Page images

Darwin had collected have never been made known. The cause is well known to have been the continued pressure of ill-health. The work on Domesticated Animals was thus delayed many years, after which came the labour of bringing out a much enlarged edition of the Origin of Species. The Descent of Man was, apparently, at first intended to be a comparatively small book, but a difficulty connected with the origin of the distinctive peculiarities of the two sexes led to an investigation of this subject throughout the animal kingdom. This was found to be of such extreme interest, and to have such important applications, that its development with the completeness characteristic of all the writer's work led to the production of two bulky volumes, followed by another volume on the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, not less instructive. None of Darwin's works has excited greater interest or more bitter controversy than that on man; and the correction of the numerous reprints, and of a final enlarged edition in 1874, was found to be so laborious a task as to convince him that any such extensive literary works as those projected and announced six years previously must be finally abandoned. This, however, by no means implied cessation from work. Observation and experiment were the delight and relaxation of Darwin's life, and he now continued and supplemented those numerous researches on plants we have already referred to. A new edition of an earlier work on the Movements of Climbing Plants appeared in 1875 ; a thick volume on Insectivorous Plants in the same year ; Cross and self-Fertilisation in 1876; the Forms of Flowers in 1877 ; the Movements of Plants, embodying much original research, in 1880; and his remarkable little book on Earthworms in 1881. This last work is highly characteristic of the author. In 1837 he had contributed to the Geological Society a short paper on the formation of vegetable mould by the agency of worms. For more than forty years this subject of his early studies was kept in view; experiments were made, in one case involving the keeping a field untouched for thirty years,—and every opportunity was taken of collect

[ocr errors]

1 About this time he said to the present writer : “When I am obliged to give up observation and experiment, I shall die.” And he actually did continue his experiments to within a few days of his death.

ing facts and making fresh observations, the final result being to elevate one of the humblest and most despised of the animal creation to the position of an important agent in the preparation of the earth for the use and enjoyment of the higher animals and of man.

The sketch now given of Darwin's work, though it may have seemed tedious to the reader by its length, is yet in many respects imperfect, since it has given no account of those earlier important labours which would alone have made the reputation of a lesser man. None but the greatest geologists have produced more instructive works than the two volumes of Geological Observations, and the profound and original essay “On the Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs ”; the most distinguished zoologists and anatomists might be proud of the elaborate "Monograph of the Cirripedia," of which a competent judge says: "The prodigious number and minute accuracy of his dissections, the exhaustive detail with which he worked out every branch of his subject—sparing no pains in procuring every species that it was possible to procure, in collecting all the known facts relating to the geographical and geological distribution of the group, in tracing all the complicated history of the metamorphoses presented by the individuals of the sundry species, in disentangling the problem of the homologies of these perplexing animals, etc.—all combine to show that, had Mr. Darwin chosen to devote himself to a life of morphological work, his name would probably have been second to none in that department of biology,”1 while the numerous researches on the fertilisation and structure of flowers and the movements of plants, would alone place him in the rank of a profound and original investigator in botanical science.

Estimate of Darwin's Life-Work Yet these works, great as is each of them separately, and, taken altogether, amazing as the production of one man, sink into insignificance as compared with the vast body of research and of thought of which the Origin of Species is the brief epitome, and with which alone the name of Darwin is associated by the mass of educated men. I have here

1 Nature, vol. xxvi. p. 99.

[ocr errors]

endeavoured, however imperfectly, to enable non-specialists
to judge of the character and extent of this work, and of the
vast revolution it has effected in our conception of nature,
a revolution altogether independent of the question whether
the theory of “natural selection” is or is not as important a
factor in bringing about changes of animal and vegetable
forms as its author maintained. Let us consider for a
moment the state of mind induced by the new theory and
that which preceded it. So long as men believed that every
species was the immediate handiwork of the Creator, and was
therefore absolutely perfect, they remained altogether blind
to the meaning of the countless variations and adaptations of
the parts and organs of plants and animals. They who were
always repeating, parrot-like, that every organism was exactly
adapted to its conditions and surroundings by an all-wise
being, were apparently dulled or incapacitated by this belief
from any inquiry into the inner meaning of what they saw
around them, and were content to pass over whole classes of
facts as inexplicable, and to ignore countless details of structure
under vague notions of a "general plan,” or of variety and
beauty being "ends in themselves”; while he whose teachings
were at first stigmatised as degrading or even atheistical, by
devoting to the varied phenomena of living things the loving,
patient, and reverent study of one who really had faith in the
beauty and harmony and perfection of creation, was enabled
to bring to light innumerable hidden adaptations, and to prove
that the most insignificant parts of the meanest living things
had a use and a purpose, were worthy of our earnest study,
and fitted to excite our highest and most intelligent admiration.

That he has done this is the sufficient answer to his critics and to his few detractors. However much our knowledge of nature may advance in the future, it will certainly be by following in the pathways he has made clear for us; and for long years to come the name of Darwin will stand for the typical example of what the student of nature ought to be. And if we glance back over the whole domain of science, we shall find none to stand beside him as equals; for in him we find a patient observation and collection of facts, as in Tycho Brahe; the power of using those facts in the determination of laws, as in Kepler, combined with the inspirational genius of a Newton, through which he was enabled to grasp fundamental principles, and so apply them as to bring order out of chaos, and illuminate the world of life as Newton illuminated the material universe. Paraphrasing the eulogistic words of the poet, we may say, with perhaps a greater approximation to truth

“Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night;

God said, 'Let Darwin be,' and all was light.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]


ABBOTT, C. C., on American palæo- | Ampelidæ, sexual colouring and nidifi-
lithic implements, 441

cation of, 126
Abbott, Dr., on nests of Baltimore Ancient races of North and South
oriole, 114

America, 429
Abraxas grossulariata, 84

Ancylotherium, 165
Abrus precatoria, perhaps a case of Andaman islands, pale butterflies of,
mimicry, 399

Absorption-colours or pigments, 357 white-marked birds of, 388
Acanthotritus dorsalis, 67

Anderson, Mr. W. Marshall,
Accipiter pileatus, 75

cranium from N. American mound,
Acræidæ, the subjects of mimicry, 61

warning colours of, 350

Andes, very rich in humming-birds, 323
Acronycta psi, protective colouring of, Andrenidæ, 70

Angræcum sesquipedale, 146
Adaptation brought about by general its fertilisation by a large moth,
laws, 149

looks like design, 152

Animal colours, how produced, 357
Adaptive characters, 331, 335

life in tropical forests, 271
Ægeriidæ, mimic Hymenoptera, 64 Animals, senses and faculties of, 89
Affinities, how to determine doubtful, intellect of, compared with that

of savages, 192
Agassiz on embryonic character of and plants under domestication,
ancient animals, 165

an example of Darwin's re.
Agnia fasciata, mimics another Longi. search, 459
corn, 68

Anisocerinæ, 66
Agriopis aprilina, protective colouring Anoplotherium, 165
of, 45

Anthribidæ, 290
Alcedinidæ, sexual colouring and mimicry of, 67
nidification of, 124

Anthrocera filipendulæ, 84
Aleutian islands, ancient shell mounds Anthropologists, wide difference of
in, 437

opinion among, to origin of
Allen, Mr. Grant, on protective human races, 167
colours of fruits, 398

conflicting views of, harmonised,
Alpine flowers, why so beautiful, 403

Amadina, sexual colouring and nidifi. Antiquity of man, 167, 180
,cation of, 126

in North America, 433
Amboyna, large-sized butterflies of, Ants, wasps, and bees, 278

numbers of, in India and Malaya,
American monkeys, 306

278, 283


« EelmineJätka »