- brings forward its early development and admits, after a given period, its decay, and by means of which is prepared a succession of similar beings destined to perpetuate the race.”
The acknowledgment of man’s structural similarity with the anthropomorphous species nearest approaching him, viz.: the higher or anthropoid apes, had long before Prichard’s day been made by Linnaeus, who in his Systema Naturae (1735) grouped them together as the highest order of Mammalia, to which he gave the name of Primates. The Amoenitates Academicae (vol. vi., Leiden, 1764), published under the auspices of Linnaeus, contains a remarkable picture which illustrates a discourse by his disciple Hoppius, and is here reproduced (see Plate, fig. 1). In this picture, which shows the crudeness of the zoological notions current in the 18th century as to both men and apes, there are set in a row four figures: (a) a recognizable orang-utan, sitting and holding a staff; (b) a chimpanzee, absurdly humanized as to head, hands, and feet; (c) a hairy woman, with a tail a foot long; (d) another woman, more completely coated with hair. The great Swedish naturalist was possibly justified in treating the two latter creatures as quasi-human, for they seem to be grotesque exaggerations of such tailed and hairy human beings as really, though rarely, occur, and are apt to be exhibited as monstrosities (see Bastian and Hartmann, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Index, “Geschwänzte Menschen”; Gould and Pile, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, 1897). To Linnaeus, however, they represented normal anthropomorpha or man-like creatures, vouched for by visitors to remote parts of the world. This opinion of the Swedish naturalist seems to have been little noticed in Great Britain till it was taken up by the learned but credulous Scottish judge, Lord Monboddo (see his Origin and Progress of Language, 1774, &c.; Antient Metaphysics, 1778). He had not heard of the tailed men till he met with them in the work of Linnaeus, with whom he entered into correspondence, with the result that he enlarged his range of mankind with races of sub-human type. One was founded on the description by the Swedish sailor Niklas Köping of the ferocious men with long tails inhabiting the Nicobar Islands. Another comprised the orang-utans of Sumatra, who were said to take men captive and set them to work as slaves. One of these apes, it was related, served as a sailor on board a Jamaica ship, and used to wait on the captain. These are stories which seem to carry their own explanation. When the Nicobar Islands were taken over by the British government two centuries later, the native warriors were still wearing their peculiar loin-cloth hanging behind in a most tail-like manner (E. H. Man, Journal Anthropological Institute, vol. xv. p. 442). As for the story of the orang-utan cabin boy, this may even be verbally true, it being borne in mind that in the Malay languages the term orang-utan, “man of the forest,” was originally used for inland forest natives and other rude men, rather than for the miyas apes to which it has come to be generally applied by Europeans. The speculations as to primitive man connected with these stories diverted the British public, headed by Dr Johnson, who said that Monboddo was “as jealous of his tail as a squirrel.” Linnaeus’s primarily zoological classification of man did not, however, suit the philosophical opinion of the time, which responded more readily to the systems represented by Buffon, and later by Cuvier, in which the human mind and soul formed an impassable wall of partition between him and other mammalia, so that the definition of man’s position in the animal world was treated as not belonging to zoology, but to metaphysics and theology. It has to be borne in mind that Linnaeus, plainly as he recognized the likeness of the higher simian and the human types, does not seem to have entertained the thought of accounting for this similarity by common descent. It satisfied his mind to consider it as belonging to the system of nature, as indeed remained the case with a greater anatomist of the following century, Richard Owen. The present drawing, which under the authority of Linnaeus shows an anthropomorphic series from which the normal type of man, the Homo sapiens, is conspicuously absent, brings zoological similarity into view without suggesting kinship to account for it. There are few ideas more ingrained in ancient and low civilization than that of relationship by descent between the lower animals and man. Savage and barbaric religions recognize it, and the mythology of the world has hardly a more universal theme. But in educated Europe such ideas had long been superseded by the influence of theology and philosophy, with which they seemed too incompatible. In the 19th century, however, Lamarck’s theory of the development of new species by habit and circumstance led through Wallace and Darwin to the doctrines of the hereditary transmission of acquired characters, the survival of the fittest, and natural selection. Thenceforward it was impossible to exclude a theory of descent of man from ancestral beings whom zoological similarity connects also, though by lines of descent not at all clearly defined, with ancestors of the anthropomorphic apes. In one form or another such a theory of human descent has in our time become part of an accepted framework of zoology, if not as a demonstrable truth, at any rate as a working hypothesis which has no effective rival.
The new development from Linnaeus’s zoological scheme which has thus ensued appears in Huxley’s diagram of simian and human skeletons (fig. 2, (a) gibbon; (b) orang; (c) chimpanzee; (d) gorilla; (e) man). Evidently suggested by the Linnean picture, this is brought up to the modern level of zoology, and continued on to man, forming an introduction to his zoological history hardly to be surpassed. Some of the main points it illustrates may be briefly stated here, the reader being referred for further information to Huxley’s Essays. In tracing the osteological characters of apes and man through this series, the general system of the skeletons, and the close correspondence in number and arrangement of vertebrae and ribs, as well as in the teeth, go far towards justifying the opinion of hereditary connexion. At the same time, the comparison brings into view differences in human structure adapted to man’s pre-eminent mode of life, though hardly to be accounted its chief causes. It may be seen how the arrangement of limbs suited for going on all-fours belongs rather to the apes than to man, and walking on the soles of the feet rather to man than the apes. The two modes of progression overlap in human life, but the child’s tendency when learning is to rest on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands, unlike the apes, which support themselves on the sides of the feet and the bent knuckles of the hands. With regard to climbing, the long stretch of arm and the grasp with both hands and feet contribute to the arboreal life of the apes, contrasting with what seem the mere remains of the climbing habit to be found even among forest savages. On the whole, man’s locomotive limbs are not so much specialized to particular purposes, as generalized into adaptation to many ends. As to the mechanical conditions of the human body, the upright posture has always been recognized as the chief. To it contributes the balance of the skull on the cervical vertebrae, while the human form of the pelvis provides the necessary support to the intestines in the standing attitude. The marked curvature of the vertebral column, by breaking the shock to the neck and head in running and leaping, likewise favours the erect position. The lowest coccygeal vertebrae of man remain as a rudimentary tail. While it is evident that high importance must be attached to the adaptation of the human body to the life of diversified intelligence and occupation he has to lead, this must not be treated as though it were the principal element of the superiority of man, whose comparison with all lower genera of mammals must be mainly directed to the intellectual organ, the brain. Comparison of the brains of vertebrate animals (see Brain) brings into view the immense difference between the small, smooth brain of a fish or bird and the large and convoluted organ in man. In man, both size and complexity contribute to the increased area of the cortex or outer layer of the brain, which has been fully ascertained to be the seat of the mysterious processes by which sensation furnishes the groundwork of thought. Schäfer (Textbook of Physiology, vol. ii. p. 697) thus defines it: “The cerebral cortex is the seat of the intellectual functions, of intelligent sensation or consciousness, of ideation, of volition, and of memory.”
The relations between man and ape are most readily stated in