50 YEARS AGO
Ageing in Industry by F. Le Gros Clark and Agnes C. Dunne — The only people who seem to have solved the problem of their senescent members seem to have been the mythical Hyperboreans whose aged, when they wished to retire from life, performed a “joyful suicide” by decking themselves with garlands and precipitating themselves from a rock into the sea. Non-mythical peoples have found various other solutions. The Tibarini used to hang their old on gibbets, the Hircanians and Bactrians cast them, while still living, to the dogs, and the Scythians buried them alive.
In Great Britain, such drastic measures have never been contemplated, although the plight of the aged has often given cause for much distress. During the past two or three decades we have become increasingly conscious of the wider repercussions of our ageing population and the resulting social and economic disadvantages.
From Nature 10 March 1956.
100 YEARS AGO
Geschichte der biologischen Theorien, seit dem Ende des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts by Dr. Em. Radl — Although biology is now permeated by the evolution idea, and has continually before it the ideal of giving a genetic description of the present phase of the animate world, there is some reason to fear, as Dr. Radl indicates, a growing apathy towards the study of the evolution of the science itself. Whether it be that many workers share Nietzsche's view that the study of history paralyses the intelligence, or that they feel it their primary business to make history, not to read it, or that they regard historical inquiries as the philosopher's task... The modern biologist, intent on new discoveries, has no use for Aristotle, Descartes and Leibnitz, but their influence may be upon him none the less... even the most modern system of biology is, like our own body, a museum of relics.
From Nature 8 March 1906.