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Darwin and Modern Science   By: (1863-1941)

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By A.C. Seward

"My success as a man of science, whatever this may have amounted to, has been determined, as far as I can judge, by complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of these, the most important have been the love of science unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject industry in observing and collecting facts and a fair share of invention as well as of common sense. With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that I should have influenced to a considerable extent the belief of scientific men on some important points."

Autobiography (1881); "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin", Vol. 1. page 107.


At the suggestion of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, the Syndics of the University Press decided in March, 1908, to arrange for the publication of a series of 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". The preliminary arrangements were made by a committee consisting of the following representatives of the Council of the Philosophical Society and of the Press Syndicate: Dr H.K. Anderson, Prof. Bateson, Mr Francis Darwin, Dr Hobson, Dr Marr, Prof. Sedgwick, Mr David Sharp, Mr Shipley, Prof. Sorley, Prof. Seward. In the course of the preparation of the volume, the original scheme and list of authors have been modified: a few of those invited to contribute essays were, for various reasons, unable to do so, and some alterations have been made in the titles of articles. For the selection of authors and for the choice of subjects, the committee are mainly responsible, but for such share of the work in the preparation of the volume as usually falls to the lot of an editor I accept full responsibility.

Authors were asked to address themselves primarily to the educated layman rather than to the expert. It was hoped that the publication of the essays would serve the double purpose of illustrating the far reaching influence of Darwin's work on the progress of knowledge and the present attitude of original investigators and thinkers towards the views embodied in Darwin's works.

In regard to the interpretation of a passage in "The Origin of Species" quoted by Hugo de Vries, it seemed advisable to add an editorial footnote; but, with this exception, I have not felt it necessary to record any opinion on views stated in the essays.

In reading the essays in proof I have availed myself freely of the willing assistance of several Cambridge friends, among whom I wish more especially to thank Mr Francis Darwin for the active interest he has taken in the preparation of the volume. Mrs J.A. Thomson kindly undertook the translation of the essays by Prof. Weismann and Prof. Schwalbe; Mrs James Ward was good enough to assist me by translating Prof. Bougle's article on Sociology, and to Mr McCabe I am indebted for the translation of the essay by Prof. Haeckel. For the translation of the botanical articles by Prof. Goebel, Prof. Klebs and Prof. Strasburger, I am responsible; in the revision of the translation of Prof. Strasburger's essay Madame Errera of Brussels rendered valuable help. Mr Wright, the Secretary of the Press Syndicate, and Mr Waller, the Assistant Secretary, have cordially cooperated with me in my editorial work; nor can I omit to thank the readers of the University Press for keeping watchful eyes on my shortcomings in the correction of proofs.

The two portraits of Darwin are reproduced by permission of Messrs Maull and Fox and Messrs Elliott and Fry. The photogravure of the study at Down is reproduced from an etching by Mr Axel Haig, lent by Mr Francis Darwin; the coloured plate illustrating Prof. Weismann's essay was originally published by him in his "Vortrage uber Descendenztheorie" which afterwards appeared (1904) in English under the title "The Evolution Theory"... Continue reading book >>

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