Page images

destroy the seeds of the larger fruits and nuts which they devour, and which are not usually coloured ; but the irritating effect of bright colours on some of them does not support this view. It seems most probable therefore' that man's perception of colour in the time of Homer was little if any inferior to what it is now, but that, owing to a variety of causes, no precise nomenclature of colours had become established. One of these causes probably was, that the colours of the objects of most importance, and those which were most frequently referred to in songs and poems, were uncertain and subject to variation. Blood was light or dark red, or when dry, blackish.; iron was grey or dark or rusty; bronze was shining or dull; foliage was of all shades of yellow, green, or brown; and horses or cattle had no one distinctive colour. Other objects, as the sea, the sky, and wine, changed in tint according to the light, the time of day, and the mode of viewing them; and thus colour, indicated at first by reference to certain coloured objects, bad no fixity. Things which had more definite and purer colours--as certain species of flowers, birds, and insects—were probably too insignificant or too much despised to serve as colour-terms; and even these often vary, either in the same or in allied species, in a manner which would render their use unsuitable. Colour-names, being abstractions, must always have been a late development in language, and their comparative unimportance in an early state of society and of the arts would still further retard their appearance; and this seems quite in accordance with the various facts set forth by Mr. Gladstone and the other writers referred to. The fact that colour-blindness is so pre

valent even now, is however an indication that the fully developed colour-sense is not of primary importance to man.

If it had been so, natural selection would long ago

have eliminated the disease itself, and its tendency to recur would hardly be so strong as it appears to be.

Concluding Remarks on the Colour-sense. The preceding considerations enable us to comprehend, both why a perception of difference of colour has become developed in the higher animals, and also why colours require to be presented or combined in varying proportions in order to be agreeable to us. But they hardly seem to afford a sufficient explanation, either of the wonderful contrasts and total unlikeness of the sensations produced in us by the chief primary colours, or of the exquisite charm and pleasure we derive from colour itself, as distinguished from variously-coloured objects, in the case of which association of ideas comes into play. It is hardly conceivable that the material uses of colour to animals and to ourselves, required such very distinct and powerfullycontrasted sensations; and it is still less conceivable that a sense of delight in colour per se should have been necessary for our utilization of it.

The emotions excited by colour and by music, alike, seem to rise above the level of a world developed on purely utilitarian principles.






ENVIRONMENT-The Influence of Locality on Colour in Butterflies and Birds-Sense-perception influenced by Colour of the Integuments-Relations of Insular Plants and Insects—RISE AND PROGRESS OF MODERN VIEWS AS TO THE ANTIQUITY AND ORIGIN OF Man-Indications of Man's extreme Antiquity-Antiquity of Intellectual ManSculptures on Easter-Island--North American Earthworks—The Great Pyramid-Conclusion.

The range of subjects comprehended within the domain of Biology is so wide, and my own acquaintance with them so imperfect, that it is not in my power to lay before you any general outline of the recent progress of the biological sciences. Neither do I feel competent to give you a summary of the present status of any one of the great divisions of our science, such as Anatomy, Physiology, Embryology, Histology, Classification, or Evolution-Philology, Ethnology, or Prehistoric Archæology ; but there are fortunately several outlying and more or less neglected subjects to which I have for some time had my attention directed, and which I hope will

furnish matter for a few observations, of some interest to biologists and at the same time not unintelligible to the less scientific members of the Association who may honour us with their presence.

The subjects I first propose to consider have no general name, and are not easily grouped under a single descriptive heading; but they may be compared with that recent development of a sister science which has been termed surface-geology or Earth-sculpture. In the older geological works we learnt much about strata, and rocks, and fossils, their superposition, contortions, chemical constitution, and affinities, with some general notions of how they were formed in the remote past; but we often came to the end of the volume no whit the wiser as to how and why the surface of the earth came to be so wonderfully and beautifully diversified ; we were not told why some mountains are rounded and others precipitous; why some valleys are wide and open, others narrow and rocky; why rivers so often pierce through mountain-chains; why mountain-lakes are often so enormously deep; whence came the gravel, and drift, and erratic blocks so strangely spread over wide areas while totally absent from other areas equally extensive. So long as these questions were almost ignored, geology could hardly claim to be a complete science, because, while professing to explain how the crust of the earth came to be what it is, it gave no intelligible account of many phenomena presented by its surface. But of late years these surface-phenomena have been assiduously studied; the marvellous effects of denudation and glacial action in giving the final touches to the actual contour of the earth's surface, and their relation to climatic

changes and the antiquity of man, have been clearly traced, thus investing geology with a new and popular interest, and at the same time elucidating many of the phenomena presented in the older formations.

Now just as a surface-geology was required to complete that science, so a surface-biology was wanted to make the science of living things more complete and more generally interesting, by applying the results arrived at by special workers to the interpretation of those external and prominent features whose endless variety and beauty constitute the charm which attracts us to the contemplation or to the study of nature.

We have the descriptive zoologist, for example, who gives us the external characters of animals ; the anatomist studies their internal structure; the histologist makes known the nature of their component tissues; the embryologist patiently watches the progress of their development; the systematist groups them into classes and orders, families, genera, and species ; while the field-naturalist studies for us their food and habits and general economy. But, till quite recently, none of these earnest students nor all of them combined, could answer satisfactorily, or even attempted to answer, many of the simplest questions concerning the external characters and general relations of animals and plants. Why are flowers so wonderfully varied in form and colour? what causes the Arctic fox and the ptarmigan to turn white in winter ? why are there no elephants in America and no deer in Australia ? why are closely allied species rarely found together ? why are male animals so frequently bright-coloured ? why are extinct animals so often larger than those which are now living? what has led to the production of the

« EelmineJätka »