Darwin and Modern Science: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species

By A. C. Seward | Go to book overview

VII
THE DESCENT OF MAN

By G. SCHWALBE.

Professor of Anatomy in the University of Strassburg.

THE problem of the origin of the human race, of the descent of man, is ranked by Huxley in his epoch-making book Man's Place in Nature, as the deepest with which biology has to concern itself, "the question of questions," -- the problem which underlies all others. In the same brilliant and lucid exposition, which appeared in 1863, soon after the publication of Darwin Origin of Species, Huxley stated his own views in regard to this great problem. He tells us how the idea of a natural descent of man gradually grew up in his mind. It was especially the assertions of Owen in regard to the total difference between the human and the simian brain that called forth strong dissent from the great anatomist Huxley, and he easily succeeded in showing that Owen's supposed differences had no real existence; he even established, on the basis of his own anatomical investigations, the proposition that the anatomical differences between the Marmoset and the Chimpanzee are much greater than those between the Chimpanzee and Man.

But why do we thus introduce the study of Darwin Descent of Man, which is to occupy us here, by insisting on the fact that Huxley had taken the field in defence of the descent of man in 1863, while Darwin's book on the subject did not appear till 1871? It is in order that we may clearly understand how it happened that from this time onwards Darwin and Huxley followed the same great aim in the most intimate association.

Huxley and Darwin working at the same Problema maximum! Huxley fiery, impetuous, eager for battle, contemptuous of the resistance of a dull world, or energetically triumphing over it. Darwin calm, weighing every problem slowly, letting it mature thoroughly, -- not a fighter, yet having the greater and more lasting influence by virtue of his immense mass of critically sifted proofs. Darwin's friend, Huxley, was the first to do him justice, to understand his nature, and to find in it the reason why the detailed and carefully considered book

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