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Darwin-L Message Log 6:64 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<6:64>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Sat Feb 12 12:44:53 1994

Date: Sat, 12 Feb 1994 13:48:02 -0400 (EDT)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: February 12 -- Today in the Historical Sciences
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

FEBRUARY 12 -- TODAY IN THE HISTORICAL SCIENCES

1804: IMMANUEL KANT dies at Konigsberg, Germany.  Before he turned to
philosophy, for which he will be best remembered, Kant had been a student
of cosmology, and he had published in 1755 _Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und
Theorie des Himmels, oder Versuch von der Verfassung und dem mechanischen
Ursprunge des ganzen Weltgebaudes nach Newtonischen Grundsatzen abgehandelt_
(_Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens: An Essay on the
Constitution and Mechanical Origin of the Whole Universe Treated According
to Newtonian Principles_).  In this work, which was little known even in its
own day, Kant stretched the traditional cosmic chronology of the early modern
period into a temporal expanse of enormous proportion: "There has mayhap flown
past a series of millions of years and centuries, before the sphere of the
formed nature in which we find ourselves, attained to the perfection which is
now embodied in it; and perhaps as long a period will pass before Nature will
take another step as far in chaos.  But the sphere of developed nature is
incessantly engaged in extending itself.  Creation is not the work of a
moment.  When it has once made a beginning with the production of an infinity
of substances and matter, it continues in operation through the whole
succession of eternity with ever increasing degrees of fruitfulness.  Millions
and whole myriads of millions of centuries will flow on, during which always
new worlds and systems of worlds will be formed after each other in the
distant regions away from the center of nature, and will attain to
perfection."

1809: CHARLES DARWIN is born in Shrewsbury.  Educated in medicine and divinity
at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge, Darwin will become one of the
greatest theorists in the history of the historical sciences.  In the _Origin
of Species_ (London, 1859) he will describe the consequences that will result
when his evolutionary view of nature becomes widely adopted: "The terms used
by naturalists of affinity, relationship, community of type, paternity,
morphology, adaptive characters, rudimentary and aborted organs, ∧c., will
cease to be metaphorical, and will have plain signification.  When we no
longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as at something
wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as
one which has had a history; when we contemplate every complex structure and
instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor,
nearly in the same way as when we look at any great mechanical invention as
the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the
blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far
more interesting, I speak from experience, will the study of natural history
become!"

Today in the Historical Sciences is a feature of Darwin-L, an international
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