The Principles of Biology Vol. I







Copyright, 1866, 1898,


I. Organic matter 3
II. The actions of forces on organic matter 27
III. The re-actions of organic matter on forces 45
IIIA. Metabolism 62
IV. Proximate conception of life 78
V. The correspondence between life and its circumstances 91
VI. The degree of life varies as the degree of correspondence 101
VIA. The dynamic element in life 111
VII. The scope of biology 124
I. Growth 135
II. Development 162
IIA. Structure 181
III. Function 197
IV. Waste and repair 213
V. Adaptation 227
VI. Individuality 244
VIA. Cell-life and cell-multiplication 252
VII. Genesis 269
VIII. Heredity 301
IX. Variation 320
X. Genesis, heredity, and variation 336
XA. Genesis, heredity, and variationConcluded 356
XI. Classification 374
XII. Distribution 395
I. Preliminary 415
II. General aspects of the special-creation-hypothesis 417
III. General aspects of the evolution-hypothesis 431
IV. The arguments from classification 441
V. The arguments from embryology 450
VI. The arguments from morphology 468
VII. The arguments from distribution 476
VIII. How is organic evolution caused? 490
IX. External factors 499
X. Internal factors 508
XI. Direct equilibration 519
XII. Indirect equilibration 529
XIII. The co-operation of the factors 549
XIV. The convergence of the evidences 554
XIVA. Recent criticisms and hypotheses 559
A. The general law of animal fertility 577
B. The inadequacy of natural selection, etc.
I. The inadequacy of natural selection 602
II. Professor Weismann's theories 633
III. A rejoinder to Professor Weismann 651
IV. Weismannism once more 671
C. The inheritance of functionally-wrought modifications:
a summary
D. On alleged "spontaneous generation" and on the hypothesis
of physiological units



Rapid in all directions, scientific progress has during the last generation been more rapid in the direction of Biology than in any other; and had this work been one dealing with Biology at large, the hope of bringing it up to date could not have been rationally entertained. But it is a work on the Principles of Biology; and to bring an exposition of these up to date, seemed not impossible with such small remnant of energy as is left me. Slowly, and often interrupted by ill-health, I have in the course of the last two years, completed this first volume of the final edition.

Numerous additions have proved needful. What was originally said about vital changes of matter has been supplemented by a chapter on "Metabolism." Under the title "The Dynamic Element in Life," I have added a chapter which renders less inadequate the conception of Life previously expressed. A gap in preceding editions, which should have been occupied by some pages on "Structure," is now filled up. Those astonishing actions in cell-nuclei which the microscope has of late revealed, will be found briefly set forth under the head of "Cell-Life and Cell-Multiplication." Further evidence and further thought have resulted in a supplementary chapter on "Genesis, Heredity, and Variation"; in which certain views enunciated in the first edition are qualified and developed. Various modern ideas are considered under the title "Recent Criticisms and Hypotheses." And the chapter on "The Arguments from Embryology" has been mainly rewritten. Smaller increments have taken the shape of new sections incorporated in pre-existing chapters. They are distinguished by the following section-marks:— § 8a, § 46a, § 87a, § 100a, § 113a, § 127a, §§ 130a- 130d. There should also be mentioned a number of foot-notes of some significance not present in preceding editions. Of the three additional appendices the two longer ones have already seen the light in other shapes.

After these chief changes have now to be named the changes necessitated by revision. In making them assistance has been needful. Though many of the amendments have resulted from further thought and inquiry, a much larger number have been consequent on criticisms received from gentlemen whose aid I have been fortunate enough to obtain: each of them having taken a division falling within the range of his special studies. The part concerned with Organic Chemistry and its derived subjects, has been looked through by Mr. W. H. Perkin, Ph.D., F.R.S., Professor of Organic Chemistry, Owens College, Manchester. Plant Morphology and Physiology have been overseen by Mr. A. G. Tansley, M.A., F.L.S., Assistant Professor of Botany, University College, London. Criticisms upon parts dealing with Animal Morphology, I owe to Mr. E. W. MacBride, M.A., Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, Professor of Zoology in the McGill University, Montreal, and Mr. J. T. Cunningham, M.A., late Fellow of University College, Oxford. And the statements included under Animal Physiology have been checked by Mr. W. B. Hardy, M.A., Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Demonstrator of Physiology in the University. Where the discoveries made since 1864 have rendered it needful to change the text, either by omissions or qualifications or in some cases by additions, these gentlemen have furnished me with the requisite information.

Save in the case of the preliminary portion, bristling with the technicalities of Organic Chemistry (including the pages on "Metabolism"), I have not submitted the proofs, either of the new chapters or of the revised chapters, to the gentlemen above named. The abstention has resulted partly from reluctance to trespass on their time to a greater extent than was originally arranged, and partly from the desire to avoid complicating my own work. During the interval occupied in the preparation of this volume the printers have kept pace with me, and I have feared adding to the entailed attention the further attention which correspondence and discussion would have absorbed: feeling that it was better to risk minor inaccuracies than to leave the volume unfinished: an event which at one time appeared probable. I make this statement because, in its absence, one or other of these gentlemen might be held responsible for some error which is not his but mine.

Yet another explanation is called for. Beyond the exposition of those general truths constituting the Principles of Biology as commonly accepted, the original edition of this work contained sundry views for which biological opinion did not furnish any authority. Some of these have since obtained a certain currency; either in their original forms or in modified forms. Misinterpretations are likely to result. Readers who have met with them in other works may, in the absence of warning, suppose, to my disadvantage, that I have adopted them without acknowledgment. Hence it must be understood that where no indication to the contrary is given the substance is unchanged. Beyond the corrections which have been made in the original text, there are, in some cases, additions to the evidence or amplifications of the argument; but in all sections not marked as new, the essential ideas set forth are the same as they were in the original edition of 1864.


August, 1898.


The aim of this work is to set forth the general truths of Biology, as illustrative of, and as interpreted by, the laws of Evolution: the special truths being introduced only so far as is needful for elucidation of the general truths.

For aid in executing it, I owe many thanks to Prof. Huxley and Dr. Hooker. They have supplied me with information where my own was deficient;[1] and, in looking through the proof-sheets, have pointed out errors of detail into which I had fallen. By having kindly rendered me this valuable assistance, they must not, however, be held committed to any of the enunciated doctrines that are not among the recognized truths of Biology.

The successive instalments which compose this volume, were issued to the subscribers at the following dates:—No. 7 (pp. 1-80) in January, 1863; No. 8 (pp. 81-160) in April, 1863; No. 9 (pp. 161-240) in July, 1863; No. 10 (pp. 241-320) in January, 1864; No. 11 (pp. 321-400) in May, 1864; and No. 12 (pp. 401-476) in October, 1864.

London, September 29th, 1864.

  1. Gross misrepresentations of this statement, which have been from time to time made, oblige me, much against my will, to add here an explanation of it. The last of these perversions, uttered in a lecture delivered at Belfast by the Rev. Professor Watts, D.D., is reported in the Belfast Witness of December 18, 1874; just while a third impression of this work is being printed from the plates. The report commences as follows:—"Dr. Watts, after showing that on his own confession Spencer was indebted for his facts to Huxley and Hooker, who," &c., &c. Wishing in this, as in other cases, to acknowledge indebtedness when conscious of it, I introduced the words referred to, in recognition of the fact that I had repeatedly questioned the distinguished specialists named, on matters beyond my knowledge, which were not dealt with in the books at my command. Forgetting the habits of antagonists, and especially theological antagonists, it never occurred to me that my expression of thanks to my friends for "information where my own was deficient," would be turned into the sweeping statement that I was indebted to them for my facts. Had Professor Watts looked at the preface to the second volume (the two having been published separately, as the prefaces imply), he would have seen a second expression of my indebtedness "for their valuable criticisms, and for the trouble they have taken in checking the numerous statements of fact on which the arguments proceed"—no further indebtedness being named. A moment's comparison of the two volumes in respect of their accumulations of facts, would have shown him what kind of warrant there was for his interpretation. Doubtless the Rev. Professor was prompted to make this assertion by the desire to discredit the work he was attacking; and having so good an end in view, thought it needless to be particular about the means. In the art of dealing with the language of opponents, Dr. Watts might give lessons to Monsignor Capel and Archbishop Manning.
    December 28th, 1874.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.