Darwin-L Message Log 8:69 (April 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.

<8:69>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Tue Apr 19 02:19:01 1994

Date: Tue, 19 Apr 1994 03:18:51 -0500 (EST)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: April 19 -- Today in the Historical Sciences
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro


1882: CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN, the most celebrated naturalist of his age, dies
at Down House, his home, in Kent, England.  He will be buried in Westminster
Abbey, "a few feet from the grave of Sir Isaac Newton".  The son of a medical
doctor, Darwin contributed to almost every department of natural history in
many papers and in more than twenty books.  His most influential work, _On the
Origin of Species_ (London, 1859), explained the diversity and adaptation of
living things through the processes of descent and natural selection, and
brought systematics into the fold of the historical sciences: "The affinities
of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great
tree.  I believe this simile largely speaks the truth.  The green and budding
twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during each former
year may represent the long succession of extinct species.  At each period of
growth all the growing twigs have tried to branch out on all sides, and to
overtop and kill the surrounding twigs and branches, in the same manner as
species and groups of species have tried to overmaster other species in the
great battle for life.  The limbs divided into great branches, and these into
lesser and lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was small,
budding twigs; and this connexion of the former and present buds by ramifying
branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living
species in groups subordinate to groups.  Of the many twigs which flourished
when the tree was a mere bush, only two or three, now grown into great
branches, yet survive and bear all the other branches; so with the species
which lived during long-past geological periods, very few now have living and
modified descendants.  From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and
branch has decayed and dropped off; and these lost branches of various sizes
may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no
living representatives, and which are known to us only from having been
found in a fossil state.  As we here and there see a thin straggling branch
springing from a fork low down in a tree, and which by some chance has been
favoured and is still alive in its summit, so we occasionally see an animal
like the Ornithorhynchus or Lepidosiren, which in some small degree connects
by its affinities two large branches of life, and which has apparently been
saved from fatal competition by having inhabited a protected station.  As
buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out
and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it
has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken
branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever
branching and beautiful ramifications."

Today in the Historical Sciences is a feature of Darwin-L, an international
network discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.
For more information about Darwin-L send the two-word message INFO DARWIN-L to
listserv@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu, or gopher to rjohara.uncg.edu (

Your Amazon purchases help support this website. Thank you!

© RJO 1995–2016