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The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind

Nature volume 104, pages 371372 (11 December 1919) | Download Citation



IN this first part of his “Outline of History” Mr. H. G. Wells has surpassed the old author who carried the Trojan war back to Leda's eggs, for he begins with our solar system as a nebula condensing into sun and planets, and our earth as a mass of glowing matter. He tells how, in the course of cooling, an ocean gathered on its surface, on the margin of which the first structureless organic matter at last appeared, from which, in the course of ages, the earth's living tenants were developed. He describes in graphic terms not a few characteristic members in their succession, some of which are well depicted by Mr. J. F. Horrabin. Once or twice a phrase occurs to which we may demur: for instance, the nautilus is not a genus of ammonite; volcanic eruptions are more often a consequence than a cause of mountain upheaval; and we doubt whether the changes between the Mesozoic and the Kainozoic were so “catastrophic” as he implies. But these are trifles, and we find, after a discussion of the estimates of geological time, a good sketch of natural selection and the changes of species. As these changes in life depend not only on alterations in the world's physical geography, but also on its climate, the causes of the latter are briefly explained.

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