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Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1–65 | Cite as

Unifying biology: The evolutionary synthesis and evolutionary biology

  • V. B. Smocovitis
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Keywords

Unify Biology Evolutionary Synthesis 
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References

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    Just when biology emerged as legitimate and autonomous science has been a contentious issue for historians of biology. Though the term was coined in the early years of the nineteenth century, anautonomous science of life, I will argue, was not as strongly defensible until evolution was articulated. Only with evolution, which defied reduction to physics and chemistry because of its metaphysical components, at the same time that itintroduced a causo-mechanical agent for evolutionary change, could biology claim autonomy. This took place in Thomas Henry Huxley's England, and most likely in the thought of Huxley himself, who adopted the term “evolution.” Huxley had the following to say on the emergence of biology: “the conscious attempt to construct a complete science of Biology hardly dates further back than Treviranus and Lamarck, at the beginning of this century, while it has received its strongest impulse, in our own day, from Darwin” (The Crayfish: An Introduction to the Study of Zoology, 4th ed. [London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, 1884], p. 4). Huxley may be viewed as a chief discipline builder for biology. My argument is supported by the recent work of Joseph Caron, “‘Biology’ in the Life Sciences: A Historiographical Cotribution,”Hist. Sci., 26 (1988), 223–268; see also Gerald Geison,Michael Foster and the Cambridge School of Physiology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978). One could make a strong argument that Haeckel was as instrumental to biological discipline building in the German context.Google Scholar
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    Hamilton Cravens has pointed out that the years 1920–50 also witnessed movements to support interdisciplinary scholarship in America. During this period institutional and intellectual networks were assembled to lend an increasing feeling of unity. See HamiltonCravens, “Behaviourism Revisited: Developmental Science, the Maturation Theory, and the Biological Basis of the Human Mind, 1920s–1950s,” inThe American Expansion of Biology, ed. Keith R.Benson, JaneMaienschein, and RonaldRainger (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991), pp. 133–163.Google Scholar
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    Belief in the unity of knowledge deeply structures Western thought. Plato discusses the unity of knowledge in hisTimaeus; seeTimaeus and Critias, trans. Desmond Lee (London: Penguin Books, 1965).Google Scholar
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    Comte was the thinker most responsible for promulgating the notion of a positivistic ordering of knowledge. For Comte, sociology—the science of society-emerging from physiology (biology), was to be the final science. See hisCours de philosophie positive, published in six volumes (Paris: Bachelier, 1830–42). Joseph Caron in his “‘Biology’ in the Life Sciences” (above, n. 1) introduces a discussion of Comte's use of the term biology and its close relation to physiology.Google Scholar
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    Representations of the tree of knowledge were to proliferate in the Enlightenment. One of the most famous is included in Diderot and d'Alembert'sEncyclopédie.Google Scholar
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    In an essay entitled “Ernst Mach and the Unity of Science,” Philipp Frank summarized Mach's position on the unity of science in the following phrase: “He [Mach] proclaime...the unification of science by means of the elimination of metaphysics.” Frank continued: “It is just this sentence that is the clue to the understanding of Mach's doctrine, of his papers, which seem to deal with so many subjects and such different fields of science.... And it is just this program of Mach that we may adopt as the program of our ‘Unity of Science Movement,’ of our Congresses and of our Encyclopedia.” Frank's essay was published in the official journal for the unity of science,Erkenntnis, and was later translated and republished in a collection of his essays. This quotation is included in Robert S.Cohen and Raymond J.Seeger, eds.,Ernst Mach: Physicist and Philosopher, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 6 (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1970), pp. 235–244.Google Scholar
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    Woodger's role in the development of logical empiricism was recognized by Joergensen: see Joergen Joergense, “The Development of Logical Empiricism,” inFoundations of the Unity of Science, ed. Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, and Charles Morris (1970), II. After writing hisBiological Principles, Woodger completed another book in 1937 on a related theme,Axiomatic Method in Biology; he also contributed a monograph for theEncyclopedia of Unified Sciences with the title,The Technique of Theory Construction. Woodger was to serve on the advisory committee for theFoundations of the Unity of Science: Toward an International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. I am indebted to Gerald Holton for directing me to this literature on Woodger and the Unity of Science Movement.Google Scholar
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    A similar threat of disciplinary subsumption for the social sciences was of great concern to Otto Neurath as well. For a discussion of Neurath's views on this problem see DaniloZolo,Reflexive Epistemology: The Philosophical Legacy of Otto Neurath (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989), esp. chap. 5, “The Unity of Science as a Historicosociological Goal: From the Primacy of Physics to the Epistemological Priority of Sociology.”Google Scholar
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    PaulEdwards, ed.,The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1967) pp. 310–318. The entry for biology was written by Morton O. Beckner; the assessment of Woodger'sBiological Principles at the conclusion of the entry reads as follows: “An influential and classical source of subsequent work in the philosophy of biology, partially Whiteheadian.” Beckner also cited J. S. Haldane'sPhilosophical Basis of Biology, along with sources from authors like E. S. Russell, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, and Ernest Nagel.Google Scholar
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    J. S.Haldane,The Philosophical Basis of Biology (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931). In a supplemental section, written after the lectures that gave rise to his book, Haldane reviewed three books that had appeared at the same time, all of which discussed the fundamental principles of biology: Woodger'sBiological Principles, E. S. Russell'sInterpretation of Development and Heredity, and L. Hogben'sNature of Living Matter. While he disagreed mildly with Russell for upholding what he viewed as a standard “organismal” view of life, Haldane launched a full-blown attack against Hogben, who represented the strictly mechanistic conception of life that Haldane wished to avoid: “the foundations of this interpretation were entirely rotten. Moreover, physics was apparently almost entirely mechanistic, whereas fundamental mechanistic interpretation is now acknowledged to be impossible in physics. Professor Hogben stands bravely on a burning deck whence others have fled or are preparing to flee. We cannot but admire his courage” (pp. 164–165). For Haldane, the tension between vitalism and mechanism was remedied through a “holistic” view of life that emerged from the interaction of organism with environment.Google Scholar
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    This quotation, found on p. 33 of Haldane'sPhilosophical Basis of Biology, is taken from an address of 1908 reprinted in 1919 inThe New Physiology. Haldane was also concerned to preserve distinctness between biology and psychology: “In discussing the fundamental axiom of biology I have endeavoured to distinguish biology from the physical sciences and to illustrate the distinction. But the existence of conscious behaviour makes it necessary also to distinguish biology from psychology, the science, or rather great group of sciences or departments of knowledge, dealing with our experience when it is regarded as actually perceived and an expression of voluntary action” (Haladane,Philosophical Basis, p. 95). The relationship between biology and psychology was not as great a concern to biologists, since the threat of disciplinary engulfment throught reduction was not as great a problem. Psychologists were, however, concerned with a disciplinary reduction to biology.Google Scholar
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    Hans Driesch was another such biologist. In 1934 Driesch faced members of the Vienna Circle at the International Congress in Prague. Adhering to the strongest possible vitalistic philosophy, Driesch came under heavy fire from the Vienna Circle because he supported nationalist philosophy and its quest for the “World Spirit” with the worst possible (in the Vienna Circle's view) brands of science. Peter Galison gives an account of how the Vienna Circle reacted to Driesch's plenary address in his Aufbau/Bauhaus article; I thank Galison for pointing this out to me. The antithesis of the Drieschian vitalistic position is best exemplified by Jacques Loeb. For the “architects” of the evolutionary synthesis, Loeb-the most extreme of mechanists-would betoo mechanistic and reductionistic. A middle road between the two positions would prove to be the most effective to give legitimacy and autonomy to the biological sciences.Google Scholar
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    Huxley wrote: “Every science arrives at a stage during which it makes its main broad contributions to practical human affairs. Biology is clearly on the verge of such a phase, while it is already over for physics and chemistry, and psychology and sociology cannot hope to reach it for perhaps another century” (JulianHuxley), “Biology and Physical Environment,” inWhat Dare I Think? The Challenge of Modern Science to Human Action and Belief (New York: Harper and Row, 1931], p. 4).Google Scholar
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    W. M.Wheeler,Essays in Philosophic Biology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939). Wheeler pointed out that the disunity in the biological sciences was indicative of the rich activity in those sciences.Google Scholar
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    H. S.Jennings, “Some Implications of Emergent Evolution,”Science, 65 (1927), 19–25. William Morton Wheeler was to also adopt a version of emergent evolution.Google Scholar
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    Woodger cites many of his biological contemporaries. Interestingly enough, Woodger had been reading and citing ArthurDendy,Outlines of Evolutionary Biology (New York: Appleton, 1912); this book, which has been viewed as a minor text in the history of biology, may well prove to have been more influential to a wider audience.Google Scholar
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    See GairdnerMoment,General Biology for Colleges (New York: Appleton-Century, 1942). The 1942 edition, compared to the 1950 (postsynthesis) edition, reveals the more secure location of evolution as a legitimate area of scientific inquiry.Google Scholar
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    The movements were simultaneous with a resurgence of right-wing ideology. Henri Bergson — the most prominent philosopher in the early years of the twentieth century — was heavily supported by right-wing groups as well as the Catholic church in France. Bergson and Bergsonianism were part of a larger “revolt from mechanism” that had accompanied the rise of positivistic philosophy and the revival of the occult in France. See R. C.Grogin,The Bergsonian Controversy in France, 1900–1914 (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1988), for a discussion of the cultural milieu surrounding Bergson and Bergsonianism. The logical positivists and the “architects” of the evolutionary synthesis may well be viewed as silencing Bergson. Fisher, Haldane, and especially Huxley, whose early book,The Stream of Life, espoused a moderate Bergsonianism, had all been responding to Bergson in the 1920s; see Julian Huxley,The Stream of Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1927).Google Scholar
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    Thomson had been a proponent of Bergson. He was also to support Hans Driesch for the Gifford Lectureship.Google Scholar
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    See J. ArthurThomson and PatrickGeddes,Life: Outlines of General Biology, 2 vols. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1931). A 1925 edition of an earlier book by Geddes and Thomson entitledBiology had been cited by Woodger in hisBiological Principles. Thomson and Geddes recommended Whitehead for further readings under the heading “Biology and Philosophy”; in the addendum to the second volume (p. 1499), they recommended Woodger'sBiological Principles for further reading. Thomson and Geddes had explicitly discussed the orderly arrangement of the sciences. While each of the sciences rested on a base of other sciences, the most universal of which was logic, each successive science “retained its own distinctiveness” through a “fresh Emergence.” They singled out sixteen fields on their “Graphic,” each of which deserved full investigation for its “own sake, and for its services to others”; in their view, “The Unity of Science” was thus to be “realized” (see the “Explanation of ‘Sciences in General’ End-Paper”).Google Scholar
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    I am using the term “positivist” here to denote positivistic philosophy preceding the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle.Google Scholar
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    Course catalogues at key American institutions like Harvard University during the years 1897–1967 are a powerful indicator of the history of evolution in America. The first course at Harvard with asole emphasis on evolution was given in 1908–9. Entitled Zoology 20d,Investigation of the Factors Involved in Evolution, this was not a regular course of instruction, but a “Course of Research.” It was given by W. E. Castle at the Bussey Institution, and was offered for only one year. Nearly a twenty-year interval divided this course from the next course with asole emphasis on evolution: Biology 112a,Problems of Evolution, which was offered in the academic year 1937–38. This course was intended primarily for graduate students and was taught by Edward Murray East, a geneticist at the Bussey Institution. East died in 1938, and the course was not offered further. Ernst Mayr taught Biology 147 (later changed to 247),Systematics and Evolution, in 1958.Google Scholar
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    ErikNordenskiöld,The History of Biology (New York: Knopf, 1928).Google Scholar
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    TheAmerican Naturalist had been privately owned by Jacques Cattell Press. In the mid-1930s the journal began to accommodate the market for not only experimental sciences like genetics but also sociology and psychology, and thus devoted less and less space to traditional naturalist articles. The move to found a society for the study of evolution was part of an increasing need that naturalists-systematists felt for creating an information service, with a journal to publish work that would otherwise have gone to theAmerican Naturalist. I am at present preparing an article on the founding of the Society for the Study of Evolution based on documents recently deposited at the American Philosophical Society, which will discuss the status of theAmerican Naturalist. The documents indicate an increasing dissatisfaction with existing journals in the 1930s. My perspective has been reinforced by Ernst Mayr (letters from Ernst Mayr to author, February 27, 1989, and August 15, 1989).Google Scholar
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    Both Ernst Mayr and G. Ledyard Stebbins were unable to obtain funds from the Rockefeller (letter from Ernst Mayr to author, August 15, 1989; letter from G. Ledyard Stebbins to author, May 4, 1989). This was to become even more problematic after the “discovery” of DNA. See Mayr's impassioned plea to continue the support of “classical” biology in the face of the “new” biology. ErnstMayr, “The New versus the Classical in Science,”Science, 141 (1963), 765.Google Scholar
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    T. H.Morgan,The Scientific Basis of Evolution (New York: W. W. Norton), 1932. For a discussion of the development of Morgan's views on evolution, see G. E. Allen, “Thomas Hunt Morgan and the Problem of Natural Selection,”J. Hist. Biol., 1 (1968), 113–139; idem,Thomas Hunt Morgan: The Man and His Science (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
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    Writing about the state of Darwinism at the turn of the century, Vernon L. Kellogg explicitly stated that Darwinism was undergoing methodological scrutiny and was coming under fire from “German biologists” and experimental biology itself. In his introductory discussion of the “Death-Bed of Darwinism” he wrote: “there is going on a most careful re-examination or scrutiny of the theories connected with organic evolution, resulting in much destructive criticism of certain long-cherished and widely held beliefs, and at the same time there are being developed and almost feverishly driven forward certain fascinating and fundamentally important new lines, employing new methods, of biological investigation. Conspicuous among these new kinds of work are the statistical or quantitative study of variations and that most alluring work variously called developmental mechanics, experimental morphology, experimental physiology of development, or, most suitably of all because most comprehensively, experimental biology.” Kellogg continued: “Now this combination of destructive critical activity and active constructive experimental investigation has plainly resulted, or is resulting, in the distinct weakening or modifying of certain familiar and longentrenched theories concerning the causative factors and the mechanism of organic evolution. Most conspicuous among these theories now in the white light of scientific scrutiny are those established by Darwin, and known, collectively, to biologists, as Darwinism” (Vernon L.Kellogg,Darwinism Today [New York: Henry Holt, 1907], pp. 1–2).Google Scholar
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    This included the progenitors of the logical positivists.Google Scholar
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    Vernon Kellogg's 1907Darwinism Today supports this argument. Kellogg concluded with the following thoughts: “We are ignorant; terribly, immensely ignorant. And our work is, to learn. To observe, to experiment, to tabulate, to induce, to deduce. Biology was never a clearer or more inviting field for fascinating, joyful, hopeful work. To question life by new methods, from new angles, on closer terms, under more precise conditions of control; this is the requirement and the opportunity of the biologist of to-day. May his generation hear some whisper from the Sphinx!” (p. 387).Google Scholar
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    These criticisms were leveled not only at the biological sciences, but at other disciplines as well. The discipline of history, for instance, emerged as a legitimate area of inquiry only when scientific - and positivistic — standards began to be adopted in the late years of the nineteenth century. “Observation,” and eventually — through quantitative modeling in the 1960s — “experiment,” were adopted by historians. History in this manner became a “social science.”Google Scholar
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    In the early years of the twentieth century the move to experimentalize evolution was institutionalized officially by the founding of an experiment station expressly devoted to this end: in 1904 the Carnegie Institute of Washington supported the founding of the Station for Experimental Evolution at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, N.Y. The first director was C.B. Davenport.Google Scholar
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    Additional evidence for this comes from examination of a book meant to introduce readers to “great experiments in biology,” in which the ordering of the topics roughly reflects chronological experimentalization (and also legitimation): The Cell Theory (Cytology), General Physiology, Microbiology, Plant Physiology, Embryology, Genetics, and lastly Evolution. Four examples of classic experiments in evolution are given: selections from C. Darwin and A. R. Wallace (not experimental), G. H. Hardy (mathematical, but not experimental), N. H. Horowitz (experimental, but biochemical), and Th. Dobzhansky (experiments with natural populations of organisms). The ordering as well as the selections justify my sense that it is Dobzhansky's work with natural populations that forms the critical moment of the experimentalization of evolution. See Mordecai L.Gabriel and SeymourFogel, eds.,Great Experiments in Biology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1955).Google Scholar
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    The “Hardy-Weinberg Principle” describes the conditions under which evolutionary equilibrium is maintained — that is, the conditions under which changes in gene frequencies or genotypesdo not take place. For a history of mathematical population genetics see William B.Provine,The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971); idem, “The Role of Mathematical Population Geneticists in the Evolutionary Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s,”Stud. Hist. Biol, 2 (1978), 167–192.Google Scholar
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    Dobzhansky actively sought a model organism,Drosophila pseudoobscura, to fit Wright's schemes.Drosophila melanogaster, the familiar tool of the Morgan school's genetics, did not display phenomena that could be made to work with Wright's evolutionary models. Provine recounts the story of how Dobzhansky went into a state of “scientific schizophrenia” until Robert D. Boche gave himDrosophila pseudoobscura (Provine,Sewall Wright, p. 333).Google Scholar
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    Mutation, migration, population structure, and systems of mating, as well as random genetic drift, became quantifiable and measurable.Google Scholar
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    These terminological variations are still present in evolutionary biologists' vocabularies, though “mechanism” is the preferred word.Google Scholar
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    I am not here claiming that the modelers werestrict physicalists who wished to reduce biology to physics, but that they were drawing from exemplars in the more exact and rigorous physical sciences. The exemplar ofthe scientific method was Newtonian physics, as articulated through Newton's Rules of Reasoning and then transmitted to a wider audience — including Darwin himself — through philosophers like William Whewell and John Herschel. Fisher, who espoused a form of indeterminism, and especially Wright, who upheld a form of pansychism, could hardly be deemedstrict physicalists. For a discussion of the metaphysics of Fisher and Wright see M. J. S. Hodge, “The Metaphysics of R. A. Fisher and Sewall Wright,” forthcoming.Google Scholar
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    Whether emergent properties are metaphysical is a contentious issue. I would argue that in adisciplinary sense emergentism functions in the same manner as vitalism, teleology, and other unarticulated metaphysical elements-all “lift” biology from complete reduction to the physical sciences.Google Scholar
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    As a group, the architects of the evolutionary “synthesis” would negotiate and strike just the right balance between mechanistic materialism and some form of emergentism. Those who rejected a completely mechanistic and materialistic framework include E. Mayr, R. A. Fisher, S. Wright, C. H. Waddington, D. Lack, B. Rensch, and J. Huxley, as well as Dobzhansky himself. Of the group of “synthesis” architects the only person who upheld mechanistic and materialistic evolution was Simpson, for whom evolution was a historical process, one that dealt with unique historical events. In Simpson's historicist perspective, chance event, contingencies, introduced indeterminism into the evolutionary system. Geneticists like T. H. Morgan, A. H. Sturtevant and C. Bridges upheld mechanistic and materialistic frameworks. See the discussion below on R. Goldschmidt. Will Provine provided this list of those who upheld and rejected completely mechanistic and materialistic evolution. See also the discussion below of the Post-Sputnik Biological Sciences.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    They became alternative, once biologists could makeone of them primary.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    W. B.Provine, “Progress in Evolution and Meaning in Life,” in Matthew Nitecki,Evolutionary Progress (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 49–74.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    This feature of the Wright and Dobzhansky framework has been discussed at length by William B. Provine in his biography of Wright.Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    I will discuss progressive evolution shortly.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Too much stochasticity in the form of random genetic drift made the systemtoo unpredictable. A middle ground — deterministic enough to make predictions, but having enough indeterminism — through metaphysical or emergentist phenomena would be favored. At the same time this balance made possible a meaningful life with humans as agents of their own free will.Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    The sense that evolution is one of the “softer” of the biological sciences is still prevalent.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    TakingThe Meaning of Evolution to the wider audience in 1949, Simpson would write: “It is assumed that a material universe exists and that it corresponds with our perceptions of it. The existence of absolute, objective truth is taken for granted as well as the approximation to this truth of the results of repeated observations and experiments. That such assumptions are debatable is evident from the violence with which they have been debated at various times. In practice, however, we all have to take it either that they are true or that we necessarily proceedas if they were true. Otherwise there is no meaning in science or in any knowledge, or in life itself, and no reason to enquire for such meaning” (George GaylordSimpson,The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of Its Significance for Man [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949], p. 7).Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    See Clifford Geertz's reflections on charismatic figures inLocal Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1973), and see also idem,The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973). The authors of the Columbia Classics had started engaging in dialogue (both published and personal) with one another in the mid-1930s. Before these books appeared all of the authors had published series of papers on related themes, which the others had been reading. Hence Dobzhansky's framework developed as a result of a multidirectional traffic on influence, negotiated and renegotiated by members inside and outside Dobzhansky's local group. Group dynamics were complex. Dobzhansky had personally drawn in Stebbins and others to his evolutionary genetics. Dobzhansky and Huxley had been in close touch with each other and had made moves to start an official society in 1939, only to be thwarted by wartime preparations. Mayr was also in contact with Huxley and read and commented on early chapters of Huxley's 1942 book.Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    Ernst Mayr was to play an increasingly vital role in pointing out that this definition of evolution, which did not account for the origin of discontinuities (especially speciation), was incomplete. In the late 1950s he was to describe the narrow population geneticists' view of evolution as “bean-bag genetics,” and to promote the transformational features of evolution. See his inaugural lecture of 1959 at the Cold Spring Harbor Symposium, “Where Are We?”Cold Spr. Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol., 24 (1959), 409–440; reprinted in Ernst Mayr,Evolution and the Diversity of Life: Selected Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1976), pp. 307–328.Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    The term “heterogeneous” had been used in 1934 by Max Black: see chap. 1, “The Heterogeneity of Science,” in Rudolf Carnap,The Unity of Science, trans. Max Black (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1934).Google Scholar
  92. 92.
    ErnstMayr,Systematics and the Origin of Species (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942); G. G. Simpson,Tempo and Mode in Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944); G. L. Stebbins, Jr.,Variation and Evolution in Plants (New York: Columbia University Press, 1950).Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Dobzhansky's interest in populations was an outcome of his background in systematics, which he had inherited from his Russian mentors. For a historical discussion of the Russian context and Dobzhansky's origins see MarkAdams, “The Founding of Population Genetics: Contributions of the Chetverikov School, 1924–1934,”J. Hist. Biol., 1 (1968), 23–39; and idem, “Towards a Synthesis: Populations Concepts in Russian Evolutionary Thought, 1925–1935”,J. Hist. Biol., 3 (1970), 107–129.Google Scholar
  94. 94.
    Ernst Mayr's own historical sense, correctly so, is that the synthesis was in part a switch from a typological to a populational way of thinking. It was-for him. See Mayr's “Prologue” to Mayr and Provine,Evolutionary Synthesis (above, n. 7).Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    S. J. Gould's historical sense that for paleontologists the synthesis led to the rejection of directed evolution is also correct-for practicing paleontologists. See S. J. Gould, “G. G. Simpson, Paleontology, and the Modern Synthesis”, in ibid., pp. 153–172.Google Scholar
  96. 96.
    Stebbins drew heavily on C. D. Darlington'sRecent Advances in Cytology (Philadelphia: Blakiston's, 1932). Darlington subsequently rewrote his final chapter on genetic systems, which was highly controversial, and published it asThe Evolution of Genetic Systems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939).Google Scholar
  97. 97.
    There is much to Mayr and Provine's historical sense that botany was in some manner delayed in “entering the synthesis”. Botany by the late 1940s, unlike systematics and paleontology, consisted of a much more heterogeneous assemblage of practices: taxonomy, morphology, genetics, ecology, paleobotany, etc. Stebbins, as practitioner in all these areas, had to bring into line a great deal more data: at 643 pages, his book was the longest and last of the synthesis classics. See V. B. Smocovitis, “Botany and the Evolutionary Synthesis: The Life and Work of G. Ledyard Stebbins”, Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 1988.Google Scholar
  98. 98.
    These two disciplines had stressed the transformational instead of the populational features of evolution. Both had been buffeted by the extremes of vitalism and mechanism.Google Scholar
  99. 99.
    See Mayr and Provine,Evolutionary Synthesis, for a full list of the historical actors and central texts.Google Scholar
  100. 100.
    It was no accident that these disciplines were represented. All had been heavily institutionalized in American museums, American herbaria, and American agriculture research stations.Google Scholar
  101. 101.
    This was not, however, a completely mechanistic and materialistic framework. This became apparent during the antireductionist debates in the early 1960s.Google Scholar
  102. 102.
    Huxley was also to promote unity in another sense: in 1942 he wrote a manuscript entitled “Unity in the U.S.A.”; Papers of Julian Sorell Huxley, Box 65, The Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, Tex. (hereafter cited as Huxley Papers). Political unity and global unity were central concerns for Huxley.Google Scholar
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    See the insightful recent article by John C.Greene: “The Interaction of Science and World View in Sir Julian Huxley's Evolutionary Biology,”J. Hist. Biol., 23 (1990), 39–55. I am in agreement with the specific features of Greene's interpretation, though I would not make the distinction between Huxley's science and his worldview.Google Scholar
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    For a history of the Society for Experimental Biology see M. A. Sleigh and J. F. Sutcliffe, “The Origins and History of the Society for Experimental Biology (Comprising The Origins of Society by Lancelot Hogben, F.R.S. Aspects of the History of the Society [1923–1966])” catalogued with the Huxley Papers.Google Scholar
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    See H. G.Wells, J. S.Huxley, and G. P.Huxley,The Science of Life, 2 vols. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1931).Google Scholar
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    Huxley made repeated visits to Mayr and discussed chapters ofEvolution: The Modern Synthesis prior to publication.Google Scholar
  107. 107.
    The dedication reads: “Dedicated to T. H. Morgan: many-sided leader in biology's advance”.Google Scholar
  108. 108.
    J. B. S. Haldane was another popular writer.Google Scholar
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    J. S. Huxley, “Natural Selection and Evolutionary Progress”, Presidential Address at Annual Meeting,Rep. Brit. Ass. Adv. Sci. (1936).Google Scholar
  110. 110.
    Huxley appears not to have been a formal member of the Unity of Science Movement. He had been in very close touch with Bertrand Russell, since at least 1919, and he drafted his lecture notes on “The Principles of Biology” at just the same time that he began to correspond with Russell. Parallel developmens in Huxley's and Russell's view of scientific principles deserve close reconsideration. I have found no correspondence between Huxley and the Vienna Circle at this time. Huxley had in his possession an autographed copy of Charles Morris's 1956 bookVarieties of Human Values. The copy was signed “With warm regards, Charles Morris”, and we may infer that Huxley was on somewhat cordial terms with Charles Morris. One intermediary between Huxley and the Unity of Science Movement may have been Haldane: Huxley's copy of Charles Morris'sVarieties of Human Values is catalogued with the Huxley Papers.Google Scholar
  111. 111.
    JulianHuxley,Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1942), pp. 13–28.Google Scholar
  112. 112.
    To biologists, physics and chemistry appeared to be unified sciences. How physicists and chemists perceived their disciplines is a separate issue.Google Scholar
  113. 113.
    JulianHuxleyEvolution: The Modern Synthesis (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1942) p. 26. A portion of this quotation echoes a similar passage in Neurath's work: “The newEncyclopedia so aims to integrate the scientific disciplines, so as to unify them, so as to dovetail them together, that advances in one will bring about advances in the others” (Otto Neurath, “Unified Science as Encyclopedic Integration”, inInternational Encyclopedia of Unified Science, ed. Otto Neurath, Rudolph Carnap, and Charles Morris, vol. 1 no. 1 [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938], p. 24).Google Scholar
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    See Provine, “Progress in Evolution” (above, n. 83), for a discussion of evolution, progress, and Julian Huxley.Google Scholar
  115. 115.
    This position is summarized in a manuscript of 1949 entitled “Evolutionary Humanism”, Huxley Papers, Box 67.8.Google Scholar
  116. 116.
    Concern with the metaphysical features of life had been apparent in Huxley's early work; see Huxley,Stream of Life (above, n. 35).Google Scholar
  117. 117.
    See Grogin,Bergsonian Controversy (above, n. 35), for an account of the “revolt from mechanism”. Bateson's well-known book of 1894 with the titleMaterials for the Study of Variation is an indicator of the frustration that Bateson had encountered when he could not reconcile the causo-mechanical agent of selection with any material basis for variation. His book was meant to instruct workers to search for the material basis for variation. His excitement with the “rediscovery of Mendel” was due to his seeing the material basis for variation aligned with a mechanism for evolutionary change that behaved in “law-like” fashion. Bateson, like his contemporary Hugo de Vries, had been working with plant material and focusing on the species — not clearly defined — as the unit of evolution. Hence both men were to uphold strongly saltationist points of view, given the model “planty” organisms they had adopted. Such saltationist points of view at the turn of the century were enormously popular with geneticists, many of whom had been converted from practical platt breeders housed in horticultural and agricultural institutions. Bateson's initial address on genetics, as well as his announcement of the rediscovery of Mendel, it will be recalled, was to an audience of the Royal Horticultural Society. Bateson — especially as discipline builder of genetics — deserves close reconsidertion by historians of science.Google Scholar
  118. 118.
    While the two Huxleys shared certain fundamental assumptions about evolution and ethics, their formulated ethical systems were very different.Google Scholar
  119. 119.
    The word “eugenics” was purged from biologists' vocabularies after the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi medicine were made apparent.Google Scholar
  120. 120.
    Especially in the U.S. The sense of easy progress and optimism that characterized postwar American culture was not mirrored by the war-torn continent. This accounts for the view that the evolutionary synthesis was primarily an American (to some extent, an Anglo-American) phenomenon. The shift in evolutionary studies from Europe to the U.S. after the war was also reinforced by the founding of the Society for the Study of Evolution in the U.S. Huxley had organized a British society that stressed systematics, but this organization was not as broad in its scope as the SSE.Google Scholar
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    See S. J.Gould, “The Hardening of the Modern Synthesis,” inDimensions of Darwinism, ed. MarjorieGrene (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 71–93.Google Scholar
  122. 122.
    See Nitecki,Evolutionary Progress (above, n. 83), for an indication of how contentious the subject of evolution and progress has been.Google Scholar
  123. 123.
    See, for instance, Th.Dobzhansky,Mankind Evolving: The Evolution of the Human Species (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), andThe Biology of Ultimate Concern (New York: World Publishing, 1967); see also G. G. Simpson,The Meaning of Evolution (above, n. 88) andThis View of Life: The World of an Evolutionist (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964). Simpson's closing thoughts inThe Meaning of Evolution echo Huxley's evolutionary humanism: “It is another unique quality of man that he, for the first time in the history of life, has increasing power to choose his course and to influence his own future evolution. It would be rash, indeed, to attempt to predict his choice. The possibility of choice can be shown to exist. This makes rational the hope that choice may sometime lead to what is good and right for man. Responsibility for defining and for seeking that end belongs to all of us” (p. 348).Google Scholar
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    Punctuated equilibrium and the critique of the adaptationist program, launched by S. J. Gould and R. C. Lewontin, was to construct an argument that would lead to a sundering of this continuum; see S. J.Gould and R. C.Lewontin, “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme,”Proc. Roy. Soc. London, ser. B,205 (1979), 581–598. For a response to the Gould and Lewontin argument see Ernst Mayr, “How to Carry Out the Adaptationist Program?”Amer. Nat., 121 (1983), 324–334.Google Scholar
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    Another example of this balance between evolutionary progress, purpose, and mechanistic materialism in semipopular form is the published book of Dobzhansky's 1961 Silliman Lectures,Mankind Evolving (above, n. 123).Google Scholar
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    For Darwin's readers only the facticity of evolution had been established. The causo-mechanical agent had not been demonstrated.Google Scholar
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    The heterogeneity of science had been Carnap's lament.Google Scholar
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    For this reason the sense arose that mathematical population genetics forms the “core” of evolutionary theory.Google Scholar
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    Once again accounting for the nature-nurture debates that flared after this time.Google Scholar
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    The conference took place at Arden House, Harriman, N.Y., on October 27–30, 1954. Members of the planning committee included Albert Hofstadter, Paul Lang, Ernest Nagel, Marjorie Hope Nicolson, I. I. Rabi, and Lionel Trilling. The panels for the conference were organized and managed by Horace Friess, Ernest Nagel, and Jacques Barzun. Also helping with the general sessions were John A. Krout, Henry P. Van Dusen, Edgar Grim Miller, and Philip C. Jessup. For details of the conference and the edited proceedings, see LewisLeary, ed,The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Doubleday, 1955).Google Scholar
  131. 131.
    See the Leary volume for a complete list of attendees.Google Scholar
  132. 132.
    Philipp Frank, it will be recalled, had been a promulgator of the Machian position that the unification of the sciences had to take place through the ejection of metaphysics.Google Scholar
  133. 133.
    The driving force behind these Enlightenment values, it will be recalled, was the Newtonian mechanistic picture, which preserved enough metaphysics for a meaningful life devoid of complete determinism. The unification of knowledge — which brought “Man” into the deterministic fold of mechanistic and materialistic genetics-was therefore the culmination of Enlightenment thought. One feature that emerged from the “Unity of Knowledge” conference was the need to exert caution with respect to political unity. This was one way to avoid the twin specters of communism and fascism. Leary's introduction also suggests that conference attendees were to modify their originally “bold concept of a unity of knowledge” to a more “manageable” and “semantically more sound” concept of the unification of knowledge; See LewisLeary, “Preface,” inThe Unity of Knowledge, (New York: Doubleday, 1955), pp. xi.Google Scholar
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    Dobzhansky was to make “Man” the “Centre of the Universe” in the final section toMankind Evolving (above, n. 123). In this final section, he was to make explicit his warm regard for Teilhard de Chardin; see P. Teilhard de Chardin,Le phénomène humain (Paris: Du Seuil, 1955); English trans.,The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper and Row, 1959).Google Scholar
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    “The Society for the Study of Speciation,” Reviews and Comments,Amer. Nat., 75: 756 (1941), 87–89.Google Scholar
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    See JulianHuxley, ed.,The New Systematics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940).Google Scholar
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    See the historical “Foreword” to the edited volume of the proceedings of the Princeton conference written by Glenn L. Jepsen, inGenetics, Paleontology, and Evolution, ed. Glenn L.Jepsen, ErnstMayr, and George Gaylord Simpson (1949; repr. New York: Atheneum, 1963).Google Scholar
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    This was a joint or interdivisional committee organized by the Division of Geology and Geography and the Division of Biology and Agriculture of he National Research Council.Google Scholar
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    I have consulted the set of mimeographed volumes in the holdings of the Provine evolution collection in Marathon, N.Y., as well as an unpublished manuscript by Ernst Mayr, “History of the Society for the Study of Evolution” (dated most likely around 1947), included with the bundle of mimeographed bulletins.Google Scholar
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    The dialogical format of these bulletins facilitated the construction of a disciplinary discourse.Google Scholar
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    Introductory remarks by G. G. Simpson, Bulletin no. 4, November 13, 1944.Google Scholar
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    Ruth Patrick was the only female signatory.Google Scholar
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    Alfred Emerson presided at this meeting. The first president of the SSE was G. G. Simpson, with Ernst Mayr as secretary.Google Scholar
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    Ernst Mayr was instrumental in raising support for the journal, as well as being a key, if notthe key, player in the founding of the SSE. Simpson played an important role in assisting Mayr to obtain start-up funds.Google Scholar
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    This was H. J. Muller's subtitle in the “Summation” to the Princeton volume; see H. J.Muller, “Redintegration of the Symposium on Genetics, Paleontology, and Evolution,” in ed. Glenn L.Jepsen, ErnstMayr, and George Gaylord SimpsonGenetics, Paleontology and Evolution, (1949; repr. New York: Atheneum, 1963) pp. 421–445.Google Scholar
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    Both Ernst Mayr and G. Ledyard Stebbins have the sense that evolutionary biology emerged at about the same time as the Princeton meetings (letter from Ernst Mayr to author, August 15, 1989; letter from G. L. Stebbins to author, May 4, 1989).Google Scholar
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    But it would be the interlocking of the practices that bound the biological sciences.Google Scholar
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    H. J.Muller, “Redintegration of the Symposium on Genetics, Paleontology, and Evolution,” in ed. Glenn L.Jepsen, ErnstMayr, and George Gaylord SimpsonGenetics, Paleontology and Evolution, (1949; repr. New York: Atheneum, 1963) p. 45.Google Scholar
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    Scott Gilbert has offered an account of Goldschmidt as “outsider”: see “Cellular Politics: Ernest Everett Just, Richard B. Goldschmidt, and the Attempt to Reconcile Embryology and Genetics,” inThe American Development of Biology, ed. RonaldRainger, Keith R.Benson, and JaneMaienschein (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), pp. 311–364.Google Scholar
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    The title of his 1938 book: R.Goldschmidt,Physiological Genetics (New York: McGraw Hill, 1938).Google Scholar
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    RichardGoldschmidt,The Material Basis of Evolution (1940; repr. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
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    RichardGoldschmidt,The Material Basis of Evolution (1940; repr. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 397.Google Scholar
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    It was Stephen J. Gould and others who were to portray Goldschmidt as a “heretic” and an antihero. Gould introduced the reissue of Goldschmidt's book for Yale University Press in 1982. For Gould, who inherited problems of development as well as problems in accounting for rates of evolutionary change as made apparent in the fossil record, the position that Goldschmidt represented closely resembled his own. The sundering of the continuum between microevolution and macroevolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s also led to the sundering of the continuum that gave rise to sociobiology. Hence, the major amendments to evolutionary theory in the early 1980s and the emergence of paleobiology were also to sustain what (in the 1980s) was a politically moderate position. For Gould et al. the autonomy of biology and the role of evolution as the “central organizing principle” would come from an argument they inherited from Simpson-chance and contingency in the form of unique historical events. For a recent articulation see S. J.Gould,Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989).Google Scholar
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    Initially, members of the SSE balked at officially enrolling their society within the larger category of the AIBS. This resistance was in part due to financial concerns, but also to the fact that the AIBS included experimental biologists who had been denigrating the descriptive and nonexperimental sciences. The members of the SSE had much closer ties to the AAAS, to which a large number belonged. The initial move to found what eventually would become the SSE, it should be recalled, took place at the 1939 AAAS meetings. The closer tie to the AAAS justifies the argument that evolutionary biology was supported by the wider audience of scientists.Google Scholar
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    At present there are departments with joint appellations such as “Ecology and Evolutionary Biology” at American universities, and there are numerous centers and programs, but there are no (and have been no) exclusive departments of evolution or evolutionary biology in the U.S.; practitioners of evolution reside and have resided in no one locale and include settings as diverse as universities, museums, and agriculture research institutes. Evolutionary biology is unlike any of the other disciplines examined by students of science studies. For some of the literature examining the emergence of disciplines see Robert MarcFriedman,Appropriating the Weather: Wilhelm Bjerknes and the Construction of a Modern Meteorology (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989); David Edge and M. Mulkay,Astronomy Transformed: The Emergence of Radio Astronomy in Britain (New York: Wiley, 1976); Robert E. Kohler,From Medical Chemistry to Biochemistry: The Making of a Biomedical Discipline (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Thomas Söderquist,The Ecologists: From Merry Naturalists to Saviours of the Nation (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1986); Gerard Lemaine et al., eds.,Perspectives of the Emergence of Scientific Disciplines (The Hague: Mouton, 1976).Google Scholar
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    Dendy,Outlines of Evolutionary Biology (above, n. 32). The phrase “evolutionary biology” first appears in a passage from naturalist Grant Allen'sVignettes from Nature: “and it is these self-same odd, overgrown outer flowers which make the guelder rose so interesting a plant in the eyes of the evolutionary biologist” (Grant Allen,Vignettes from Nature [London: Chatto, Winding, and Picadilly, 1881]), p. 93, S. J. Gould provided Allen's citation.Google Scholar
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    In telling the history of what would be the new discipline, Huxley used the phrase “evolutionary studies” — though not strictly in a disciplinary sense — in chap. 1 ofEvolution: The Modern Synthesis (see p. 23); on p. 31 he explicitly used the phrase “evolutionary biology” in a disciplinary sense. He had been citing Dendy's book in personal notes in the 1930s, and had been actively using the phrase “evolutionary biology” in a disciplinary sense in his publications in the 1920s. English biologists may have adopted his disciplinary sense of the phrase much earlier than their American counterparts. In 1938 Gavin de Beer edited a volume with the titleEssays on Aspects of Evolutionary Biology Presented to E. S. Goodrich.Google Scholar
  158. 158.
    Both Mayr and Stebbins agree that the phrase gained widespread acceptance shortly after the formation of the SSE. Mayr explicitly used the phrase in a disciplinary sense in a letter to John Aldrich dated August 6, 1947 (Ernst Mayr Papers, Library of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia). Evolutionary biology was also included in the subtitle of the journalEvolution, which was initially to be calledEvolution: An International Journal of Evolutionary Biology. In the minutes of second annual meeting of 1947, this title was amended toEvolution: An International Journal of Organic Evolution. I could find no reason for this change in title in any of the documents I examined in the archives of the American Philosophical Society.Google Scholar
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    “Evolution and Scientific Reality,” manuscript dated 1949, Huxley Papers (above, n. 102), Box 67.7.Google Scholar
  160. 160.
    I thank Max Dresden and Pierre Noyes at the Stanford Linear Accelerator for sharing their historical perspectives of the development of physics in the interwar and postwar periods. Both had closely followed developments in evolutionary biology. Both had closely readEvolution: The Modern Synthesis and other essays by Huxley, as well as the semipopular works of the Haldanes. Another physical scientist (trained in mathematics) who also drew heavily on Huxley's framework was Jacob Bronowski. Huxley and Bronowski collaborated on writing volumes of the Macdonald Illustrated Library in the years 1963–65. Bronowski's televisedAscent of Man series echoed Huxley's evolutionary humanism. Adopting both Huxley's and Bronowski's evolutionary humanism, Carl Sagan televised this evolutionary philosophy through his seriesCosmos. Episode 2 ofCosmos, entitled “One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue,” which laid the groundwork for the series (episode 1 was an introductory synopsis of the 13-part series) introduced evolution by means of natural selection. Sagan demonstrated the efficacy of natural selection through the example of the Heike crab — an example used also by Huxley in his essay “Life's Improbable Likenesses,” inNew Bottles for New Wine (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), pp. 137–154. The example of the Heike crab had been a favorite with H. J. Muller, and both Huxley and Sagan had close ties to Muller. In the early 1980s, Huxley's evolutionary humaism-arguably not significantly altered—was therefore to be transmitted through the latest technology to one of the largest popular audiences of all time: 16 million viewers.Google Scholar
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    One of the strongest supporters of the study of evolution was Harlow Shapley. It was with Shapley's backing that Mayr and Simpson were able to obtain start-up funds from the American Philosophical Society to found their society — while developmental biologists and physiologists like E. G. Conklin vetoed proposals to establish an official society for the study of evolution.Google Scholar
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    With the “discovery” of Precambrian microfossils in 1954 through the imaging technology of the electron microscope, Elso S. Barghoorn and Stanley A. Tyler introduced cellular eovlution into the continuum (this was later extended by Lynn Margulis). Biochemical and molecular evolution were introduced in the 1960s by biochemists like Richard Dickerson. Each of these evolution communities represents a diverse and heterogeneous set of practices.Google Scholar
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    Other philosophers would continue to view evolution as a highly problematic science: see MarjorieGrene, “Two Evolutionary Theories,”Brit. J. Phil. Science, 9 (1959), 110–127; and Karl Popper,Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972). Both were to modify their initially critical positions. One philosopher who viewed evolution on favorable scientific terms was Ernst Cassirer: seeThe Problem of Knowledge: Philosophy, Science, and History since Hegel, trans. William H. Woglom and Charles Hendel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950). Mayr responded to each of these philosophers.Google Scholar
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    FelixMainx,Foundations of Biology, inFoundations of the Unity of Science: Toward an International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, 1, no. 9 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), p. 52. The exact quotation reads: “Although the whole complex of problems thrown up by the theory of evolution must in many of its parts always remain in the stage of a hypothesis which is not testable in practice, yet it has done invaluable heuristic service in all branches of biology and has therefore become an indispensable part of the method of biology. In view of the multiplicity of points of view regarding evolutionary questions indicated above, it is not surprising that representatives of the various subdivisions of biology, such as systematists, morphologists, paleontologists, biogeographers, and geneticists, often put the problems differently and give the hypothesis a different meaning from their several points of view or estimate their empirical confirmation differently. Differences of opinion which come to light in this way have often originated clarifying discussions and so led to fruitful new efforts. Unfortunately such conflicts are often unpleasant and fruitless, owing to a lack of understanding of the logic of science.”Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 52.Google Scholar
  166. 166.
    FelixMainx,Foundations of Biology, inFoundations of the Unity of Science: Toward an International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, 1, no. 9 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), pp. 84–85.Google Scholar
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    Sociobiology was to emerge from the continuum between genetics and the social sciences.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. B. Smocovitis
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Program in History of ScienceStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of HistoryUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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