100 and 50 years ago

    100 YEARS AGO

    Studies in Heterogenesis. By H. Charlton Bastian. Heterogenesis means, in these studies, the per saltum origin of forms of life from other quite different forms, e.g. of a ciliated infusorian from a rotifer's egg, or of a sun-animalcule from a chlorophyll corpuscle. It is long since Dr H. Charlton Bastian first suggested this heresy; and many years of industrious observation have resulted in this large and expensive volume describing and (with 815 figures) illustrating those cases in which the author thinks he has detected the heterogenetic process at work. One cannot but admire the doggedness with which Dr Bastian has persisted — contra mundum — in maintaining his thesis; and even those who feel quite sure that he has misinterpreted what he saw may find it interesting to discover by repetition of his experiments what did actually occur and was actually photographed. Others, again, who would not turn round to look at slides supposed to demonstrate that the egg of a rotifer may resolve itself into infusorians or into one large ciliate, may be more tolerant of the suggestion that Protistan evolution is still going on, retracing some of its ancient steps, or making new ones. It may be that Proteus still frisks a little among the Protists, or that there are mutations among unicellulars just as among De Vries's evening primroses.

    From Nature 25 February 1904.

    50 YEARS AGO

    I wish to direct attention to the large amount of scientific work carried out at the public expense but only reported in brief summary terms or published after long delay... It seems that an example is furnished by some of the work carried out under the Colonial Research Council. Under that Council is a committee dealing with insecticides which met first in January 1947. [This work] is lavishly financed and has received 7.5 per cent of the £12,000,000 allocated to the Colonial Research Council up to 1953, namely, £900,000. As most of the work carried out by the Insecticide Committee appears not to be very expensive, we conclude that the air spraying has cost about three-quarters of a million pounds. It is difficult to see why work should be done and paid for, if it is not made available or if it is to be published after it is out of date.

    From Nature 27 February 1954.

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    100 and 50 years ago. Nature 427, 795 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/427795b

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