book.

Does that last sentence mean that, apart from the missing signature M, the book is perfect?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS