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  • 1909
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exact since Darwin’s time: the fossil lemurs have been especially worked up by Cope, Forsyth Major, Ameghino, and others. Darwin knew very little about fossil monkeys. He mentions two or three anthropoid apes as occurring in the Miocene of Europe (“Descent of Man”, page 240.), but only names Dryopithecus, the largest form from the Miocene of France. It was erroneously supposed that this form was related to Hylobates. We now know not only a form that actually stands near to the gibbon (Pliopithecus), and remains of other anthropoids (Pliohylobates and the fossil chimpanzee, Palaeopithecus), but also several lower catarrhine monkeys, of which Mesopithecus, a form nearly related to the modern Sacred Monkeys (a species of Semnopithecus) and found in strata of the Miocene period in Greece, is the most important. Quite recently, too, Ameghino’s investigations have made us acquainted with fossil monkeys from South America (Anthropops, Homunculus), which, according to their discoverer, are to be regarded as in the line of human descent.

What Darwin missed most of all–intermediate forms between apes and man– has been recently furnished. (E. Dubois, as is well known, discovered in 1893, near Trinil in Java, in the alluvial deposits of the river Bengawan, an important form represented by a skull-cap, some molars, and a femur. His opinion–much disputed as it has been–that in this form, which he named Pithecanthropus, he has found a long-desired transition-form is shared by the present writer. And although the geological age of these fossils, which, according to Dubois, belong to the uppermost Tertiary series, the Pliocene, has recently been fixed at a later date (the older Diluvium), the MORPHOLOGICAL VALUE of these interesting remains, that is, the intermediate position of Pithecanthropus, still holds good. Volz says with justice (“Das geologische Alter der Pithecanthropus-Schichten bei Trinil, Ost-Java”. “Neues Jahrb. f.Mineralogie”. Festband, 1907.), that even if Pithecanthropus is not THE missing link, it is undoubtedly _A_ missing link.

As on the one hand there has been found in Pithecanthropus a form which, though intermediate between apes and man, is nevertheless more closely allied to the apes, so on the other hand, much progress has been made since Darwin’s day in the discovery and description of the older human remains. Since the famous roof of a skull and the bones of the extremities belonging to it were found in 1856 in the Neandertal near Dusseldorf, the most varied judgments have been expressed in regard to the significance of the remains and of the skull in particular. In Darwin’s “Descent of Man” there is only a passing allusion to them (“Descent of Man”, page 82.) in connection with the discussion of the skull-capacity, although the investigations of Schaaffhausen, King, and Huxley were then known. I believe I have shown, in a series of papers, that the skull in question belongs to a form different from any of the races of man now living, and, with King and Cope, I regard it as at least a different species from living man, and have therefore designated it Homo primigenius. The form unquestionably belongs to the older Diluvium, and in the later Diluvium human forms already appear, which agree in all essential points with existing human races.

As far back as 1886 the value of the Neandertal skull was greatly enhanced by Fraipont’s discovery of two skulls and skeletons from Spy in Belgium. These are excellently described by their discoverer (“La race humaine de Neanderthal ou de Canstatt en Belgique”. “Arch. de Biologie”, VII. 1887.), and are regarded as belonging to the same group of forms as the Neandertal remains. In 1899 and the following years came the discovery by Gorjanovic- Kramberger of different skeletal parts of at least ten individuals in a cave near Krapina in Croatia. (Gorjanovic-Kramberger “Der diluviale Mensch von Krapina in Kroatien”, 1906.) It is in particular the form of the lower jaw which is different from that of all recent races of man, and which clearly indicates the lowly position of Homo primigenius, while, on the other hand, the long-known skull from Gibraltar, which I (“Studien zur Vorgeschichte des Menschen”, 1906, pages 154 ff.) have referred to Homo primigenius, and which has lately been examined in detail by Sollas (“On the cranial and facial characters of the Neandertal Race”. “Trans. R. Soc.” London, vol. 199, 1908, page 281.), has made us acquainted with the surprising shape of the eye-orbit, of the nose, and of the whole upper part of the face. Isolated lower jaws found at La Naulette in Belgium, and at Malarnaud in France, increase our material which is now as abundant as could be desired. The most recent discovery of all is that of a skull dug up in August of this year (1908) by Klaatsch and Hauser in the lower grotto of the Le Moustier in Southern France, but this skull has not yet been fully described. Thus Homo primigenius must also be regarded as occupying a position in the gap existing between the highest apes and the lowest human races, Pithecanthropus, standing in the lower part of it, and Homo primigenius in the higher, near man. In order to prevent misunderstanding, I should like here to emphasise that in arranging this structural series– anthropoid apes, Pithecanthropus, Homo primigenius, Homo sapiens–I have no intention of establishing it as a direct genealogical series. I shall have something to say in regard to the genetic relations of these forms, one to another, when discussing the different theories of descent current at the present day. ((Since this essay was written Schoetensack has discovered near Heidelberg and briefly described an exceedingly interesting lower jaw from rocks between the Pliocene and Diluvial beds. This exhibits interesting differences from the forms of lower jaw of Homo primigenius. (Schoetensack “Der Unterkiefer des Homo heidelbergensis”. Leipzig, 1908.) G.S.))

In quite a different domain from that of morphological relationship, namely in the physiological study of the blood, results have recently been gained which are of the highest importance to the doctrine of descent. Uhlenhuth, Nuttall, and others have established the fact that the blood-serum of a rabbit which has previously had human blood injected into it, forms a precipitate with human blood. This biological reaction was tried with a great variety of mammalian species, and it was found that those far removed from man gave no precipitate under these conditions. But as in other cases among mammals all nearly related forms yield an almost equally marked precipitate, so the serum of a rabbit treated with human blood and then added to the blood of an anthropoid ape gives ALMOST as marked a precipitate as in human blood; the reaction to the blood of the lower Eastern monkeys is weaker, that to the Western monkeys weaker still; indeed in this last case there is only a slight clouding after a considerable time and no actual precipitate. The blood of the Lemuridae (Nuttall) gives no reaction or an extremely weak one, that of the other mammals none whatever. We have in this not only a proof of the literal blood-relationship between man and apes, but the degree of relationship with the different main groups of apes can be determined beyond possibility of mistake.

Finally, it must be briefly mentioned that in regard to remains of human handicraft also, the material at our disposal has greatly increased of late years, that, as a result of this, the opinions of archaeologists have undergone many changes, and that, in particular, their views in regard to the age of the human race have been greatly influenced. There is a tendency at the present time to refer the origin of man back to Tertiary times. It is true that no remains of Tertiary man have been found, but flints have been discovered which, according to the opinion of most investigators, bear traces either of use, or of very primitive workmanship. Since Rutot’s time, following Mortillet’s example, investigators have called these “eoliths,” and they have been traced back by Verworn to the Miocene of the Auvergne, and by Rutot even to the upper Oligocene. Although these eoliths are even nowadays the subject of many different views, the preoccupation with them has kept the problem of the age of the human race continually before us.

Geology, too, has made great progress since the days of Darwin and Lyell, and has endeavoured with satisfactory results to arrange the human remains of the Diluvial period in chronological order (Penck). I do not intend to enter upon the question of the primitive home of the human race; since the space at my disposal will not allow of my touching even very briefly upon all the departments of science which are concerned in the problem of the descent of man. How Darwin would have rejoiced over each of the discoveries here briefly outlined! What use he would have made of the new and precious material, which would have prevented the discouragement from which he suffered when preparing the second edition of “The Descent of Man”! But it was not granted to him to see this progress towards filling up the gaps in his edifice of which he was so painfully conscious.

He did, however, have the satisfaction of seeing his ideas steadily gaining ground, notwithstanding much hostility and deep-rooted prejudice. Even in the years between the appearance of “The Origin of Species” and of the first edition of the “Descent”, the idea of a natural descent of man, which was only briefly indicated in the work of 1859, had been eagerly welcomed in some quarters. It has been already pointed out how brilliantly Huxley contributed to the defence and diffusion of Darwin’s doctrines, and how in “Man’s Place in Nature” he has given us a classic work as a foundation for the doctrine of the descent of man. As Huxley was Darwin’s champion in England, so in Germany Carl Vogt, in particular, made himself master of the Darwinian ideas. But above all it was Haeckel who, in energy, eagerness for battle, and knowledge may be placed side by side with Huxley, who took over the leadership in the controversy over the new conception of the universe. As far back as 1866, in his “Generelle Morphologie”, he had inquired minutely into the question of the descent of man, and not content with urging merely the general theory of descent from lower animal forms, he drew up for the first time genealogical trees showing the close relationships of the different animal groups; the last of these illustrated the relationships of Mammals, and among them of all groups of the Primates, including man. It was Haeckel’s genealogical trees that formed the basis of the special discussion of the relationships of man, in the sixth chapter of Darwin’s “Descent of Man”.

In the last section of this essay I shall return to Haeckel’s conception of the special descent of man, the main features of which he still upholds, and rightly so. Haeckel has contributed more than any one else to the spread of the Darwinian doctrine.

I can only allow myself a few words as to the spread of the theory of the natural descent of man in other countries. The Parisian anthropological school, founded and guided by the genius of Broca, took up the idea of the descent of man, and made many notable contributions to it (Broca, Manouvrier, Mahoudeau, Deniker and others). In England itself Darwin’s work did not die. Huxley took care of that, for he, with his lofty and unprejudiced mind, dominated and inspired English biology until his death on June 29, 1895. He had the satisfaction shortly before his death of learning of Dubois’ discovery, which he illustrated by a humorous sketch. (“Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley”, Vol. II. page 394.) But there are still many followers in Darwin’s footsteps in England. Keane has worked at the special genealogical tree of the Primates; Keith has inquired which of the anthropoid apes has the greatest number of characters in common with man; Morris concerns himself with the evolution of man in general, especially with his acquisition of the erect position. The recent discoveries of Pithecanthropus and Homo primigenius are being vigorously discussed; but the present writer is not in a position to form an opinion of the extent to which the idea of descent has penetrated throughout England generally.

In Italy independent work in the domain of the descent of man is being produced, especially by Morselli; with him are associated, in the investigation of related problems, Sergi and Giuffrida-Ruggeri. From the ranks of American investigators we may single out in particular the eminent geologist Cope, who championed with much decision the idea of the specific difference of Homo neandertalensis (primigenius) and maintained a more direct descent of man from the fossil Lemuridae. In South America too, in Argentina, new life is stirring in this department of science. Ameghino in Buenos Ayres has awakened the fossil primates of the Pampas formation to new life; he even believes that in Tetraprothomo, represented by a femur, he has discovered a direct ancestor of man. Lehmann-Nitsche is working at the other side of the gulf between apes and men, and he describes a remarkable first cervical vertebra (atlas) from Monte Hermoso as belonging to a form which may bear the same relation to Homo sapiens in South America as Homo primigenius does in the Old World. After a minute investigation he establishes a human species Homo neogaeus, while Ameghino ascribes this atlas vertebra to his Tetraprothomo.

Thus throughout the whole scientific world there is arising a new life, an eager endeavour to get nearer to Huxley’s problema maximum, to penetrate more deeply into the origin of the human race. There are to-day very few experts in anatomy and zoology who deny the animal descent of man in general. Religious considerations, old prejudices, the reluctance to accept man, who so far surpasses mentally all other creatures, as descended from “soulless” animals, prevent a few investigators from giving full adherence to the doctrine. But there are very few of these who still postulate a special act of creation for man. Although the majority of experts in anatomy and zoology accept unconditionally the descent of man from lower forms, there is much diversity of opinion among them in regard to the special line of descent.

In trying to establish any special hypothesis of descent, whether by the graphic method of drawing up genealogical trees or otherwise, let us always bear in mind Darwin’s words (“Descent of Man”, page 229.) and use them as a critical guiding line: “As we have no record of the lines of descent, the pedigree can be discovered only by observing the degrees of resemblance between the beings which are to be classed.” Darwin carries this further by stating “that resemblances in several unimportant structures, in useless and rudimentary organs, or not now functionally active, or in an embryological condition, are by far the most serviceable for classification.” (Loc. cit.) It has also to be remembered that NUMEROUS separate points of agreement are of much greater importance than the amount of similarity or dissimilarity in a few points.

The hypotheses as to descent current at the present day may be divided into two main groups. The first group seeks for the roots of the human race not among any of the families of the apes–the anatomically nearest forms–nor among their very similar but less specialised ancestral forms, the fossil representatives of which we can know only in part, but, setting the monkeys on one side, it seeks for them lower down among the fossil Eocene Pseudo- lemuridae or Lemuridae (Cope), or even among the primitive pentadactylous Eocene forms, which may either have led directly to the evolution of man (Adloff), or have given rise to an ancestral form common to apes and men (Klaatsch (Klaatsch in his last publications speaks in the main only of an ancestral form common to men and anthropoid apes.), Giuffrida-Ruggeri). The common ancestral form, from which man and apes are thus supposed to have arisen independently, may explain the numerous resemblances which actually exist between them. That is to say, all the characters upon which the great structural resemblance between apes and man depends must have been present in their common ancestor. Let us take an example of such a common character. The bony external ear-passage is in general as highly developed in the lower Eastern monkeys and the anthropoid apes as in man. This character must, therefore, have already been present in the common primitive form. In that case it is not easy to understand why the Western monkeys have not also inherited the character, instead of possessing only a tympanic ring. But it becomes more intelligible if we assume that forms with a primitive tympanic ring were the original type, and that from these were evolved, on the one hand, the existing New World monkeys with persistent tympanic ring, and on the other an ancestral form common to the lower Old World monkeys, the anthropoid apes and man. For man shares with these the character in question, and it is also one of the “unimportant” characters required by Darwin. Thus we have two divergent lines arising from the ancestral form, the Western monkeys (Platyrrhine) on the one hand, and an ancestral form common to the lower Eastern monkeys, the anthropoid apes, and man, on the other. But considerations similar to those which showed it to be impossible that man should have developed from an ancestor common to him and the monkeys, yet outside of and parallel with these, may be urged also against the likelihood of a parallel evolution of the lower Eastern monkeys, the anthropoid apes, and man. The anthropoid apes have in common with man many characters which are not present in the lower Old World monkeys. These characters must therefore have been present in the ancestral form common to the three groups. But here, again, it is difficult to understand why the lower Eastern monkeys should not also have inherited these characters. As this is not the case, there remains no alternative but to assume divergent evolution from an indifferent form. The lower Eastern monkeys are carrying on the evolution in one direction–I might almost say towards a blind alley–while anthropoids and men have struck out a progressive path, at first in common, which explains the many points of resemblance between them, without regarding man as derived directly from the anthropoids. Their many striking points of agreement indicate a common descent, and cannot be explained as phenomena of convergence.

I believe I have shown in the above sketch that a theory which derives man directly from lower forms without regarding apes as transition-types leads ad absurdum. The close structural relationship between man and monkeys can only be understood if both are brought into the same line of evolution. To trace man’s line of descent directly back to the old Eocene mammals, alongside of, but with no relation to these very similar forms, is to abandon the method of exact comparison, which, as Darwin rightly recognised, alone justifies us in drawing up genealogical trees on the basis of resemblances and differences. The farther down we go the more does the ground slip from beneath our feet. Even the Lemuridae show very numerous divergent conditions, much more so the Eocene mammals (Creodonta, Condylarthra), the chief resemblance of which to man consists in the possession of pentadactylous hands and feet! Thus the farther course of the line of descent disappears in the darkness of the ancestry of the mammals. With just as much reason we might pass by the Vertebrates altogether, and go back to the lower Invertebrates, but in that case it would be much easier to say that man has arisen independently, and has evolved, without relation to any animals, from the lowest primitive form to his present isolated and dominant position. But this would be to deny all value to classification, which must after all be the ultimate basis of a genealogical tree. We can, as Darwin rightly observed, only infer the line of descent from the degree of resemblance between single forms. If we regard man as directly derived from primitive forms very far back, we have no way of explaining the many points of agreement between him and the monkeys in general, and the anthropoid apes in particular. These must remain an inexplicable marvel.

I have thus, I trust, shown that the first class of special theories of descent, which assumes that man has developed, parallel with the monkeys, but without relation to them, from very low primitive forms cannot be upheld, because it fails to take into account the close structural affinity of man and monkeys. I cannot but regard this hypothesis as lamentably retrograde, for it makes impossible any application of the facts that have been discovered in the course of the anatomical and embryological study of man and monkeys, and indeed prejudges investigations of that class as pointless. The whole method is perverted; an unjustifiable theory of descent is first formulated with the aid of the imagination, and then we are asked to declare that all structural relations between man and monkeys, and between the different groups of the latter, are valueless,–the fact being that they are the only true basis on which a genealogical tree can be constructed.

So much for this most modern method of classification, which has probably found adherents because it would deliver us from the relationship to apes which many people so much dislike. In contrast to it we have the second class of special hypotheses of descent, which keeps strictly to the nearest structural relationships. This is the only basis that justifies the drawing up of a special hypothesis of descent. If this fundamental proposition be recognised, it will be admitted that the doctrine of special descent upheld by Haeckel, and set forth in Darwin’s “Descent of Man”, is still valid to-day. In the genealogical tree, man’s place is quite close to the anthropoid apes; these again have as their nearest relatives the lower Old World monkeys, and their progenitors must be sought among the less differentiated Platyrrhine monkeys, whose most important characters have been handed on to the present day New World monkeys. How the different genera are to be arranged within the general scheme indicated depends in the main on the classificatory value attributed to individual characters. This is particularly true in regard to Pithecanthropus, which I consider as the root of a branch which has sprung from the anthropoid ape root and has led up to man; the latter I have designated the family of the Hominidae.

For the rest, there are, as we have said, various possible ways of constructing the narrower genealogy within the limits of this branch including men and apes, and these methods will probably continue to change with the accumulation of new facts. Haeckel himself has modified his genealogical tree of the Primates in certain details since the publication of his “Generelle Morphologie” in 1866, but its general basis remains the same. (Haeckel’s latest genealogical tree is to be found in his most recent work, “Unsere Ahnenreihe”. Jena, 1908.) All the special genealogical trees drawn up on the lines laid down by Haeckel and Darwin– and that of Dubois may be specially mentioned–are based, in general, on the close relationship of monkeys and men, although they may vary in detail. Various hypotheses have been formulated on these lines, with special reference to the evolution of man. “Pithecanthropus” is regarded by some authorities as the direct ancestor of man, by others as a side- track failure in the attempt at the evolution of man. The problem of the monophyletic or polyphyletic origin of the human race has also been much discussed. Sergi (Sergi G. “Europa”, 1908.) inclines towards the assumption of a polyphyletic origin of the three main races of man, the African primitive form of which has given rise also to the gorilla and chimpanzee, the Asiatic to the Orang, the Gibbon, and Pithecanthropus. Kollmann regards existing human races as derived from small primitive races (pigmies), and considers that Homo primigenius must have arisen in a secondary and degenerative manner.

But this is not the place, nor have I the space to criticise the various special theories of descent. One, however, must receive particular notice. According to Ameghino, the South American monkeys (Pitheculites) from the oldest Tertiary of the Pampas are the forms from which have arisen the existing American monkeys on the one hand, and on the other, the extinct South American Homunculidae, which are also small forms. From these last, anthropoid apes and man have, he believes, been evolved. Among the progenitors of man, Ameghino reckons the form discovered by him (Tetraprothomo), from which a South American primitive man, Homo pampaeus, might be directly evolved, while on the other hand all the lower Old World monkeys may have arisen from older fossil South American forms (Clenialitidae), the distribution of which may be explained by the bridge formerly existing between South America and Africa, as may be the derivation of all existing human races from Homo pampaeus. (See Ameghino’s latest paper, “Notas preliminares sobre el Tetraprothomo argentinus”, etc. “Anales del Museo nacional de Buenos Aires”, XVI. pages 107-242, 1907.) The fossil forms discovered by Ameghino deserve the most minute investigation, as does also the fossil man from South America of which Lehmann-Nitsche (“Nouvelles recherches sur la formation pampeenne et l’homme fossile de la Republique Argentine”. “Rivista del Museo de la Plata”, T. XIV. pages 193-488.) has made a thorough study.

It is obvious that, notwithstanding the necessity for fitting man’s line of descent into the genealogical tree of the Primates, especially the apes, opinions in regard to it differ greatly in detail. This could not be otherwise, since the different Primate forms, especially the fossil forms, are still far from being exhaustively known. But one thing remains certain,–the idea of the close relationship between man and monkeys set forth in Darwin’s “Descent of Man”. Only those who deny the many points of agreement, the sole basis of classification, and thus of a natural genealogical tree, can look upon the position of Darwin and Haeckel as antiquated, or as standing on an insufficient foundation. For such a genealogical tree is nothing more than a summarised representation of what is known in regard to the degree of resemblance between the different forms.

Darwin’s work in regard to the descent of man has not been surpassed; the more we immerse ourselves in the study of the structural relationships between apes and man, the more is our path illumined by the clear light radiating from him, and through his calm and deliberate investigation, based on a mass of material in the accumulation of which he has never had an equal. Darwin’s fame will be bound up for all time with the unprejudiced investigation of the question of all questions, the descent of the human race.


Professor of Zoology in the University of Jena.

The great advance that anthropology has made in the second half of the nineteenth century is due in the first place, to Darwin’s discovery of the origin of man. No other problem in the whole field of research is so momentous as that of “Man’s place in nature,” which was justly described by Huxley (1863) as the most fundamental of all questions. Yet the scientific solution of this problem was impossible until the theory of descent had been established.

It is now a hundred years since the great French biologist Jean Lamarck published his “Philosophie Zoologique”. By a remarkable coincidence the year in which that work was issued, 1809, was the year of the birth of his most distinguished successor, Charles Darwin. Lamarck had already recognised that the descent of man from a series of other Vertebrates–that is, from a series of Ape-like Primates–was essentially involved in the general theory of transformation which he had erected on a broad inductive basis; and he had sufficient penetration to detect the agencies that had been at work in the evolution of the erect bimanous man from the arboreal and quadrumanous ape. He had, however, few empirical arguments to advance in support of his hypothesis, and it could not be established until the further development of the biological sciences–the founding of comparative embryology by Baer (1828) and of the cell-theory by Schleiden and Schwann (1838), the advance of physiology under Johannes Muller (1833), and the enormous progress of palaeontology and comparative anatomy between 1820 and 1860–provided this necessary foundation. Darwin was the first to coordinate the ample results of these lines of research. With no less comprehensiveness than discrimination he consolidated them as a basis of a modified theory of descent, and associated with them his own theory of natural selection, which we take to be distinctive of “Darwinism” in the stricter sense. The illuminating truth of these cumulative arguments was so great in every branch of biology that, in spite of the most vehement opposition, the battle was won within a single decade, and Darwin secured the general admiration and recognition that had been denied to his forerunner, Lamarck, up to the hour of his death (1829).

Before, however, we consider the momentous influence that Darwinism has had in anthropology, we shall find it useful to glance at its history in the course of the last half century, and notice the various theories that have contributed to its advance. The first attempt to give extensive expression to the reform of biology by Darwin’s work will be found in my “Generelle Morphologie” (1866) (“Generelle Morphologie der Organismen”, 2 vols., Berlin, 1866.) which was followed by a more popular treatment of the subject in my “Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte (1868) (English translation; “The History of Creation”, London, 1876.), a compilation from the earlier work. In the first volume of the “Generelle Morphologie” I endeavoured to show the great importance of evolution in settling the fundamental questions of biological philosophy, especially in regard to comparative anatomy. In the second volume I dealt broadly with the principle of evolution, distinguishing ontogeny and phylogeny as its two coordinate main branches, and associating the two in the Biogenetic Law. The Law may be formulated thus: “Ontogeny (embryology or the development of the individual) is a concise and compressed recapitulation of phylogeny (the palaeontological or genealogical series) conditioned by laws of heredity and adaptation.” The “Systematic introduction to general evolution,” with which the second volume of the “Generelle Morphologie” opens, was the first attempt to draw up a natural system of organisms (in harmony with the principles of Lamarck and Darwin) in the form of a hypothetical pedigree, and was provisionally set forth in eight genealogical tables.

In the nineteenth chapter of the “Generelle Morphologie”–a part of which has been republished, without any alteration, after a lapse of forty years –I made a critical study of Lamarck’s theory of descent and of Darwin’s theory of selection, and endeavoured to bring the complex phenomena of heredity and adaptation under definite laws for the first time. Heredity I divided into conservative and progressive: adaptation into indirect (or potential) and direct (or actual). I then found it possible to give some explanation of the correlation of the two physiological functions in the struggle for life (selection), and to indicate the important laws of divergence (or differentiation) and complexity (or division of labour), which are the direct and inevitable outcome of selection. Finally, I marked off dysteleology as the science of the aimless (vestigial, abortive, atrophied, and useless) organs and parts of the body. In all this I worked from a strictly monistic standpoint, and sought to explain all biological phenomena on the mechanical and naturalistic lines that had long been recognised in the study of inorganic nature. Then (1866), as now, being convinced of the unity of nature, the fundamental identity of the agencies at work in the inorganic and the organic worlds, I discarded vitalism, teleology, and all hypotheses of a mystic character.

It was clear from the first that it was essential, in the monistic conception of evolution, to distinguish between the laws of conservative and progressive heredity. Conservative heredity maintains from generation to generation the enduring characters of the species. Each organism transmits to its descendants a part of the morphological and physiological qualities that it has received from its parents and ancestors. On the other hand, progressive heredity brings new characters to the species– characters that were not found in preceding generations. Each organism may transmit to its offspring a part of the morphological and physiological features that it has itself acquired, by adaptation, in the course of its individual career, through the use or disuse of particular organs, the influence of environment, climate, nutrition, etc. At that time I gave the name of “progressive heredity” to this inheritance of acquired characters, as a short and convenient expression, but have since changed the term to “transformative heredity” (as distinguished from conservative). This term is preferable, as inherited regressive modifications (degeneration, retrograde metamorphisis, etc.) come under the same head.

Transformative heredity–or the transmission of acquired characters–is one of the most important principles in evolutionary science. Unless we admit it most of the facts of comparative anatomy and physiology are inexplicable. That was the conviction of Darwin no less than of Lamarck, of Spencer as well as Virchow, of Huxley as well as Gegenbaur, indeed of the great majority of speculative biologists. This fundamental principle was for the first time called in question and assailed in 1885 by August Weismann of Freiburg, the eminent zoologist to whom the theory of evolution owes a great deal of valuable support, and who has attained distinction by his extension of the theory of selection. In explanation of the phenomena of heredity he introduced a new theory, the “theory of the continuity of the germ-plasm.” According to him the living substance in all organisms consists of two quite distinct kinds of plasm, somatic and germinal. The permanent germ-plasm, or the active substance of the two germ-cells (egg- cell and sperm-cell), passes unchanged through a series of generations, and is not affected by environmental influences. The environment modifies only the soma-plasm, the organs and tissues of the body. The modifications that these parts undergo through the influence of the environment or their own activity (use and habit), do not affect the germ-plasm, and cannot therefore be transmitted.

This theory of the continuity of the germ-plasm has been expounded by Weismann during the last twenty-four years in a number of able volumes, and is regarded by many biologists, such as Mr Francis Galton, Sir E. Ray Lankester, and Professor J. Arthur Thomson (who has recently made a thoroughgoing defence of it in his important work “Heredity” (London, 1908.)), as the most striking advance in evolutionary science. On the other hand, the theory has been rejected by Herbert Spencer, Sir W. Turner, Gegenbaur, Kolliker, Hertwig, and many others. For my part I have, with all respect for the distinguished Darwinian, contested the theory from the first, because its whole foundation seems to me erroneous, and its deductions do not seem to be in accord with the main facts of comparative morphology and physiology. Weismann’s theory in its entirety is a finely conceived molecular hypothesis, but it is devoid of empirical basis. The notion of the absolute and permanent independence of the germ-plasm, as distinguished from the soma-plasm, is purely speculative; as is also the theory of germinal selection. The determinants, ids, and idants, are purely hypothetical elements. The experiments that have been devised to demonstrate their existence really prove nothing.

It seems to me quite improper to describe this hypothetical structure as “Neodarwinism.” Darwin was just as convinced as Lamarck of the transmission of acquired characters and its great importance in the scheme of evolution. I had the good fortune to visit Darwin at Down three times and discuss with him the main principles of his system, and on each occasion we were fully agreed as to the incalculable importance of what I call transformative inheritance. It is only proper to point out that Weismann’s theory of the germ-plasm is in express contradiction to the fundamental principles of Darwin and Lamarck. Nor is it more acceptable in what one may call its “ultradarwinism”–the idea that the theory of selection explains everything in the evolution of the organic world. This belief in the “omnipotence of natural selection” was not shared by Darwin himself. Assuredly, I regard it as of the utmost value, as the process of natural selection through the struggle for life affords an explanation of the mechanical origin of the adapted organisation. It solves the great problem: how could the finely adapted structure of the animal or plant body be formed unless it was built on a preconceived plan? It thus enables us to dispense with the teleology of the metaphysician and the dualist, and to set aside the old mythological and poetic legends of creation. The idea had occurred in vague form to the great Empedocles 2000 years before the time of Darwin, but it was reserved for modern research to give it ample expression. Nevertheless, natural selection does not of itself give the solution of all our evolutionary problems. It has to be taken in conjunction with the transformism of Lamarck, with which it is in complete harmony.

The monumental greatness of Charles Darwin, who surpasses every other student of science in the nineteenth century by the loftiness of his monistic conception of nature and the progressive influence of his ideas, is perhaps best seen in the fact that not one of his many successors has succeeded in modifying his theory of descent in any essential point or in discovering an entirely new standpoint in the interpretation of the organic world. Neither Nageli nor Weismann, neither De Vries nor Roux, has done this. Nageli, in his “Mechanisch-Physiologische Theorie der Abstammungslehre” (Munich, 1884.), which is to a great extent in agreement with Weismann, constructed a theory of the idioplasm, that represents it (like the germ-plasm) as developing continuously in a definite direction from internal causes. But his internal “principle of progress” is at the bottom just as teleological as the vital force of the Vitalists, and the micellar structure of the idioplasm is just as hypothetical as the “dominant” structure of the germ-plasm. In 1889 Moritz Wagner sought to explain the origin of species by migration and isolation, and on that basis constructed a special “migration-theory.” This, however, is not out of harmony with the theory of selection. It merely elevates one single factor in the theory to a predominant position. Isolation is only a special case of selection, as I had pointed out in the fifteenth chapter of my “Natural history of creation”. The “mutation-theory” of De Vries (“Die Mutationstheorie”, Leipzig, 1903.), that would explain the origin of species by sudden and saltatory variations rather than by gradual modification, is regarded by many botanists as a great step in advance, but it is generally rejected by zoologists. It affords no explanation of the facts of adaptation, and has no causal value.

Much more important than these theories is that of Wilhelm Roux (“Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus”, Leipzig, 1881.) of “the struggle of parts within the organism, a supplementation of the theory of mechanical adaptation.” He explains the functional autoformation of the purposive structure by a combination of Darwin’s principle of selection with Lamarck’s idea of transformative heredity, and applies the two in conjunction to the facts of histology. He lays stress on the significance of functional adaptation, which I had described in 1866, under the head of cumulative adaptation, as the most important factor in evolution. Pointing out its influence in the cell-life of the tissues, he puts “cellular selection” above “personal selection,” and shows how the finest conceivable adaptations in the structure of the tissue may be brought about quite mechanically, without preconceived plan. This “mechanical teleology” is a valuable extension of Darwin’s monistic principle of selection to the whole field of cellular physiology and histology, and is wholly destructive of dualistic vitalism.

The most important advance that evolution has made since Darwin and the most valuable amplification of his theory of selection is, in my opinion, the work of Richard Semon: “Die Mneme als erhaltendes Prinzip im Wechsel des organischen Geschehens” (Leipzig, 1904.). He offers a psychological explanation of the facts of heredity by reducing them to a process of (unconscious) memory. The physiologist Ewald Hering had shown in 1870 that memory must be regarded as a general function of organic matter, and that we are quite unable to explain the chief vital phenomena, especially those of reproduction and inheritance, unless we admit this unconscious memory. In my essay “Die Perigenesis der Plastidule” (Berlin, 1876.) I elaborated this far-reaching idea, and applied the physical principle of transmitted motion to the plastidules, or active molecules of plasm. I concluded that “heredity is the memory of the plastidules, and variability their power of comprehension.” This “provisional attempt to give a mechanical explanation of the elementary processes of evolution” I afterwards extended by showing that sensitiveness is (as Carl Nageli, Ernst Mach, and Albrecht Rau express it) a general quality of matter. This form of panpsychism finds its simplest expression in the “trinity of substance.”

To the two fundamental attributes that Spinoza ascribed to substance– Extension (matter as occupying space) and Cogitation (energy, force)–we now add the third fundamental quality of Psychoma (sensitiveness, soul). I further elaborated this trinitarian conception of substance in the nineteenth chapter of my “Die Lebenswunder” (1904) (“Wonders of Life”, London, 1904.), and it seems to me well calculated to afford a monistic solution of many of the antitheses of philosophy.

This important Mneme-theory of Semon and the luminous physiological experiments and observations associated with it not only throw considerable light on transformative inheritance, but provide a sound physiological foundation for the biogenetic law. I had endeavoured to show in 1874, in the first chapter of my “Anthropogenie” (English translation; “The Evolution of Man”, 2 volumes, London, 1879 and 1905.), that this fundamental law of organic evolution holds good generally, and that there is everywhere a direct causal connection between ontogeny and phylogeny. “Phylogenesis is the mechanical cause of ontogenesis”; in other words, “The evolution of the stem or race is–in accordance with the laws of heredity and adaptation–the real cause of all the changes that appear, in a condensed form, in the development of the individual organism from the ovum, in either the embryo or the larva.”

It is now fifty years since Charles Darwin pointed out, in the thirteenth chapter of his epoch-making “Origin of Species”, the fundamental importance of embryology in connection with his theory of descent:

“The leading facts in embryology, which are second to none in importance, are explained on the principle of variations in the many descendants from some one ancient progenitor, having appeared at a not very early period of life, and having been inherited at a corresponding period.” (“Origin of Species” (6th edition), page 396.)

He then shows that the striking resemblance of the embryos and larvae of closely related animals, which in the mature stage belong to widely different species and genera, can only be explained by their descent from a common progenitor. Fritz Muller made a closer study of these important phenomena in the instructive instance of the Crustacean larva, as given in his able work “Fur Darwin” (1864). (English translation; “Facts and Arguments for Darwin”, London, 1869.) I then, in 1872, extended the range so as to include all animals (with the exception of the unicellular Protozoa) and showed, by means of the theory of the Gastraea, that all multicellular, tissue-forming animals–all the Metazoa–develop in essentially the same way from the primary germ-layers. I conceived the embryonic form, in which the whole structure consists of only two layers of cells, and is known as the gastrula, to be the ontogenetic recapitulation, maintained by tenacious heredity, of a primitive common progenitor of all the Metazoa, the Gastraea. At a later date (1895) Monticelli discovered that this conjectural ancestral form is still preserved in certain primitive Coelenterata–Pemmatodiscus, Kunstleria, and the nearly-related Orthonectida.

The general application of the biogenetic law to all classes of animals and plants has been proved in my “Systematische Phylogenie”. (3 volumes, Berlin, 1894-96.) It has, however, been frequently challenged, both by botanists and zoologists, chiefly owing to the fact that many have failed to distinguish its two essential elements, palingenesis and cenogenesis. As early as 1874 I had emphasised, in the first chapter of my “Evolution of Man”, the importance of discriminating carefully between these two sets of phenomena:

“In the evolutionary appreciation of the facts of embryology we must take particular care to distinguish sharply and clearly between the primary, palingenetic evolutionary processes and the secondary, cenogenetic processes. The palingenetic phenomena, or embryonic RECAPITULATIONS, are due to heredity, to the transmission of characters from one generation to another. They enable us to draw direct inferences in regard to corresponding structures in the development of the species (e.g. the chorda or the branchial arches in all vertebrate embryos). The cenogenetic phenomena, on the other hand, or the embryonic VARIATIONS, cannot be traced to inheritance from a mature ancestor, but are due to the adaptation of the embryo or the larva to certain conditions of its individual development (e.g. the amnion, the allantois, and the vitelline arteries in the embryos of the higher vertebrates). These cenogenetic phenomena are later additions; we must not infer from them that there were corresponding processes in the ancestral history, and hence they are apt to mislead.”

The fundamental importance of these facts of comparative anatomy, atavism, and the rudimentary organs, was pointed out by Darwin in the first part of his classic work, “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex” (1871). (“Descent of Man” (Popular Edition), page 927.) In the “General summary and conclusion” (chapter XXI.) he was able to say, with perfect justice: “He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation. He will be forced to admit that the close resemblance of the embryo of man to that, for instance, of a dog–the construction of his skull, limbs, and whole frame on the same plan with that of other mammals, independently of the uses to which the parts may be put–the occasional reappearance of various structures, for instance of several muscles, which man does not normally possess, but which are common to the Quadrumana–and a crowd of analogous facts–all point in the plainest manner to the conclusion that man is the co-descendant with other mammals of a common progenitor.”

These few lines of Darwin’s have a greater scientific value than hundreds of those so-called “anthropological treatises,” which give detailed descriptions of single organs, or mathematical tables with series of numbers and what are claimed to be “exact analyses,” but are devoid of synoptic conclusions and a philosophical spirit.

Charles Darwin is not generally recognised as a great anthropologist, nor does the school of modern anthropologists regard him as a leading authority. In Germany, especially, the great majority of the members of the anthropological societies took up an attitude of hostility to him from the very beginning of the controversy in 1860. “The Descent of Man” was not merely rejected, but even the discussion of it was forbidden on the ground that it was “unscientific.”

The centre of this inveterate hostility for thirty years–especially after 1877–was Rudolph Virchow of Berlin, the leading investigator in pathological anatomy, who did so much for the reform of medicine by his establishment of cellular pathology in 1858. As a prominent representative of “exact” or “descriptive” anthropology, and lacking a broad equipment in comparative anatomy and ontogeny, he was unable to accept the theory of descent. In earlier years, and especially during his splendid period of activity at Wurzburg (1848-1856), he had been a consistent free-thinker, and had in a number of able articles (collected in his “Gesammelte Abhandlungen”) (“Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur wissenschaftlichen Medizin”, Berlin, 1856.) upheld the unity of human nature, the inseparability of body and spirit. In later years at Berlin, where he was more occupied with political work and sociology (especially after 1866), he abandoned the positive monistic position for one of agnosticism and scepticism, and made concessions to the dualistic dogma of a spiritual world apart from the material frame.

In the course of a Scientific Congress at Munich in 1877 the conflict of these antithetic views of nature came into sharp relief. At this memorable Congress I had undertaken to deliver the first address (September 18th) on the subject of “Modern evolution in relation to the whole of science.” I maintained that Darwin’s theory not only solved the great problem of the origin of species, but that its implications, especially in regard to the nature of man, threw considerable light on the whole of science, and on anthropology in particular. The discovery of the real origin of man by evolution from a long series of mammal ancestors threw light on his place in nature in every aspect, as Huxley had already shown in his excellent lectures of 1863. Just as all the organs and tissues of the human body had originated from those of the nearest related mammals, certain ape-like forms, so we were bound to conclude that his mental qualities also had been derived from those of his extinct primate ancestor.

This monistic view of the origin and nature of man, which is now admitted by nearly all who have the requisite acquaintance with biology, and approach the subject without prejudice, encountered a sharp opposition at that time. The opposition found its strongest expression in an address that Virchow delivered at Munich four days afterwards (September 22nd), on “The freedom of science in the modern State.” He spoke of the theory of evolution as an unproved hypothesis, and declared that it ought not to be taught in the schools, because it was dangerous to the State. “We must not,” he said, “teach that man has descended from the ape or any other animal.” When Darwin, usually so lenient in his judgment, read the English translation of Virchow’s speech, he expressed his disapproval in strong terms. But the great authority that Virchow had–an authority well founded in pathology and sociology–and his prestige as President of the German Anthropological Society, had the effect of preventing any member of the Society from raising serious opposition to him for thirty years. Numbers of journals and treatises repeated his dogmatic statement: “It is quite certain that man has descended neither from the ape nor from any other animal.” In this he persisted till his death in 1902. Since that time the whole position of German anthropology has changed. The question is no longer whether man was created by a distinct supernatural act or evolved from other mammals, but to which line of the animal hierarchy we must look for the actual series of ancestors. The interested reader will find an account of this “battle of Munich” (1877) in my three Berlin lectures (April, 1905) (“Der Kampf um die Entwickelungs-Gedanken”. (English translation; “Last Words on Evolution”, London, 1906.)

The main points in our genealogical tree were clearly recognised by Darwin in the sixth chapter of the “Descent of Man”. Lowly organised fishes, like the lancelet (Amphioxus), are descended from lower invertebrates resembling the larvae of an existing Tunicate (Appendicularia). From these primitive fishes were evolved higher fishes of the ganoid type and others of the type of Lepidosiren (Dipneusta). It is a very small step from these to the Amphibia:

“In the class of mammals the steps are not difficult to conceive which led from the ancient Monotremata to the ancient Marsupials; and from these to the early progenitors of the placental mammals. We may thus ascend to the Lemuridae; and the interval is not very wide from these to the Simiadae. The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and Old World monkeys; and from the latter, at a remote period, Man, the wonder and glory of the Universe, proceeded.” (“Descent of Man” (Popular Edition), page 255.)

In these few lines Darwin clearly indicated the way in which we were to conceive our ancestral series within the vertebrates. It is fully confirmed by all the arguments of comparative anatomy and embryology, of palaeontology and physiology; and all the research of the subsequent forty years has gone to establish it. The deep interest in geology which Darwin maintained throughout his life and his complete knowledge of palaeontology enabled him to grasp the fundamental importance of the palaeontological record more clearly than anthropologists and zoologists usually do.

There has been much debate in subsequent decades whether Darwin himself maintained that man was descended from the ape, and many writers have sought to deny it. But the lines I have quoted verbatim from the conclusion of the sixth chapter of the “Descent of Man” (1871) leave no doubt that he was as firmly convinced of it as was his great precursor Jean Lamarck in 1809. Moreover, Darwin adds, with particular explicitness, in the “general summary and conclusion” (chapter XXI.) of that standard work (“Descent of Man”, page 930.):

“By considering the embryological structure of man–the homologies which he presents with the lower animals,–the rudiments which he retains,–and the reversions to which he is liable, we can partly recall in imagination the former condition of our early progenitors; and can approximately place them in their proper place in the zoological series. We thus learn that man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits, and an inhabitant of the Old World. This creature, if its whole structure had been examined by a naturalist, would have been classed amongst the Quadrumana, as surely as the still more ancient progenitor of the Old and New World monkeys.”

These clear and definite lines leave no doubt that Darwin–so critical and cautious in regard to important conclusions–was quite as firmly convinced of the descent of man from the apes (the Catarrhinae, in particular) as Lamarck was in 1809 and Huxley in 1863.

It is to be noted particularly that, in these and other observations on the subject, Darwin decidedly assumes the monophyletic origin of the mammals, including man. It is my own conviction that this is of the greatest importance. A number of difficult questions in regard to the development of man, in respect of anatomy, physiology, psychology, and embryology, are easily settled if we do not merely extend our progonotaxis to our nearest relatives, the anthropoid apes and the tailed monkeys from which these have descended, but go further back and find an ancestor in the group of the Lemuridae, and still further back to the Marsupials and Monotremata. The essential identity of all the Mammals in point of anatomical structure and embryonic development–in spite of their astonishing differences in external appearance and habits of life–is so palpably significant that modern zoologists are agreed in the hypothesis that they have all sprung from a common root, and that this root may be sought in the earlier Palaeozoic Amphibia.

The fundamental importance of this comparative morphology of the Mammals, as a sound basis of scientific anthropology, was recognised just before the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Lamarck first emphasised (1794) the division of the animal kingdom into Vertebrates and Invertebrates. Even thirteen years earlier (1781), when Goethe made a close study of the mammal skeleton in the Anatomical Institute at Jena, he was intensely interested to find that the composition of the skull was the same in man as in the other mammals. His discovery of the os intermaxillare in man (1784), which was contradicted by most of the anatomists of the time, and his ingenious “vertebral theory of the skull,” were the splendid fruit of his morphological studies. They remind us how Germany’s greatest philosopher and poet was for many years ardently absorbed in the comparative anatomy of man and the mammals, and how he divined that their wonderful identity in structure was no mere superficial resemblance, but pointed to a deep internal connection. In my “Generelle Morphologie” (1866), in which I published the first attempts to construct phylogenetic trees, I have given a number of remarkable theses of Goethe, which may be called “phyletic prophecies.” They justify us in regarding him as a precursor of Darwin.

In the ensuing forty years I have made many conscientious efforts to penetrate further along that line of anthropological research that was opened up by Goethe, Lamarck, and Darwin. I have brought together the many valuable results that have constantly been reached in comparative anatomy, physiology, ontogeny, and palaeontology, and maintained the effort to reform the classification of animals and plants in an evolutionary sense. The first rough drafts of pedigrees that were published in the “Generelle Morphologie” have been improved time after time in the ten editions of my “Naturaliche Schopfungsgeschichte” (1868-1902). (English translation; “The History of Creation”, London, 1876.) A sounder basis for my phyletic hypotheses, derived from a discriminating combination of the three great records–morphology, ontogeny, and palaeontology–was provided in the three volumes of my “Systematische Phylogenie (Berlin, 1894-96.) (1894 Protists and Plants, 1895 Vertebrates, 1896 Invertebrates). In my “Anthropogenie” (Leipzig, 1874, 5th edition 1905. English translation; “The Evolution of Man”, London, 1905.) I endeavoured to employ all the known facts of comparative ontogeny (embryology) for the purpose of completing my scheme of human phylogeny (evolution). I attempted to sketch the historical development of each organ of the body, beginning with the most elementary structures in the germ-layers of the Gastraea. At the same time I drew up a corrected statement of the most important steps in the line of our ancestral series.

At the fourth International Congress of Zoology at Cambridge (August 26th, 1898) I delivered an address on “Our present knowledge of the Descent of Man.” It was translated into English, enriched with many valuable notes and additions, by my friend and pupil in earlier days Dr Hans Gadow (Cambridge), and published under the title: “The Last Link; our present knowledge of the Descent of Man”. (London, 1898.) The determination of the chief animal forms that occur in the line of our ancestry is there restricted to thirty types, and these are distributed in six main groups.

The first half of this “Progonotaxis hominis,” which has no support from fossil evidence, comprises three groups: (i) Protista (unicellular organisms, 1-5: (ii) Invertebrate Metazoa (Coelenteria 6-8, Vermalia 9- 11): (iii) Monorrhine Vertebrates (Acrania 12-13, Cyclostoma 14-15). The second half, which is based on fossil records, also comprises three groups: (iv) Palaeozoic cold-blooded Craniota (Fishes 16-18, Amphibia 19, Reptiles 20: (v) Mesozoic Mammals (Monotrema 21, Marsupialia 22, Mallotheria 23): (vi) Cenozoic Primates (Lemuridae 24-25, Tailed Apes 26-27, Anthropomorpha 28-30). An improved and enlarged edition of this hypothetic “Progonotaxis hominis” was published in 1908, in my essay “Unsere Ahnenreihe”. (“Festschrift zur 350-jahrigen Jubelfeier der Thuringer Universitat Jena”. Jena, 1908.)

If I have succeeded in furthering, in some degree, by these anthropological works, the solution of the great problem of Man’s place in nature, and particularly in helping to trace the definite stages in our ancestral series, I owe the success, not merely to the vast progress that biology has made in the last half century, but largely to the luminous example of the great investigators who have applied themselves to the problem, with so much assiduity and genius, for a century and a quarter–I mean Goethe and Lamarck, Gegenbaur and Huxley, but, above all, Charles Darwin. It was the great genius of Darwin that first brought together the scattered material of biology and shaped it into that symmetrical temple of scientific knowledge, the theory of descent. It was Darwin who put the crown on the edifice by his theory of natural selection. Not until this broad inductive law was firmly established was it possible to vindicate the special conclusion, the descent of man from a series of other Vertebrates. By his illuminating discovery Darwin did more for anthropology than thousands of those writers, who are more specifically titled anthropologists, have done by their technical treatises. We may, indeed, say that it is not merely as an exact observer and ingenious experimenter, but as a distinguished anthropologist and far-seeing thinker, that Darwin takes his place among the greatest men of science of the nineteenth century.

To appreciate fully the immortal merit of Darwin in connection with anthropology, we must remember that not only did his chief work, “The Origin of Species”, which opened up a new era in natural history in 1859, sustain the most virulent and widespread opposition for a lengthy period, but even thirty years later, when its principles were generally recognised and adopted, the application of them to man was energetically contested by many high scientific authorities. Even Alfred Russel Wallace, who discovered the principle of natural selection independently in 1858, did not concede that it was applicable to the higher mental and moral qualities of man. Dr Wallace still holds a spiritualist and dualist view of the nature of man, contending that he is composed of a material frame (descended from the apes) and an immortal immaterial soul (infused by a higher power). This dual conception, moreover, is still predominant in the wide circles of modern theology and metaphysics, and has the general and influential adherence of the more conservative classes of society.

In strict contradiction to this mystical dualism, which is generally connected with teleology and vitalism, Darwin always maintained the complete unity of human nature, and showed convincingly that the psychological side of man was developed, in the same way as the body, from the less advanced soul of the anthropoid ape, and, at a still more remote period, from the cerebral functions of the older vertebrates. The eighth chapter of the “Origin of Species”, which is devoted to instinct, contains weighty evidence that the instincts of animals are subject, like all other vital processes, to the general laws of historic development. The special instincts of particular species were formed by adaptation, and the modifications thus acquired were handed on to posterity by heredity; in their formation and preservation natural selection plays the same part as in the transformation of every other physiological function. The higher moral qualities of civilised man have been derived from the lower mental functions of the uncultivated barbarians and savages, and these in turn from the social instincts of the mammals. This natural and monistic psychology of Darwin’s was afterwards more fully developed by his friend George Romanes in his excellent works “Mental Evolution in Animals” and “Mental Evolution in Man”. (London, 1885; 1888.)

Many valuable and most interesting contributions to this monistic psychology of man were made by Darwin in his fine work on “The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex”, and again in his supplementary work, “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”. To understand the historical development of Darwin’s anthropology one must read his life and the introduction to “The Descent of Man”. From the moment that he was convinced of the truth of the principle of descent–that is to say, from his thirtieth year, in 1838–he recognised clearly that man could not be excluded from its range. He recognised as a logical necessity the important conclusion that “man is the co-descendant with other species of some ancient, lower, and extinct form.” For many years he gathered notes and arguments in support of this thesis, and for the purpose of showing the probable line of man’s ancestry. But in the first edition of “The Origin of Species” (1859) he restricted himself to the single line, that by this work “light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” In the fifty years that have elapsed since that time the science of the origin and nature of man has made astonishing progress, and we are now fairly agreed in a monistic conception of nature that regards the whole universe, including man, as a wonderful unity, governed by unalterable and eternal laws. In my philosophical book “Die Weltratsel” (1899) (“The Riddle of the Universe”, London, 1900.) and in the supplementary volume “Die Lebenswunder” (1904) “The Wonders of Life”, London, 1904.), I have endeavoured to show that this pure monism is securely established, and that the admission of the all-powerful rule of the same principle of evolution throughout the universe compels us to formulate a single supreme law–the all-embracing “Law of Substance,” or the united laws of the constancy of matter and the conservation of energy. We should never have reached this supreme general conception if Charles Darwin–a “monistic philosopher” in the true sense of the word–had not prepared the way by his theory of descent by natural selection, and crowned the great work of his life by the association of this theory with a naturalistic anthropology.


Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

On a bright day in late autumn a good many years ago I had ascended the hill of Panopeus in Phocis to examine the ancient Greek fortifications which crest its brow. It was the first of November, but the weather was very hot; and when my work among the ruins was done, I was glad to rest under the shade of a clump of fine holly-oaks, to inhale the sweet refreshing perfume of the wild thyme which scented all the air, and to enjoy the distant prospects, rich in natural beauty, rich too in memories of the legendary and historic past. To the south the finely-cut peak of Helicon peered over the low intervening hills. In the west loomed the mighty mass of Parnassus, its middle slopes darkened by pine-woods like shadows of clouds brooding on the mountain-side; while at its skirts nestled the ivy-mantled walls of Daulis overhanging the deep glen, whose romantic beauty accords so well with the loves and sorrows of Procne and Philomela, which Greek tradition associated with the spot. Northwards, across the broad plain to which the hill of Panopeus descends, steep and bare, the eye rested on the gap in the hills through which the Cephissus winds his tortuous way to flow under grey willows, at the foot of barren stony hills, till his turbid waters lose themselves, no longer in the vast reedy swamps of the now vanished Copaic Lake, but in the darkness of a cavern in the limestone rock. Eastward, clinging to the slopes of the bleak range of which the hill of Panopeus forms part, were the ruins of Chaeronea, the birthplace of Plutarch; and out there in the plain was fought the disastrous battle which laid Greece at the feet of Macedonia. There, too, in a later age East and West met in deadly conflict, when the Roman armies under Sulla defeated the Asiatic hosts of Mithridates. Such was the landscape spread out before me on one of those farewell autumn days of almost pathetic splendour, when the departing summer seems to linger fondly, as if loth to resign to winter the enchanted mountains of Greece. Next day the scene had changed: summer was gone. A grey November mist hung low on the hills which only yesterday had shone resplendent in the sun, and under its melancholy curtain the dead flat of the Chaeronean plain, a wide treeless expanse shut in by desolate slopes, wore an aspect of chilly sadness befitting the battlefield where a nation’s freedom was lost.

But crowded as the prospect from Panopeus is with memories of the past, the place itself, now so still and deserted, was once the scene of an event even more ancient and memorable, if Greek story-tellers can be trusted. For here, they say, the sage Prometheus created our first parents by fashioning them, like a potter, out of clay. (Pausanias X. 4.4. Compare Apollodorus, “Bibliotheca”, I. 7. 1; Ovid, “Metamorph.” I. 82 sq.; Juvenal, “Sat”. XIV. 35. According to another version of the tale, this creation of mankind took place not at Panopeus, but at Iconium in Lycaonia. After the original race of mankind had been destroyed in the great flood of Deucalion, the Greek Noah, Zeus commanded Prometheus and Athena to create men afresh by moulding images out of clay, breathing the winds into them, and making them live. See “Etymologicum Magnum”, s.v. “‘Ikonion”, pages 470 sq. It is said that Prometheus fashioned the animals as well as men, giving to each kind of beast its proper nature. See Philemon, quoted by Stobaeus, “Florilegium” II. 27. The creation of man by Prometheus is figured on ancient works of art. See J. Toutain, “Etudes de Mythologie et d’Histoire des Religions Antiques” (Paris, 1909), page 190. According to Hesiod (“Works and Days”, 60 sqq.) it was Hephaestus who at the bidding of Zeus moulded the first woman out of moist earth.) The very spot where he did so can still be seen. It is a forlorn little glen or rather hollow behind the hill of Panopeus, below the ruined but still stately walls and towers which crown the grey rocks of the summit. The glen, when I visited it that hot day after the long drought of summer, was quite dry; no water trickled down its bushy sides, but in the bottom I found a reddish crumbling earth, a relic perhaps of the clay out of which the potter Prometheus moulded the Greek Adam and Eve. In a volume dedicated to the honour of one who has done more than any other in modern times to shape the ideas of mankind as to their origin it may not be out of place to recall this crude Greek notion of the creation of the human race, and to compare or contrast it with other rudimentary speculations of primitive peoples on the same subject, if only for the sake of marking the interval which divides the childhood from the maturity of science.

The simple notion that the first man and woman were modelled out of clay by a god or other superhuman being is found in the traditions of many peoples. This is the Hebrew belief recorded in Genesis: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis ii.7.) To the Hebrews this derivation of our species suggested itself all the more naturally because in their language the word for “ground” (adamah) is in form the feminine of the word for man (adam). (S.R. Driver and W.H.Bennett, in their commentaries on Genesis ii. 7.) From various allusions in Babylonian literature it would seem that the Babylonians also conceived man to have been moulded out of clay. (H. Zimmern, in E. Schrader’s “Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament”3 (Berlin, 1902), page 506.) According to Berosus, the Babylonian priest whose account of creation has been preserved in a Greek version, the god Bel cut off his own head, and the other gods caught the flowing blood, mixed it with earth, and fashioned men out of the bloody paste; and that, they said, is why men are so wise, because their mortal clay is tempered with divine blood. (Eusebius, “Chronicon”, ed. A. Schoene, Vol. I. (Berlin, 1875), col. 16.) In Egyptian mythology Khnoumou, the Father of the gods, is said to have moulded men out of clay. (G. Maspero, “Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l’Orient Classique”, I. (Paris, 1895), page 128.) We cannot doubt that such crude conceptions of the origin of our race were handed down to the civilised peoples of antiquity by their savage or barbarous forefathers. Certainly stories of the same sort are known to be current among savages and barbarians.

Thus the Australian blacks in the neighbourhood of Melbourne said that Pund-jel, the creator, cut three large sheets of bark with his big knife. On one of these he placed some clay and worked it up with his knife into a proper consistence. He then laid a portion of the clay on one of the other pieces of bark and shaped it into a human form; first he made the feet, then the legs, then the trunk, the arms, and the head. Thus he made a clay man on each of the two pieces of bark; and being well pleased with them he danced round them for joy. Next he took stringy bark from the Eucalyptus tree, made hair of it, and stuck it on the heads of his clay men. Then he looked at them again, was pleased with his work, and again danced round them for joy. He then lay down on them, blew his breath hard into their mouths, their noses, and their navels; and presently they stirred, spoke, and rose up as full-grown men. (R. Brough Smyth, “The Aborigines of Victoria” (Melbourne, 1878), I. 424. This and many of the following legends of creation have been already cited by me in a note on Pausanias X. 4. 4 (“Pausanias’s Description of Greece, translated with a Commentary” (London, 1898), Vol V. pages 220 sq.).) The Maoris of New Zealand say that Tiki made man after his own image. He took red clay, kneaded it, like the Babylonian Bel, with his own blood, fashioned it in human form, and gave the image breath. As he had made man in his own likeness he called him Tiki-ahua or Tiki’s likeness. (R. Taylor “Te Ika A Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants”, Second Edition (London, 1870), page 117. Compare E. Shortland, “Maori Religion and Mythology” (London, 1882), pages 21 sq.) A very generally received tradition in Tahiti was that the first human pair was made by Taaroa, the chief god. They say that after he had formed the world he created man out of red earth, which was also the food of mankind until bread-fruit was produced. Further, some say that one day Taaroa called for the man by name, and when he came he made him fall asleep. As he slept, the creator took out one of his bones (ivi) and made a woman of it, whom he gave to the man to be his wife, and the pair became the progenitors of mankind. This narrative was taken down from the lips of the natives in the early years of the mission to Tahiti. The missionary who records it observes: “This always appeared to me a mere recital of the Mosaic account of creation, which they had heard from some European, and I never placed any reliance on it, although they have repeatedly told me it was a tradition among them before any foreigner arrived. Some have also stated that the woman’s name was Ivi, which would be by them pronounced as if written “Eve”. “Ivi” is an aboriginal word, and not only signifies a bone, but also a widow, and a victim slain in war. Notwithstanding the assertion of the natives, I am disposed to think that “Ivi”, or Eve, is the only aboriginal part of the story, as far as it respects the mother of the human race. (W. Ellis, “Polynesian Researches”, Second Edition (London, 1832), I. 110 sq. “Ivi” or “iwi” is the regular word for “bone” in the various Polynesian languages. See E. Tregear, “The Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary” (Wellington, New Zealand, 1891), page 109.) However, the same tradition has been recorded in other parts of Polynesia besides Tahiti. Thus the natives of Fakaofo or Bowditch Island say that the first man was produced out of a stone. After a time he bethought him of making a woman. So he gathered earth and moulded the figure of a woman out of it, and having done so he took a rib out of his left side and thrust it into the earthen figure, which thereupon started up a live woman. He called her Ivi (Eevee) or “rib” and took her to wife, and the whole human race sprang from this pair. (G. Turner, “Samoa” (London, 1884), pages 267 sq.) The Maoris also are reported to believe that the first woman was made out of the first man’s ribs. (J.L. Nicholas, “Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand” (London, 1817), I. 59, who writes “and to add still more to this strange coincidence, the general term for bone is ‘Hevee’.”) This wide diffusion of the story in Polynesia raises a doubt whether it is merely, as Ellis thought, a repetition of the Biblical narrative learned from Europeans. In Nui, or Netherland Island, it was the god Aulialia who made earthen models of a man and woman, raised them up, and made them live. He called the man Tepapa and the woman Tetata. (G. Turner, “Samoa”, pages 300 sq.)

In the Pelew Islands they say that a brother and sister made men out of clay kneaded with the blood of various animals, and that the characters of these first men and of their descendants were determined by the characters of the animals whose blood had been kneaded with the primordial clay; for instance, men who have rat’s blood in them are thieves, men who have serpent’s blood in them are sneaks, and men who have cock’s blood in them are brave. (J. Kubary, “Die Religion der Pelauer”, in A. Bastian’s “Allerlei aus Volks- und Menschenkunde” (Berlin, 1888), I. 3, 56.) According to a Melanesian legend, told in Mota, one of the Banks Islands, the hero Qat moulded men of clay, the red clay from the marshy river-side at Vanua Lava. At first he made men and pigs just alike, but his brothers remonstrated with him, so he beat down the pigs to go on all fours and made men walk upright. Qat fashioned the first woman out of supple twigs, and when she smiled he knew she was a living woman. (R.H. Codrington, “The Melanesians” (Oxford, 1891), page 158.) A somewhat different version of the Melanesian story is told at Lakona, in Santa Maria. There they say that Qat and another spirit (“vui”) called Marawa both made men. Qat made them out of the wood of dracaena-trees. Six days he worked at them, carving their limbs and fitting them together. Then he allowed them six days to come to life. Three days he hid them away, and three days more he worked to make them live. He set them up and danced to them and beat his drum, and little by little they stirred, till at last they could stand all by themselves. Then Qat divided them into pairs and called each pair husband and wife. Marawa also made men out of a tree, but it was a different tree, the tavisoviso. He likewise worked at them six days, beat his drum, and made them live, just as Qat did. But when he saw them move, he dug a pit and buried them in it for six days, and then, when he scraped away the earth to see what they were doing, he found them all rotten and stinking. That was the origin of death. (R.H. Codrington op. cit., pages 157 sq.)

The inhabitants of Noo-Hoo-roa, in the Kei Islands say that their ancestors were fashioned out of clay by the supreme god, Dooadlera, who breathed life into the clay figures. (C.M. Pleyte, “Ethnographische Beschrijving der Kei-Eilanden”, “Tijdschrift van het Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap”, Tweede Serie X. (1893), page 564.) The aborigines of Minahassa, in the north of Celebes, say that two beings called Wailan Wangko and Wangi were alone on an island, on which grew a cocoa-nut tree. Said Wailan Wangko to Wangi, “Remain on earth while I climb up the tree.” Said Wangi to Wailan Wangko, “Good.” But then a thought occurred to Wangi and he climbed up the tree to ask Wailan Wangko why he, Wangi, should remain down there all alone. Said Wailan Wangko to Wangi, “Return and take earth and make two images, a man and a woman.” Wangi did so, and both images were men who could move but could not speak. So Wangi climbed up the tree to ask Wailan Wangko, “How now? The two images are made, but they cannot speak.” Said Wailan Wangko to Wangi, “Take this ginger and go and blow it on the skulls and the ears of these two images, that they may be able to speak; call the man Adam and the woman Ewa.” (N. Graafland “De Minahassa” (Rotterdam, 1869), I. pages 96 sq.) In this narrative the names of the man and woman betray European influence, but the rest of the story may be aboriginal. The Dyaks of Sakarran in British Borneo say that the first man was made by two large birds. At first they tried to make men out of trees, but in vain. Then they hewed them out of rocks, but the figures could not speak. Then they moulded a man out of damp earth and infused into his veins the red gum of the kumpang-tree. After that they called to him and he answered; they cut him and blood flowed from his wounds. (Horsburgh, quoted by H. Ling Roth, “The Natives of Sarawak and of British North Borneo” (London, 1896), I. pages 299 sq. Compare The Lord Bishop of Labuan, “On the Wild Tribes of the North-West Coast of Borneo,” “Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London”, New Series, II. (1863), page 27.)

The Kumis of South-Eastern India related to Captain Lewin, the Deputy Commissioner of Hill Tracts, the following tradition of the creation of man. “God made the world and the trees and the creeping things first, and after that he set to work to make one man and one woman, forming their bodies of clay; but each night, on the completion of his work, there came a great snake, which, while God was sleeping, devoured the two images. This happened twice or thrice, and God was at his wit’s end, for he had to work all day, and could not finish the pair in less than twelve hours; besides, if he did not sleep, he would be no good,” said Captain Lewin’s informant. “If he were not obliged to sleep, there would be no death, nor would mankind be afflicted with illness. It is when he rests that the snake carries us off to this day. Well, he was at his wit’s end, so at last he got up early one morning and first made a dog and put life into it, and that night, when he had finished the images, he set the dog to watch them, and when the snake came, the dog barked and frightened it away. This is the reason at this day that when a man is dying the dogs begin to howl; but I suppose God sleeps heavily now-a-days, or the snake is bolder, for men die all the same.” (Capt. T.H. Lewin, “Wild Races of South-Eastern India” (London, 1870), pages 224-26.) The Khasis of Assam tell a similar tale. (A. Bastian, “Volkerstamme am Brahmaputra und verwandtschaftliche Nachbarn” (Berlin, 1883), page 8; Major P.R.T. Gurdon, “The Khasis” (London, 1907), page 106.)

The Ewe-speaking tribes of Togo-land, in West Africa, think that God still makes men out of clay. When a little of the water with which he moistens the clay remains over, he pours it on the ground and out of that he makes the bad and disobedient people. When he wishes to make a good man he makes him out of good clay; but when he wishes to make a bad man, he employs only bad clay for the purpose. In the beginning God fashioned a man and set him on the earth; after that he fashioned a woman. The two looked at each other and began to laugh, whereupon God sent them into the world. (J. Spieth, “Die Ewe-Stamme, Material zur Kunde des Ewe-Volkes in Deutsch-Togo” (Berlin, 1906), pages 828, 840.) The Innuit or Esquimaux of Point Barrow, in Alaska, tell of a time when there was no man in the land, till a spirit named “a se lu”, who resided at Point Barrow, made a clay man, set him up on the shore to dry, breathed into him and gave him life. (“Report of the International Expedition to Point Barrow” (Washington, 1885), page 47.) Other Esquimaux of Alaska relate how the Raven made the first woman out of clay to be a companion to the first man; he fastened water-grass to the back of the head to be hair, flapped his wings over the clay figure, and it arose, a beautiful young woman. (E.W. Nelson, “The Eskimo about Bering Strait”, “Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology”, Part I. (Washington, 1899), page 454.) The Acagchemem Indians of California said that a powerful being called Chinigchinich created man out of clay which he found on the banks of a lake; male and female created he them, and the Indians of the present day are their descendants. (Friar Geronimo Boscana, “Chinigchinich”, appended to (A. Robinson’s) “Life in California” (New York, 1846), page 247.) A priest of the Natchez Indians in Louisiana told Du Pratz “that God had kneaded some clay, such as that which potters use and had made it into a little man; and that after examining it, and finding it well formed, he blew up his work, and forthwith that little man had life, grew, acted, walked, and found himself a man perfectly well shaped.” As to the mode in which the first woman was created, the priest had no information, but thought she was probably made in the same way as the first man; so Du Pratz corrected his imperfect notions by reference to Scripture. (M. Le Page Du Pratz, “The History of Louisiana” (London, 1774), page 330.) The Michoacans of Mexico said that the great god Tucapacha first made man and woman out of clay, but that when the couple went to bathe in a river they absorbed so much water that the clay of which they were composed all fell to pieces. Then the creator went to work again and moulded them afresh out of ashes, and after that he essayed a third time and made them of metal. This last attempt succeeded. The metal man and woman bathed in the river without falling to pieces, and by their union they became the progenitors of mankind. (A. de Herrera, “General History of the vast Continent and Islands of America”, translated into English by Capt. J. Stevens (London, 1725, 1726), III. 254; Brasseur de Bourbourg, “Histoire des Nations Civilisees du Mexique et de l’Amerique- Centrale” (Paris, 1857–1859), III. 80 sq; compare id. I. 54 sq.)

According to a legend of the Peruvian Indians, which was told to a Spanish priest in Cuzco about half a century after the conquest, it was in Tiahuanaco that man was first created, or at least was created afresh after the deluge. “There (in Tiahuanaco),” so runs the legend, “the Creator began to raise up the people and nations that are in that region, making one of each nation of clay, and painting the dresses that each one was to wear; those that were to wear their hair, with hair, and those that were to be shorn, with hair cut. And to each nation was given the language, that was to be spoken, and the songs to be sung, and the seeds and food that they were to sow. When the Creator had finished painting and making the said nations and figures of clay, he gave life and soul to each one, as well men as women, and ordered that they should pass under the earth. Thence each nation came up in the places to which he ordered them to go.” (E.J. Payne, “History of the New World called America”, I. (Oxford, 1892), page 462.)

These examples suffice to prove that the theory of the creation of man out of dust or clay has been current among savages in many parts of the world. But it is by no means the only explanation which the savage philosopher has given of the beginnings of human life on earth. Struck by the resemblances which may be traced between himself and the beasts, he has often supposed, like Darwin himself, that mankind has been developed out of lower forms of animal life. For the simple savage has none of that high notion of the transcendant dignity of man which makes so many superior persons shrink with horror from the suggestion that they are distant cousins of the brutes. He on the contrary is not too proud to own his humble relations; indeed his difficulty often is to perceive the distinction between him and them. Questioned by a missionary, a Bushman of more than average intelligence “could not state any difference between a man and a brute–he did not know but a buffalo might shoot with bows and arrows as well as man, if it had them.” (Reverend John Campbell, “Travels in South Africa” (London, 1822, II. page 34.) When the Russians first landed on one of the Alaskan islands, the natives took them for cuttle-fish “on account of the buttons on their clothes.” (I. Petroff, “Report on the Population, Industries, and Resources of Alaska”, page 145.) The Giliaks of the Amoor think that the outward form and size of an animal are only apparent; in substance every beast is a real man, just like a Giliak himself, only endowed with an intelligence and strength, which often surpass those of mere ordinary human beings. (L. Sternberg, “Die Religion der Giljaken”, “Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft”, VIII. (1905), page 248.) The Borororos, an Indian tribe of Brazil, will have it that they are parrots of a gorgeous red plumage which live in their native forests. Accordingly they treat the birds as their fellow-tribesmen, keeping them in captivity, refusing to eat their flesh, and mourning for them when they die. (K. von den Steinen, “Unter den Naturvolkern Zentral-Brasiliens” (Berlin, 1894), pages 352 sq., 512.)

This sense of the close relationship of man to the lower creation is the essence of totemism, that curious system of superstition which unites by a mystic bond a group of human kinsfolk to a species of animals or plants. Where that system exists in full force, the members of a totem clan identify themselves with their totem animals in a way and to an extent which we find it hard even to imagine. For example, men of the Cassowary clan in Mabuiag think that cassowaries are men or nearly so. “Cassowary, he all same as relation, he belong same family,” is the account they give of their relationship with the long-legged bird. Conversely they hold that they themselves are cassowaries for all practical purposes. They pride themselves on having long thin legs like a cassowary. This reflection affords them peculiar satisfaction when they go out to fight, or to run away, as the case may be; for at such times a Cassowary man will say to himself, “My leg is long and thin, I can run and not feel tired; my legs will go quickly and the grass will not entangle them.” Members of the Cassowary clan are reputed to be pugnacious, because the cassowary is a bird of very uncertain temper and can kick with extreme violence. (A.C. Haddon, “The Ethnography of the Western Tribe of Torres Straits”, “Journal of the Anthropological Institute”, XIX. (1890), page 393; “Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits”, V. (Cambridge, 1904), pages 166, 184.) So among the Ojibways men of the Bear clan are reputed to be surly and pugnacious like bears, and men of the Crane clan to have clear ringing voices like cranes. (W.W. Warren, “History of the Ojibways”, “Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society”, V. (Saint Paul, Minn. 1885), pages 47, 49.) Hence the savage will often speak of his totem animal as his father or his brother, and will neither kill it himself nor allow others to do so, if he can help it. For example, if somebody were to kill a bird in the presence of a native Australian who had the bird for his totem, the black might say, “What for you kill that fellow? that my father!” or “That brother belonging to me you have killed; why did you do it?” (E. Palmer, “Notes on some Australian Tribes”, “Journal of the Anthropological Institute”, XIII. (1884), page 300.) Bechuanas of the Porcupine clan are greatly afflicted if anybody hurts or kills a porcupine in their presence. They say, “They have killed our brother, our master, one of ourselves, him whom we sing of”; and so saying they piously gather the quills of their murdered brother, spit on them, and rub their eyebrows with them. They think they would die if they touched its flesh. In like manner Bechuanas of the Crocodile clan call the crocodile one of themselves, their master, their brother; and they mark the ears of their cattle with a long slit like a crocodile’s mouth by way of a family crest. Similarly Bechuanas of the Lion clan would not, like the members of other clans, partake of lion’s flesh; for how, say they, could they eat their grandfather? If they are forced in self-defence to kill a lion, they do so with great regret and rub their eyes carefully with its skin, fearing to lose their sight if they neglected this precaution. (T. Arbousset et F. Daumas, “Relation d’un Voyage d’Exploration au Nord-Est de la Colonie du Cap de Bonne-Esperance” (Paris, 1842), pages 349 sq., 422-24.) A Mandingo porter has been known to offer the whole of his month’s pay to save the life of a python, because the python was his totem and he therefore regarded the reptile as his relation; he thought that if he allowed the creature to be killed, the whole of his own family would perish, probably through the vengeance to be taken by the reptile kinsfolk of the murdered serpent. (M. le Docteur Tautain, “Notes sur les Croyances et Pratiques Religieuses des Banmanas”, “Revue d’Ethnographie”, III. (1885), pages 396 sq.; A. Rancon, “Dans la Haute-Gambie, Voyage d’Exploration Scientifique” (Paris, 1894), page 445.)

Sometimes, indeed, the savage goes further and identifies the revered animal not merely with a kinsman but with himself; he imagines that one of his own more or less numerous souls, or at all events that a vital part of himself, is in the beast, so that if it is killed he must die. Thus, the Balong tribe of the Cameroons, in West Africa, think that every man has several souls, of which one is lodged in an elephant, a wild boar, a leopard, or what not. When any one comes home, feels ill, and says, “I shall soon die,” and is as good as his word, his friends are of opinion that one of his souls has been shot by a hunter in a wild boar or a leopard, for example, and that that is the real cause of his death. (J. Keller, “Ueber das Land und Volk der Balong”, “Deutsches Kolonialblatt”, 1 October, 1895, page 484.) A Catholic missionary, sleeping in the hut of a chief of the Fan negroes, awoke in the middle of the night to see a huge black serpent of the most dangerous sort in the act of darting at him. He was about to shoot it when the chief stopped him, saying, “In killing that serpent, it is me that you would have killed. Fear nothing, the serpent is my elangela.” (Father Trilles, “Chez les Fang, leurs Moeurs, leur Langue, leur Religion”, “Les Missions Catholiques”, XXX. (1898), page 322.) At Calabar there used to be some years ago a huge old crocodile which was well known to contain the spirit of a chief who resided in the flesh at Duke Town. Sporting Vice-Consuls, with a reckless disregard of human life, from time to time made determined attempts to injure the animal, and once a peculiarly active officer succeeded in hitting it. The chief was immediately laid up with a wound in his leg. He SAID that a dog had bitten him, but few people perhaps were deceived by so flimsy a pretext. (Miss Mary H. Kingsley, “Travels in West Africa” (London, 1897), pages 538 sq. As to the external or bush souls of human beings, which in this part of Africa are supposed to be lodged in the bodies of animals, see Miss Mary H. Kingsley op. cit. pages 459-461; R. Henshaw, “Notes on the Efik belief in ‘bush soul'”, “Man”, VI.(1906), pages 121 sq.; J. Parkinson, “Notes on the Asaba people (Ibos) of the Niger”, “Journal of the Anthropological Institute”, XXXVI. (1906), pages 314 sq.) Once when Mr Partridge’s canoe- men were about to catch fish near an Assiga town in Southern Nigeria, the natives of the town objected, saying, “Our souls live in those fish, and if you kill them we shall die.” (Charles Partridge, “Cross River Natives” (London, 1905), pages 225 sq.) On another occasion, in the same region, an Englishman shot a hippopotamus near a native village. The same night a woman died in the village, and her friends demanded and obtained from the marksman five pounds as compensation for the murder of the woman, whose soul or second self had been in that hippopotamus. (C.H. Robinson, “Hausaland” (London, 1896), pages 36 sq.) Similarly at Ndolo, in the Congo region, we hear of a chief whose life was bound up with a hippopotamus, but he prudently suffered no one to fire at the animal. (“Notes Analytiques sur les Collections Ethnographiques du Musee du Congo”, I. (Brussels, 1902- 06), page 150.

Amongst people who thus fail to perceive any sharp line of distinction between beasts and men it is not surprising to meet with the belief that human beings are directly descended from animals. Such a belief is often found among totemic tribes who imagine that their ancestors sprang from their totemic animals or plants; but it is by no means confined to them. Thus, to take instances, some of the Californian Indians, in whose mythology the coyote or prairie-wolf is a leading personage, think that they are descended from coyotes. At first they walked on all fours; then they began to have some members of the human body, one finger, one toe, one eye, one ear, and so on; then they got two fingers, two toes, two eyes, two ears, and so forth; till at last, progressing from period to period, they became perfect human beings. The loss of their tails, which they still deplore, was produced by the habit of sitting upright. (H.R. Schoolcraft, “Indian Tribes of the United States”, IV. (Philadelphia, 1856), pages 224 sq.; compare id. V. page 217. The descent of some, not all, Indians from coyotes is mentioned also by Friar Boscana, in (A. Robinson’s) “Life in California” (New York, 1846), page 299.) Similarly Darwin thought that “the tail has disappeared in man and the anthropomorphous apes, owing to the terminal portion having been injured by friction during a long lapse of time; the basal and embedded portion having been reduced and modified, so as to become suitable to the erect or semi-erect position.” (Charles Darwin, “The Descent of Man”, Second Edition (London, 1879), page 60.) The Turtle clam of the Iroquois think that they are descended from real mud turtles which used to live in a pool. One hot summer the pool dried up, and the mud turtles set out to find another. A very fat turtle, waddling after the rest in the heat, was much incommoded by the weight of his shell, till by a great effort he heaved it off altogether. After that he gradually developed into a man and became the progenitor of the Turtle clan. (E.A. Smith, “Myths of the Iroquois”, “Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology” (Washington, 1883), page 77.) The Crawfish band of the Choctaws are in like manner descended from real crawfish, which used to live under ground, only coming up occasionally through the mud to the surface. Once a party of Choctaws smoked them out, taught them the Choctaw language, taught them to walk on two legs, made them cut off their toe nails and pluck the hair from their bodies, after which they adopted them into the tribe. But the rest of their kindred, the crawfish, are crawfish under ground to this day. (Geo. Catlin, “North American Indians”4 (London, 1844), II. page 128.) The Osage Indians universally believed that they were descended from a male snail and a female beaver. A flood swept the snail down to the Missouri and left him high and dry on the bank, where the sun ripened him into a man. He met and married a beaver maid, and from the pair the tribe of the Osages is descended. For a long time these Indians retained a pious reverence for their animal ancestors and refrained from hunting beavers, because in killing a beaver they killed a brother of the Osages. But when white men came among them and offered high prices for beaver skins, the Osages yielded to the temptation and took the lives of their furry brethren. (Lewis and Clarke, “Travels to the Source of the Missouri River” (London, 1815), I. 12 (Vol. I. pages 44 sq. of the London reprint, 1905).) The Carp clan of the Ootawak Indians are descended from the eggs of a carp which had been deposited by the fish on the banks of a stream and warmed by the sun. (“Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses”, Nouvelle Edition, VI. (Paris, 1781), page 171.) The Crane clan of the Ojibways are sprung originally from a pair of cranes, which after long wanderings settled on the rapids at the outlet of Lake Superior, where they were changed by the Great Spirit into a man and woman. (L.H. Morgan, “Ancient Society” (London, 1877), page 180.) The members of two Omaha clans were originally buffaloes and lived, oddly enough, under water, which they splashed about, making it muddy. And at death all the members of these clans went back to their ancestors the buffaloes. So when one of them lay adying, his friends used to wrap him up in a buffalo skin with the hair outside and say to him, “You came hither from the animals and you are going back thither. Do not face this way again. When you go, continue walking. (J. Owen Dorsey, “Omaha Sociology”, “Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology” (Washington, 1884), pages 229, 233.) The Haida Indians of Queen Charlotte Islands believe that long ago the raven, who is the chief figure in the mythology of North-West America, took a cockle from the beach and married it; the cockle gave birth to a female child, whom the raven took to wife, and from their union the Indians were produced. (G.M. Dawson, “Report on the Queen Charlotte Islands” (Montreal, 1880), pages 149B sq. (“Geological Survey of Canada”); F. Poole, “Queen Charlotte Islands”, page 136.) The Delaware Indians called the rattle-snake their grandfather and would on no account destroy one of these reptiles, believing that were they to do so the whole race of rattle-snakes would rise up and bite them. Under the influence of the white man, however, their respect for their grandfather the rattle-snake gradually died away, till at last they killed him without compunction or ceremony whenever they met him. The writer who records the old custom observes that he had often reflected on the curious connection which appears to subsist in the mind of an Indian between man and the brute creation; “all animated nature,” says he, “in whatever degree, is in their eyes a great whole, from which they have not yet ventured to separate themselves.” (Rev. John Heckewelder, “An Account of the History, Manners, and Customs, of the Indian Nations, who once inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighbouring States”, “Transactions of the Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society”, I. (Philadelphia, 1819), pages 245, 247, 248.)

Some of the Indians of Peru boasted of being descended from the puma or American lion; hence they adored the lion as a god and appeared at festivals like Hercules dressed in the skins of lions with the heads of the beasts fixed over their own. Others claimed to be sprung from condors and attired themselves in great black and white wings, like that enormous bird. (Garcilasso de la Vega, “First Part of the Royal Commentaries of the Yncas”, Vol. I. page 323, Vol. II. page 156 (Markham’s translation).) The Wanika of East Africa look upon the hyaena as one of their ancestors or as associated in some way with their origin and destiny. The death of a hyaena is mourned by the whole people, and the greatest funeral ceremonies which they perform are performed for this brute. The wake held over a chief is as nothing compared to the wake held over a hyaena; one tribe only mourns the death of its chief, but all the tribes unite to celebrate the obsequies of a hyaena. (Charles New, “Life, Wanderings, and Labours in Eastern Africa” (London, 1873) page 122.) Some Malagasy families claim to be descended from the babacoote (Lichanotus brevicaudatus), a large lemur of grave appearance and staid demeanour, which lives in the depth of the forest. When they find one of these creatures dead, his human descendants bury it solemnly, digging a grave for it, wrapping it in a shroud, and weeping and lamenting over its carcase. A doctor who had shot a babacoote was accused by the inhabitants of a Betsimisaraka village of having killed “one of their grandfathers in the forest,” and to appease their indignation he had to promise not to skin the animal in the village but in a solitary place where nobody could see him. (Father Abinal, “Croyances fabuleuses des Malgaches”, “Les Missions Catholiques”, XII. (1880), page 526; G.H. Smith, “Some Betsimisaraka superstitions”, “The Antananarivo Annual and Madagascar Magazine”, No. 10 (Antananarivo, 1886), page 239; H.W. Little, “Madagascar, its History and People” (London, 1884), pages 321 sq; A. van Gennep, “Tabou et Totemisme a Madagascar” (Paris, 1904), pages 214 sqq.) Many of the Betsimisaraka believe that the curious nocturnal animal called the aye-aye (Cheiromys madagascariensis) “is the embodiment of their forefathers, and hence will not touch it, much less do it an injury. It is said that when one is discovered dead in the forest, these people make a tomb for it and bury it with all the forms of a funeral. They think that if they attempt to entrap it, they will surely die in consequence.” (G.A. Shaw, “The Aye-aye”, “Antananarivo Annual and Madagascar Magazine”, Vol. II. (Antananarivo, 1896), pages 201, 203 (Reprint of the Second four Numbers). Compare A. van Gennep, “Tabou et Totemisme a Madagascar”, pages 223 sq.) Some Malagasy tribes believe themselves descended from crocodiles and accordingly they deem the formidable reptiles their brothers. If one of these scaly brothers so far forgets the ties of kinship as to devour a man, the chief of the tribe, or in his absence an old man familiar with the tribal customs, repairs at the head of the people to the edge of the water, and summons the family of the culprit to deliver him up to the arm of justice. A hook is then baited and cast into the river or lake. Next day the guilty brother or one of his family is dragged ashore, formally tried, sentenced to death, and executed. The claims of justice being thus satisfied, the dead animal is lamented and buried like a kinsman; a mound is raised over his grave and a stone marks the place of his head. (Father Abinal, “Croyances fabuleuses des Malgaches”, “Les Missions Catholiques”, XII. (1880), page 527; A. van Gennep, “Tabou et Totemisme a Madagascar”, pages 281 sq.)

Amongst the Tshi-speaking tribes of the Gold Coast in West Africa the Horse-mackerel family traces its descent from a real horse-mackerel whom an ancestor of theirs once took to wife. She lived with him happily in human shape on shore till one day a second wife, whom the man had married, cruelly taunted her with being nothing but a fish. That hurt her so much that bidding her husband farewell she returned to her old home in the sea, with her youngest child in her arms, and never came back again. But ever since the Horse-mackerel people have refrained from eating horse-mackerels, because the lost wife and mother was a fish of that sort. (A.B. Ellis, “The Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast of West Africa” (London, 1887), pages 208-11. A similar tale is told by another fish family who abstain from eating the fish (appei) from which they take their name (A.B. Ellis op. cit. pages 211 sq.).) Some of the Land Dyaks of Borneo tell a similar tale to explain a similar custom. “There is a fish which is taken in their rivers called a puttin, which they would on no account touch, under the idea that if they did they would be eating their relations. The tradition respecting it is, that a solitary old man went out fishing and caught a puttin, which he dragged out of the water and laid down in his boat. On turning round, he found it had changed into a very pretty little girl. Conceiving the idea she would make, what he had long wished for, a charming wife for his son, he took her home and educated her until she was fit to be married. She consented to be the son’s wife cautioning her husband to use her well. Some time after their marriage, however, being out of temper, he struck her, when she screamed, and rushed away into the water; but not without leaving behind her a beautiful daughter, who became afterwards the mother of the race.” (The Lord Bishop of Labuan, “On the Wild Tribes of the North-West Coast of Borneo”, “Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London”, New Series II. (London, 1863), pages 26 sq. Such stories conform to a well-known type which may be called the Swan-Maiden type of story, or Beauty and the Beast, or Cupid and Psyche. The occurrence of stories of this type among totemic peoples, such as the Tshi-speaking negroes of the Gold Coast, who tell them to explain their totemic taboos, suggests that all such tales may have originated in totemism. I shall deal with this question elsewhere.)

Members of a clan in Mandailing, on the west coast of Sumatra, assert that they are descended from a tiger, and at the present day, when a tiger is shot, the women of the clan are bound to offer betel to the dead beast. When members of this clan come upon the tracks of a tiger, they must, as a mark of homage, enclose them with three little sticks. Further, it is believed that the tiger will not attack or lacerate his kinsmen, the members of the clan. (H. Ris, “De Onderafdeeling Klein Mandailing Oeloe en Pahantan en hare Bevolking met uitzondering van de Oeloes”, “Bijdragen tot de Tall- Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlansch-Indie, XLVI. (1896), page 473.) The Battas of Central Sumatra are divided into a number of clans which have for their totems white buffaloes, goats, wild turtle-doves, dogs, cats, apes, tigers, and so forth; and one of the explanations which they give of their totems is that these creatures were their ancestors, and that their own souls after death can transmigrate into the animals. (J.B. Neumann, “Het Pane en Bila-stroomgebied op het eiland Sumatra”, “Tijdschrift van het Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap”, Tweede Serie, III. Afdeeling, Meer uitgebreide Artikelen, No. 2 (Amsterdam, 1886), pages 311 sq.; id. ib. Tweede Serie, IV. Afdeeling, Meer uitgebreide Artikelen, No. 1 (Amsterdam, 1887), pages 8 sq.) In Amboyna and the neighbouring islands the inhabitants of some villages aver that they are descended from trees, such as the Capellenia moluccana, which had been fertilised by the Pandion Haliaetus. Others claim to be sprung from pigs, octopuses, crocodiles, sharks, and eels. People will not burn the wood of the trees from which they trace their descent, nor eat the flesh of the animals which they regard as their ancestors. Sicknesses of all sorts are believed to result from disregarding these taboos. (J.G.F. Riedel, “De sluik- en kroesharige rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua” (The Hague, 1886), pages 32, 61; G.W.W.C. Baron van Hoevell, “Ambon en meer bepaaldelijk de Oeliasers” (Dordrecht, 1875), page 152.) Similarly in Ceram persons who think they are descended from crocodiles, serpents, iguanas, and sharks will not eat the flesh of these animals. (J.G.F. Riedel op. cit. page 122.) Many other peoples of the Molucca Islands entertain similar beliefs and observe similar taboos. (J.G.F. Riedel “De sluik- en kroesharige rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua” (The Hague, 1886), pages 253, 334, 341, 348, 412, 414, 432.) Again, in Ponape, one of the Caroline Islands, “The different families suppose themselves to stand in a certain relation to animals, and especially to fishes, and believe in their descent from them. They actually name these animals ‘mothers’; the creatures are sacred to the family and may not be injured. Great dances, accompanied with the offering of prayers, are performed in their honour. Any person who killed such an animal would expose himself to contempt and punishment, certainly also to the vengeance of the insulted deity.” Blindness is commonly supposed to be the consequence of such a sacrilege. (Dr Hahl, “Mittheilungen uber Sitten und rechtliche Verhaltnisse auf Ponape”, “Ethnologisches Notizblatt”, Vol. II. Heft 2 (Berlin, 1901), page 10.)

Some of the aborigines of Western Australia believe that their ancestors were swans, ducks, or various other species of water-fowl before they were transformed into men. (Captain G. Grey, “A Vocabulary of the Dialects of South Western Australia”, Second Edition (London, 1840), pages 29, 37, 61, 63, 66, 71.) The Dieri tribe of Central Australia, who are divided into totemic clans, explain their origin by the following legend. They say that in the beginning the earth opened in the midst of Perigundi Lake, and the totems (murdus or madas) came trooping out one after the other. Out came the crow, and the shell parakeet, and the emu, and all the rest. Being as yet imperfectly formed and without members or organs of sense, they laid themselves down on the sandhills which surrounded the lake then just as they do now. It was a bright day and the totems lay basking in the sunshine, till at last, refreshed and invigorated by it, they stood up as human beings and dispersed in all directions. That is why people of the same totem are now scattered all over the country. You may still see the island in the lake out of which the totems came trooping long ago. (A.W. Howitt, “Native Tribes of South-East Australia” (London, 1904), pages 476, 779 sq.) Another Dieri legend relates how Paralina, one of the Mura-Muras or mythical predecessors of the Dieri, perfected mankind. He was out hunting kangaroos, when he saw four incomplete beings cowering together. So he went up to them, smoothed their bodies, stretched out their limbs, slit up their fingers and toes, formed their mouths, noses, and eyes, stuck ears on them, and blew into their ears in order that they might hear. Having perfected their organs and so produced mankind out of these rudimentary beings, he went about making men everywhere. (A.W. Howitt op. cit., pages 476, 780 sq.) Yet another Dieri tradition sets forth how the Mura-Mura produced the race of man out of a species of small black lizards, which may still be met with under dry bark. To do this he divided the feet of the lizards into fingers and toes, and, applying his forefinger to the middle of their faces, created a nose; likewise he gave them human eyes, mouths and ears. He next set one of them upright, but it fell down again because of its tail; so he cut off its tail and the lizard then walked on its hind legs. That is the origin of mankind. (S. Gason, “The Manners and Customs of the Dieyerie tribe of Australian Aborigines”, “Native Tribes of South Australia” (Adelaide, 1879), page 260. This writer fell into the mistake of regarding the Mura-Mura (Mooramoora) as a Good-Spirit instead of as one of the mythical but more or less human predecessors of the Dieri in the country. See A.W. Howitt, “Native Tribes of South-East Australia”, pages 475 sqq.)

The Arunta tribe of Central Australia similarly tell how in the beginning mankind was developed out of various rudimentary forms of animal life. They say that in those days two beings called Ungambikula, that is, “out of nothing,” or “self-existing,” dwelt in the western sky. From their lofty abode they could see, far away to the east, a number of inapertwa creatures, that is, rudimentary human beings or incomplete men, whom it was their mission to make into real men and women. For at that time there were no real men and women; the rudimentary creatures (inapertwa) were of various shapes and dwelt in groups along the shore of the salt water which covered the country. These embryos, as we may call them, had no distinct limbs or organs of sight, hearing, and smell; they did not eat food, and they presented the appearance of human beings all doubled up into a rounded mass, in which only the outline of the different parts of the body could be vaguely perceived. Coming down from their home in the western sky, armed with great stone knives, the Ungambikula took hold of the embryos, one after the other. First of all they released the arms from the bodies, then making four clefts at the end of each arm they fashioned hands and fingers; afterwards legs, feet, and toes were added in the same way. The figure could now stand; a nose was then moulded and the nostrils bored with the fingers. A cut with the knife made the mouth, which was pulled open several times to render it flexible. A slit on each side of the face separated the upper and lower eye-lids, disclosing the eyes, which already existed behind them; and a few strokes more completed the body. Thus out of the rudimentary creatures were formed men and women. These rudimentary creatures or embryos, we are told, “were in reality stages in the transformation of various animals and plants into human beings, and thus they were naturally, when made into human beings, intimately associated with the particular animal or plant, as the case may be, of which they were the transformations–in other words, each individual of necessity belonged to a totem, the name of which was of course that of the animal or plant of which he or she was a transformation.” However, it is not said that all the totemic clans of the Arunta were thus developed; no such tradition, for example, is told to explain the origin of the important Witchetty Grub clan. The clans which are positively known, or at least said, to have originated out of embryos in the way described are the Plum Tree, the Grass Seed, the Large Lizard, the Small Lizard, the Alexandra Parakeet, and the Small Rat clans. When the Ungambikula had thus fashioned people of these totems, they circumcised them all, except the Plum Tree men, by means of a fire-stick. After that, having done the work of creation or evolution, the Ungambikula turned themselves into little lizards which bear a name meaning “snappers-up of flies.” (Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen, “Native Tribes of Central Australia (London, 1899), pages 388 sq.; compare id., “Northern Tribes of Central Australia” (London, 1904), page 150.)

This Arunta tradition of the origin of man, as Messrs Spencer and Gillen, who have recorded it, justly observe, “is of considerable interest; it is in the first place evidently a crude attempt to describe the origin of human beings out of non-human creatures who were of various forms; some of them were representatives of animals, others of plants, but in all cases they are to be regarded as intermediate stages in the transition of an animal or plant ancestor into a human individual who bore its name as that of his or her totem.” (Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen, “Native Tribes of Central Australia”, pages 391 sq.) In a sense these speculations of the Arunta on their own origin may be said to combine the theory of creation with the theory of evolution; for while they represent men as developed out of much simpler forms of life, they at the same time assume that this development was effected by the agency of two powerful beings, whom so far we may call creators. It is well known that at a far higher stage of culture a crude form of the evolutionary hypothesis was propounded by the Greek philosopher Empedocles. He imagined that shapeless lumps of earth and water, thrown up by the subterranean fires, developed into monstrous animals, bulls with the heads of men, men with the heads of bulls, and so forth; till at last, these hybrid forms being gradually eliminated, the various existing species of animals and men were evolved. (E. Zeller, “Die Philosophie der Griechen”, I.4 (Leipsic, 1876), pages 718 sq.; H. Ritter et L. Preller, “Historia Philosophiae Graecae et Romanae ex fontium locis contexta”5, pages 102 sq. H. Diels, “Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker”2, I. (Berlin, 1906), pages 190 sqq. Compare Lucretius “De rerum natura”, V. 837 sqq.) The theory of the civilised Greek of Sicily may be set beside the similar theory of the savage Arunta of Central Australia. Both represent gropings of the human mind in the dark abyss of the past; both were in a measure grotesque anticipations of the modern theory of evolution.

In this essay I have made no attempt to illustrate all the many various and divergent views which primitive man has taken of his own origin. I have confined myself to collecting examples of two radically different views, which may be distinguished as the theory of creation and the theory of evolution. According to the one, man was fashioned in his existing shape by a god or other powerful being; according to the other he was evolved by a natural process out of lower forms of animal life. Roughly speaking, these two theories still divide the civilised world between them. The partisans of each can appeal in support of their view to a large consensus of opinion; and if truth were to be decided by weighing the one consensus against the other, with “Genesis” in the one scale and “The Origin of Species” in the other, it might perhaps be found, when the scales were finally trimmed, that the balance hung very even between creation and evolution.


Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in the University of Cambridge.

The publication of “The Origin of Species” ushered in a new era in the study of Embryology. Whereas, before the year 1859 the facts of anatomy and development were loosely held together by the theory of types, which owed its origin to the great anatomists of the preceding generation, to Cuvier, L. Agassiz, J. Muller, and R. Owen, they were now combined together into one organic whole by the theory of descent and by the hypothesis of recapitulation which was deduced from that theory. The view (First clearly enunciated by Fritz Muller in his well-known work, “Fur Darwin”, Leipzig, 1864; (English Edition, “Facts for Darwin”, 1869).) that a knowledge of embryonic and larval histories would lay bare the secrets of race-history and enable the course of evolution to be traced, and so lead to the discovery of the natural system of classification, gave a powerful stimulus to morphological study in general and to embryological investigation in particular. In Darwin’s words: “Embryology rises greatly in interest, when we look at the embryo as a picture, more or less obscured, of the progenitor, either in its adult or larval state, of all the members of the same great class.” (“Origin” (6th edition), page 396.) In the period under consideration the output of embryological work has been enormous. No group of the animal kingdom has escaped exhaustive examination and no effort has been spared to obtain the embryos of isolated and out of the way forms, the development of which might have an important bearing upon questions of phylogeny and classification. Marine zoological stations have been established, expeditions have been sent to distant countries, and the methods of investigation have been greatly improved. The result of this activity has been that the main features of the developmental history of all the most important animals are now known and the curiosity as to developmental processes, so greatly excited by the promulgation of the Darwinian theory, has to a considerable extent been satisfied.

To what extent have the results of this vast activity fulfilled the expectations of the workers who have achieved them? The Darwin centenary is a fitting moment at which to take stock of our position. In this inquiry we shall leave out of consideration the immense and intensely interesting additions to our knowledge of Natural History. These may be said to constitute a capital fund upon which philosophers, poets and men of science will draw for many generations. The interest of Natural History existed long before Darwinian evolution was thought of and will endure without any reference to philosophic speculations. She is a mistress in whose face are beauties and in whose arms are delights elsewhere unattainable. She is and always has been pursued for her own sake without any reference to philosophy, science, or utility.

Darwin’s own views of the bearing of the facts of embryology upon questions of wide scientific interest are perfectly clear. He writes (“Origin” (6th edition), page 395.):

“On the other hand it is highly probable that with many animals the embryonic or larval stages show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state. In the great class of the Crustacea, forms wonderfully distinct from each other, namely, suctorial parasites, cirripedes, entomostraca, and even the malacostraca, appear at first as larvae under the nauplius-form; and as these larvae live and feed in the open sea, and are not adapted for any peculiar habits of life, and from other reasons assigned by Fritz Muller, it is probable that at some very remote period an independent adult animal, resembling the Nauplius, existed, and subsequently produced, along several divergent lines of descent, the above-named great Crustacean groups. So again it is probable, from what we know of the embryos of mammals, birds, fishes, and reptiles, that these animals are the modified descendants of some ancient progenitor, which was furnished in its adult state with branchiae, a swim- bladder, four fin-like limbs, and a long tail, all fitted for an aquatic life.

“As all the organic beings, extinct and recent, which have ever lived, can be arranged within a few great classes; and as all within each class have, according to our theory, been connected together by fine gradations, the best, and, if our collections were nearly perfect, the only possible arrangement, would be genealogical; descent being the hidden bond of connexion which naturalists have been seeking under the term of the Natural System. On this view we can understand how it is that, in the eyes of most naturalists, the structure of the embryo is even more important for classification than that of the adult. In two or more groups of animals, however much they may differ from each other in structure and habits in their adult condition, if they pass through closely similar embryonic stages, we may feel assured that they all are descended from one parent- form, and are therefore closely related. Thus, community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent; but dissimilarity in embryonic development does not prove discommunity of descent, for in one of two groups the developmental stages may have been suppressed, or may have been so greatly modified through adaptation to new habits of life, as to be no longer recognisable. Even in groups, in which the adults have been modified to an extreme degree, community of origin is often revealed by the structure of the larvae; we have seen, for instance, that cirripedes, though externally so like shell-fish, are at once known by their larvae to belong to the great class of crustaceans. As the embryo often shows us more or less plainly the structure of the less modified and ancient progenitor of the group, we can see why ancient and extinct forms so often resemble in their adult state the embryos of existing species of the same class. Agassiz believes this to be a universal law of nature; and we may hope hereafter to see the law proved true. It can, however, be proved true only in those cases in which the ancient state of the progenitor of the group has not been wholly obliterated, either by successive variations having supervened at a very early period of growth, or by such variations having been inherited at an earlier stage than that at which they first appeared. It should also be borne in mind, that the law may be true, but yet, owing to the geological record not extending far enough back in time, may remain for a long period, or for ever, incapable of demonstration. The law will not strictly hold good in those cases in which an ancient form became adapted in its larval state to some special line of life, and transmitted the same larval state to a whole group of descendants; for such larvae will not resemble any still more ancient form in its adult state.”

As this passage shows, Darwin held that embryology was of interest because of the light it seems to throw upon ancestral history (phylogeny) and because of the help it would give in enabling us to arrive at a natural system of classification. With regard to the latter point, he quotes with approval the opinion that “the structure of the embryo is even more important for classification than that of the adult.” What justification is there for this view? The phase of life chosen for the ordinary anatomical and physiological studies, namely, the adult phase, is merely one of the large number of stages of structure through which the organism passes. By far the greater number of these are included in what is specially called the developmental or (if we include larvae with embryos) embryonic period, for the developmental changes are more numerous and take place with greater rapidity at the beginning of life than in its later periods. As each of these stages is equal in value, for our present purpose, to the adult phase, it clearly follows that if there is anything in the view that the anatomical study of organisms is of importance in determining their mutual relations, the study of the organism in its various embryonic (and larval) stages must have a greater importance than the study of the single and arbitrarily selected stage of life called the adult.

But a deeper reason than this has been assigned for the importance of embryology in classification. It has been asserted, and is implied by Darwin in the passage quoted, that the ancestral history is repeated in a condensed form in the embryonic, and that a study of the latter enables us to form a picture of the stages of structure through which the organism has passed in its evolution. It enables us on this view to reconstruct the pedigrees of animals and so to form a genealogical tree which shall be the true expression of their natural relations.

The real question which we have to consider is to what extent the embryological studies of the last 50 years have confirmed or rendered probable this “theory of recapitulation.” In the first place it must be noted that the recapitulation theory is itself a deduction from the theory of evolution. The facts of embryology, particularly of vertebrate embryology, and of larval history receive, it is argued, an explanation on the view that the successive stages of development are, on the whole, records of adult stages of structure which the species has passed through in its evolution. Whether this statement will bear a critical verbal examination I will not now pause to inquire, for it is more important to determine whether any independent facts can be alleged in favour of the theory. If it could be shown, as was stated to be the case by L. Agassiz, that ancient and extinct forms of life present features of structure now only found in embryos, we should have a body of facts of the greatest importance in the present discussion. But as Huxley (See Huxley’s “Scientific Memoirs”, London, 1898, Vol. I. page 303: “There is no real parallel between the successive forms assumed in the development of the life of the individual at present, and those which have appeared at different epochs in the past.” See also his Address to the Geological Society of London (1862) ‘On the Palaeontological Evidence of Evolution’, ibid. Vol. II. page 512.) has shown and as the whole course of palaeontological and embryological investigation has demonstrated, no such statement can be made. The extinct forms of life are very similar to those now existing and there is nothing specially embryonic about them. So that the facts, as we know them, lend no support to theory.

But there is another class of facts which have been alleged in favour of the theory, viz. the facts which have been included in the generalisation known as the Law of v. Baer. The law asserts that embryos of different species of animals of the same group are more alike than the adults and that, the younger the embryo, the greater are the resemblances. If this law could be established it would undoubtedly be a strong argument in favour of the “recapitulation” explanation of the facts of embryology. But its truth has been seriously disputed. If it were true we should expect to find that the embryos of closely similar species would be indistinguishable from one another, but this is notoriously not the case. It is more difficult to meet the assertion when it is made in the form given above, for here we are dealing with matters of opinion. For instance, no one would deny that the embryo of a dogfish is different from the embryo of a rabbit, but there is room for difference of opinion when it is asserted that the difference is less than the difference between an adult dogfish and an adult rabbit. It would be perfectly true to say that the differences between the embryos concern other organs more than do the