The Zoologist/4th series, vol 6 (1902)/Issue 728/Notices of New Books
NOTICES OF NEW BOOKS.
Whatever may be the general conclusion as to the claim of Lamarck being "the founder of evolution," there can be no possible doubt as to his life being the "old, old story of a man of genius who lived far in advance of his age, and who died comparatively unappreciated and neglected." The exact site of his grave "is and forever will be unknown"; his remains were not even deposited in a separate grave, and his bones are now probably in the catacombs of Paris, mingled with those of a very mixed humanity. His career comprised about twenty-five years devoted to botany, and he was in his fiftieth year when he assumed the duties of his professorship of zoology, and began his real evolutionary conceptions. This was in 1793, on the eve of the "Terror," and the dull thud of the guillotine "could almost be heard by the quiet workers in the museum." We wish our space would allow many extracts from this delightful narrative, for the old French zoologists and explorers cross the pages, and we learn much about men whose names are household words to most naturalists.
It is, however, with the views of Lamarck that Dr. Packard is most engaged; and, as an American, he appropriately defends the estimation of many of his scientific countrymen, who hold the French philosopher as even greater than Darwin. We learn that it was Lamarck who proposed the word "Biology," which first appears in the preface to his 'Hydrogéologie,' published in 1802. His definition of species has the true evolutionary ring: "Species, then, have only a relative stability, and are invariable only temporarily." As we read his views, one cardinal axiom seems always prominent: "It is not the organs—that is to say, the nature and form of the parts of the body of an animal—which have given rise to its habits and its special faculties; but it is, on the contrary, its habits, its manner of life, and the circumstances in which are placed the individuals from which it originates, which have, with time, brought about the form of its body, the number and condition of its organs, finally, the faculties which it enjoys." This, to very many, will probably prove a hard saying, but it is one which must be mastered with the context of Lamarck's other views, before assent or dissent can with scientific propriety be asserted.
Lamarck was at least a natural philosopher far before his time, with the accidents of wealth, leisure, and powerful support absent from his career, which was pursued among many carping cares—an evolutionary Milton, with the last ten years of his life passed in darkness. Dr. Packard has now written the book which was wanted, and will for long remain the only biography of Lamarck, and the best defence of Lamarckism. We will conclude with the words of the author: "We are all of us evolutionists, though we may differ as to the nature of the efficient causes." And may we not add that Lamarck preceded Darwin, as Erasmus did Luther?
We trust that this title will occasion no misconception; it has nothing to do with theology. The warning is not altogether absurd, as some years ago a certain novel entitled 'Birds of Prey' was gravely recorded in Germany among the ornithological publications of the year. Regeneration is here referred to as a biological phenomenon common to many animals, but of which the Salamander affords a sufficient example. "Salamanders also regenerate a new tail, producing even new vertebræ. If a leg is cut off it is regenerated; if all four legs are cut off, either at the same time or in succession, they are renewed. If the leg is cut off near the body, an imperfectly regenerated part is formed." Dr. Morgan also includes plants as regenerate organisms, on the contention that the principal difference "is the development of the new part near the end, rather than over the end, and, as in some cases, the new part may even appear in new tissue that covers the end, &c." The word "regeneration" has therefore in biology "come to mean, in general usage, not only the replacement of a lost part, but also the development of a new whole organism, or even a part of an organism, from a piece of an adult, or of an embryo, or of an egg."
In this book, which will be read with pleasure by all zoologists, there are two prominent features: firstly, a very full and complete exposition of the whole phenomena incidental to regeneration, with which few can, and probably fewer still will, cavil; and secondly, a distinct challenge of the doctrine of "natural selection." This last position in itself is a gain to those who hold with Darwin's original conception, as distinct from the new doctrine of some of his latest exponents. A theory only ceases to be one when the last difficulty is overcome, and, as Dr. Morgan well observes, "The custom of indulging in exaggerated and unverifiable speculation bids fair to dull our appreciation for hypotheses whose chief value lies in the possibility of their verification." As an example of our author's method in this discussion, which is throughout conducted in a fair, logical and courteous manner, we may quote the following sentences:—"All that natural selection pretends to do is to build up the complete power of regeneration by selecting the most successful results in the right direction. In the end this really goes back to the assumption that the tissue in itself has power to regenerate more completely in some individuals than in others. It is just this difference, if it could be shown to exist, that is the scientific problem."
We recently had the pleasure of drawing our readers' attention to a book entitled 'Bird-Watching'; this publication might with equal felicity have been called "Insect-Watching," for both volumes are the result of bionomical observation. The author, estimated by Darwin as "that inimitable observer," is widely known by his 'Souvenirs Entomologiques,' of which there are now seven series, this volume being a translation of the first.
To entomologists the work is, or should be, quite familiar, but it addresses a wider audience; to all who study bionomics it inculcates a method of painstaking observation which is almost unique. M. Fabre is an entomological Sherlock Holmes, as far as those insects are concerned which he has watched or "shadowed." He knows their whole proceedings, to some of which the terms murder and assassination are, we think, too frequently applied. Could a hymenopteron be heard in reply, it would probably retort that our slaughter of a sheep was in nowise different from their action of obtaining living provender for the sustenance of their young. When we read of the war waged by insect upon insect, we marvel more at the conclusions of some of the advanced school of mimickists, who would ascribe all colour for protection against larger but lesser foes.
M. Fabre claims to have exploded one error concerning the balls of dung so frequently seen rolled along by the Dung-beetles (Scarabæidæ). These globular masses were always supposed to contain an egg, but it appears they are the material for banqueting in subterraneous palaces, and that the large ball which does contain the egg is never rolled to the hole, but is constructed in it.
The book is very nicely illustrated; but we are quite sure that had its pages been submitted to Dr. Sharp, who wrote the preface, several entomological gaucheries would have been absent. We trust that the remaining series of the 'Souvenirs' may also soon appear in this translated and illustrated form.
Another text-book of zoology in these days of rapid publication should exhibit another method in treatment, even if new facts are hardly procurable. This volume certainly exhibits a considerable difference in the treatment of its subject to many other handbooks, and Mr. Mudge has produced a book which will probably be more useful to the zoological student than to the ordinary naturalist, who only consults such writings, when considered necessary, as one refers to a dictionary or cyclopædia. Certainly this volume requires study, and without dissections are made to illustrate its teachings, much of the labour of Mr. Mudge may have been expended in vain.
Chapters xx. to xxiv. can, however, be read with pleasure and instruction by any zoologist, for such topics as Embryology, Heredity, and Variation, among others, not only appeal to the consideration, but demand the attention of every naturalist, however little he may regard the philosophical side of his subject. The chapter on Heredity is a particularly fair and concise exposition of that phenomenon, and can be appreciated alike by the followers of Eimer and the disciples of Weismann. The difficulty of finding a theory impregnable from all attack may be well understood when we examine the nature of some statements which are advanced as fundamental facts. Thus Mr. Mudge, in his tabulation of the "chief differences between the Cockroach and a Butterfly," states of the last-named that its antennae are thickened "into a club at the tip," that the "fore wings are larger than the hind wings in both sexes," and that it "feeds, when it does so, entirely on honey which is obtained from flowers." Now these three statements are true in a general sense, but incorrect in an absolute one. In very many species of the Hesperiidæ, the antennæ are not clubbed; in the genus Dismorphia the posterior wings are larger than the anterior ones; while though it would be agreeable to believe that these beautiful creatures feed on honey alone, the fact remains that some of the most brilliant representatives are attracted by the dung of animals, offal, decomposing Elephant meat, dead Stoats and Weasels, and, as Sir H. Johnston has informed us, even, like ghouls, by the blood-soaked ground after a human combat.
No less an authority than John Addington Symonds has stated that the reputation of Sir Thos. Browne is founded on his Religio Medici and Enquiry into Vulgar Errors, and some of his most remarkable tracts, such as Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial; but in this volume Mr. Southwell has shown Browne to have also been an observant Norfolk naturalist. It is pleasant to read that in those days "Bistardæ or Bustards are not vnfrequent in the champain & feildie part of this country"; and in a footnote Mr. Southwell states that Browne in 1681 was on the verge of discovering the presence of the gular pouch in this bird, first demonstrated by Douglas in 1740. The Hoopoe appears to have been not an uncommon bird in Browne's days and aviculturists may be interested to learn that "Loxias or curuirostra" were known then to be "kept in cages butt not to outliue the winter." Among fishes, Browne's record of "a sword fish or Xiphias or Gladius intangled in the Herring netts at yarmouth" appears to be the only authentic record of this southern species in British waters.
If the charm of this book is to be found in the somewhat quaint chronicles of Sir Thos. Browne, its value certainly attaches to the copious and trustworthy notes of Mr. Southwell, promoted and assisted in some instances by Prof. Newton. These notes might stand by themselves as a commentary to the zoology of Norfolk, and have the merit—not universally found in annotation—of being accurate in observation, and also exhibiting a knowledge of the literature, and much of the old literature, on the subject.
- Cf. ' Kilima-Njaro Expedition,' p. 176.