50 & 100 years ago

    50 years ago

    A Hundred Years of Evolution. By Dr. G. S. Carter — It is fundamental to the neo-Darwinian theory that Weismann's concept of the inviolability of germ plasm by soma is correct, and that mutational changes in the gene complex arise solely at random; Dr. Carter (p. 87) accepts Weismann's doctrine as “undeniable when once pointed out”. It is arguable, however, that the “separateness of the gonad from the rest of the soma” is a philosophical concept of the same order as that of the soul and the body. As such it may have been valid in the state of biological knowledge in Weismann's time, but it has to-day become undermined to the point of collapse ...That mutation is random is purely theoretical, depending in the first place on the validity of the divorce between germ plasm and soma, and in the second upon the absence of evidence to the contrary.

    From Nature 10 May 1958.

    100 years ago

    To be told that life exists on Mars tells us but little of its nature ... Perhaps on Mars there is only one living being, a gigantic vegetable the branches or pseudopodia of which embrace the planet like the arms of an octopus, suck water from the melting polar snows, carry it to other parts of the planet, and are visible to us as the Martian canals. Lowell adduces the straightness of the canals as a proof that they are artificial products of intelligent beings. But they are certainly no straighter than the somewhat similarly interlaced pseudopodia seen in certain Heliozoa, Foraminifera, and Radiolaria ... My position is that one may admit that Prof. Lowell's brilliant researches prove the existence of life on Mars, and still ask from him further evidence before we are convinced that that life is intelligent.

    From Nature 7 May 1908.

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    50 & 100 years ago. Nature 453, 165 (2008) doi:10.1038/453165a

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