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The History of Evolutionary Thought: as Recorded in Meetings of the British Association

Nature volume 140, pages 395407 (04 September 1937) | Download Citation



SIR WILLIAM THOMSON, in his address at Edinburgh in 1871, said that "the real origin of the British Association" was given in the words of a letter written by David Brewster to John Phillips on February 23, 1831, a few months before the first meeting: "The principal object of the Society would be to make the cultivators of science acquainted with each other, to stimulate one another to new exertions, and to bring the objects of science more before the public eye, and to take measures for advancing its interests and accelerating its progress". That the time was fully ripe for the birth of the Association is made very clear by the words written by John Keble to a friend, referring to the D.O.L. degrees conferred, at the Oxford meeting in 1832, on David Brewster, Robert Brown, John Dalton and Michael Faraday: "The Oxford Doctors have truckled sadly to the spirit of the times in receiving the hodge-podge of philosophers as they did"—an opinion on which Lord Salisbury commented at the Oxford meeting in 1894: "It is amusing at this distance of time, to note the names of the hodge-podge of philosophers whose academical distinctions so sorely vexed Mr, Keble's gentle spirit". It is not only amusing but also pathetic that such words should have been used by a revered member of a University which had done splendid service for science,


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    Early Science in Oxford”, vols. 1–11.

  2. 2.

    The Natural History of Oxfordshire, being an Essay toward the Natural History of England”, by Robert Plot, D. D. Printed at the Theater in Oxford. 1677. Dedicated To the most Sacred Majesty of Charles the Second, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. (pp. 118–122).

  3. 3.

    Life and Letters”, vol. 1, p. 157.

  4. 4.

    Report, British Association, Centenary Meeting, 1931, p. 78.

  5. 5.

    Report, British Association, 1905, pp. 514–518.

  6. 6.

    Report, British Association, 1921, pp. 413–415.

  7. 7.

    Science and the Faith”, London, 1889, pp. 222–235.

  8. 8.

    Life and Letters”, 1900, vol. 2, p. 379.

  9. 9.

    From a letter of August 10, 1894, printed in the Jesus College (Oxford) Magazine, for Lent Term, 1928; and reprinted in Hope Reports, vol. 16, 1929, No. 3, p. 6. (Privately circulated to many scientific libraries.) Huxley's letter of August 18, 1894, to Lewis Campbell (“Life and Letters”, vol. 2, p. 379) refers to the same subject.

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    The lines are quoted from the first part, published 1840–48.

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    Darwin-Wallace Celebration of the Linnean Society of London, 1908, pp. 6, 7.

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    The Origin of Species. A New Song", In "Songs and verses, social and scientific”, by an old contributor to Maga. Edinburgh, 1868, 2nd Ed.

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    Ibis, October, 429–433 (1859).

  14. 14.

    Report, British Association, 1906, pp. 26–27. The conclusions here tiuoted had been communicated to Société de Biologic of Paris In 1899 (Jubilee volume) and were reprinted in NATURE, 61, 634–625, (1900).

  15. 15.

    Report, British Association, 1895, p. 734.

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    NATURE, 51, 127 (1894); Report, British Association, 1906, pp. 29, 30.

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    Trans. Boy. Ent. Soc., Lond., 85, 131 (1936).

  18. 18.

    Proc. Roy. Soc., B, 106, 83, pi. v (1930); Proc. Ent. Soc. Lond., 5, 14 (1930).

  19. 19.

    Report, British Association, 1931, p, 77 and references quoted.

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    J. Lin. Soc. (Zool.), 26, 465, pl. 30 (1898).

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    Evolution”, A, Pranklin Shull (New York, 1936).

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    and , The American Entomologist, St. Louis, Mo., 1, 189 (1869).

  23. 23.

    Trans. Lin. Soc. Lond., 23, 495 (1862).

  24. 24.

    , “Third Annual Report on the Noxious Insects of Missouri” p. 142 (1871).

  25. 25.

    , “Charles Darwin and the Theory of Jfatural Selection” p. 302 (1896).

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  1. F.R.S. President of the British Association

    • Edward B. Poulton


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