50 & 100 years ago

    50 Years ago

    Wisdom of the West. By Bertrand Russell — This is Lord Russell's second brilliant venture into a comprehensive history of Western (mainly philosophical) thought ... Of course, despite the brilliance and apparent novelty of presentation, it should be realized that on the whole this is old wine poured into new bottles ... There are still the rough and ready divisions into the Continental rationalists (who are rather wicked) and the more virtuous British empiricists, supported arbitrarily by the quite unproved suggestion that the diagrams representing these two types of philosophical systems are, respectively, a pyramid standing on its head, as against the other, standing on its feet ... But these are minor criticisms. Certainly this new excursion into our cultural heritage is another astonishing venture testifying to the brilliance and almost legendary energy of its author.

    From Nature 12 December 1959.

    100 Years ago

    In his review of Prof. Poulton's work, “Charles Darwin and the Origin of the Species,” Prof. Meldola says ... that the Darwinian theory is absolutely dependent upon the truth of the belief “in the transmissibility by inheritance of individual differences or 'fluctuations'.” ... There is now available a vast amount of evidence tending to show that “fluctuations” seemingly the direct results of changes in the environment are inherited; but how is it possible to convince Weismann and his followers that such “fluctuations” have not been due, as they will say, to “spontaneous germinal variations”? Surely the onus probandi really rests with them! We have here the question of the inheritance or not of acquired characters reduced to its simplest terms. ... What evidence can those who disbelieve in the inheritance of acquired characters present to show that in all such cases there must be a primary germinal change?

    From Nature 9 December 1909.

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    50 & 100 years ago. Nature 462, 729 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/462729b

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