Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 189–223 | Cite as

Robert E. Grant: The social predicament of a pre-Darwinian transmutationist

  • Adrian Desmond


Wakley in 1846 called Grant “at once the most eloquent, the most accomplished, the most self-sacrificing, and the most unrewarded man in the profession.”128 I have shown some of the reasons why this was so, and I have suggested that his Lamarckism was one of a number of factors that served to alienate him from the conservative scientific community in the 1830's and 1840's. I have further shown the need for a fundamental rethinking of Grant's position in the history of biology. There is little profit in seeing him as a precursor of Darwin. His importance lies as a teacher of philosophical anatomy and as the disseminator of Geoffroy's views in London. With the recent interest of historians in the emergence of a non-Paleyite approach to design in the 1830's (that is, an approach stemming from a unity of plan), a reassessment of Grant along these lines seems in order.

Also, by understanding Grant's professional and transmutational threat, we can more fully appreciate the anti-Lamarckian ploys of leading scientists like Owen and Lyell. These scientific and social tactics reinforced the isolation Grant suffered as a result of his radical, materialistic, and antimonopolist views. Together with the laissez-faire arrangements at the joint-stock university, they led to his financial collapse — and to the decline of his scientific output that Darwin found so inexplicable. Beddoe described Grant as a disappointed man. “Alas!” wrote Wakley. “Who would be an English Cuvier?”129


Scientific Community Recent Interest Scientific Output Financial Collapse Social Tactic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Huxley papers MSS, vol. 16, f. 170, Imperial College, London.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Oxbridge dons belabored these complementary aspects. Sedgwick dismissed “the doctrines of spontaneous generation and transmutation of species, with all their train of monstrous consequences,” and Whewell listed four auxiliary hypotheses necessitated by the theory of transmutation: (1) the existence of monads, (2) a tendency to progressive development, (3) the force of external circumstances, and (4) spontaneous generation. Adam Sedgwick, “Address to the Geological Society,” Proc. Geol. Soc., 1 (1834), 305; William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (London: J. W. Parker, 1837), III, 578.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This is discussed at length in Michael Bartholomew, “Lyell and Evolution: An Account of Lyell's Response to the Prospect of an Evolutionary Ancestry for Man,” Brit. J. Hist. Sci., 6 (1973), 261–303.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lancet (1835–36: II), 844; (1836–37: I), 21.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    M. J. S. Hodge, “England,” in The Comparative Reception of Darwinism, ed. T. F. Glick (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974), p. 11n18.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Especially Nora Barlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (New York: Norton, 1969), pp. 49–51; Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 3rd ed., (London: Murray, 1861), p. xiv; T. H. Huxley, “On the Reception of the ‘Origin of Species’,” in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. F. Darwin (London: Murray, 1887), II, 188; and L. Huxley, ed., Life and Letters of Thomas Herry Huxley (London: Macmillan, 1900), I, 94, where Grant is said to have missed his vocation. Huxley was a past master at dispatching an Owen or a Grant, on which see Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Revolution: Science Red in Tooth and Claw (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 141–144; and Adrian Desmond, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London, 1850–1875 (London: Blond & Briggs, 1982), chap. 1.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    P. Helveg Jesperson, “Charles Darwin and Dr. Grant,” Lychnos (1948–49), 162n9. Darwin jotted “Nothing” on the back of each part of Grant's Outlines-even though pt. 4 remains uncut: these are now housed in Cambridge University Library.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Robert E. Grant, Tabular View of the Primary Divisions of the Animal Kingdom (London: Walton and Maberly, 1861), pp. v-vi.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    John Evans, “Anniversary Address,” Quart. J. Geol. Soc., 31 (1875), li; Lancet (1874: II), 322.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See M. Barthélemy-Madaule, Lamarck ou le mythe du précurseur (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1979).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    M. J. S. Hodge, “The Universal Gestation of Nature: Chambers' Vestiges and Explanations,” J. Hist. Biol., 5 (1972), 127–151.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Steven Shapin, “History of Science and Its Sociological Reconstructions,” Hist. Sci., 20 (1982), 157–211.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    D. W. Taylor, “The Life and Teaching of William Sharpey (1802–1880), ‘Father of Modern Physiology’ in Britain,” Med. Hist., 15 (1971), 126–153, 241–259; and Gerald L. Geison, Michael Foster and the Cambridge School of Physiology: The Scientific Enterprise in Late Victorian Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), pp. 4, 44–45, 50–57. Foster sat in Grant's course in 1855–56, according to the MS “Professors' Fees Books,” College Collection, University College, London (hereafter UCL).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Aspects of his developmental theory did endure in the hands of his 1859 Gold Medalist, Henry Charlton Bastian (1837–1915). Bastian championed a kind of Grantian transmutation and defended the mechanism on which it was based, spontaneous generation, to the end of his life. See esp. his Beginnings of Life: being some account of the nature, modes of origin and transformations of lower organisms (London: Macmillan, 1872), II, 165–166, 584.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    T. Wharton Jones gave Huxley a letter of introduction to Grant (8 April 1846, Huxley papers MSS, vol. 19, f. 86, Imperial College, London) asking Grant's help in preparing Huxley for his forthcoming trip to New Guinea. Huxley continued to send Grant offprints throughout the 1850's, and Grant in turn loaned him specimens.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See Desmond, Archetypes and Ancestors, pp. 81–82, for the strategic importance of Huxley's aggressiveness; see also James R. Moore, The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), which deals with Huxley's militarism; and James G. Paradis, T. H. Huxley: Man's Place in Nature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978), for a study of his migration from Carlylean romanticism.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hence Huxley's biting remark that Grant's “advocacy [of evolution] was not calculated to advance the cause”: Huxley, “Reception of the ‘Origin’,” p. 188. Ruse, Darwinian Revolution, pp. 251–252, discusses Huxley's respectability. It has been rumored that Grant was a homosexual, though I have seen no hard evidence to support this; if it were true, we could understand the suspicions of respectable family men like Owen and Huxley. In the 1830's it would have done nothing to restore Owen's faith in the moral progress of man promised by social reformers.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Jack Morrell and Arnold Thackray, Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981). On Darwin and materialism see H. E. Gruber, Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity (New York: Dutton, 1974), chap. 2 and passim.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    In, for example, a letter to P. B. Ayers, 11 May 1852, MS Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London; Barlow, Autobiography of Charles Darwin, p. 49.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Geison, Michael Foster, p. 29.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    “Biographical Sketch of Robert Edmond Grant,” Lancet (1850: II), 692 (hereafter cited as “Biographical Sketch”).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    W. Sharpey to J. Robson, 22 August 1874, MS College Collection UCL.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Loren Eiseley, Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It (New York: Anchor Books, 1961), p. 145.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    “Biographical Sketch,” p. 689.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Isobel Rae, Knox the Anatomist (Edinburgh and London: Oliver & Boyd, 1964), p. 3; “Biographical Sketch,” p. 689.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Robert E. Grant, Tabular View of the Primary Divisions of the Animal Kingdom (London: Walton and Maberly, 1861), p. v; Robertus E. Grant, Dissertatio Physiologica Inauguralis, de Circuitu Sanguinis in Foetu (Edinburgh: Ballantyne, 1814), p. 8. On eighteenth-century evolutionism see Peter J. Bowler, “Evolutionism in the Enlightenment,” Hist. Sci., 12 (1974), 159–183; and William F. Bynum, “The Great Chain of Being after Forty Years: An Appraisal,” Hist. Sci., 13 (1975), 1–28.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Robert E. Grant, “An Essay on the Comparative Anatomy of the Brain,” in “Essays on Medical Subjects,” MS Add. 28, UCL.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Steven Shapin, “The Politics of Observation: Cerebral Anatomy and Social Interests in the Edinburgh Phrenology Disputes,” in On the Margins of Science: The Social Construction of Rejected Knowledge, Roy Willis, ed., Sociological Review Monograph 27 (1979), 139–178; and “Phrenological Knowledge and the Social Structure of Early Nineteenth-Century Edinburgh,” Ann. Sci., 32 (1975), 219–243.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    [Robert E. Grant], “Baron Cuvier,” For. Rev. Cont. Misc., 5 (1830), 342–380.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    J. B. P. Monet de Lamarck, Extrait du cours de zoologie du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, sur les animaux sans vertèbres (Paris: d'Hautel, 1812).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Robert Knox, The Races of Men: A Fragment (London: Renshaw, 1850), p. 440; and Great Artists and Great Anatomists: A Biographical and Philosophical Study (London: van Voorst, 1852), p. 19. See also Rae, Knox, p. 23.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Robert Knox, The Races of Men: A Fragment (London: Renshaw, 1850), p. 442; and Great Artists, pp. 73, 212. Powell called Knox “one of the most zealous supporters of the principle of transmutation in this country.” Baden Powell, The Unity of Worlds and of Nature: Three Essays on the Spirit of the Inductive Philosophy; the Plurality of Worlds; and the Philosophy of Creation, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, 1856), p. 412.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Henry Lonsdale, A Sketch of the Life and Writings of Robert Knox (London: Macmillan, 1870), pp. 396, 400, 402–410; Knox, Races of Men, pp. 28, 437–8; Rae, Knox, p. 46.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Knox, Great Artists, pp. 45, 110; and Races of Men, 443, 447; Lonsdale, Sketch, p. 402.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Grant had first entered Barclay's class in 1820. His MS notes of “Dr. Barclay's Lectures on Comparative Anatomy” (1821) are bound in “Essays on Medical Subjects”; see note 27.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    John Barclay, Introductory Lectures to a Course of Anatomy (Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart, 1827), p. 168.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    John Barclay, An Inquiry into the Opinions, Ancient and Modern, Concerning Life and Organization (Edinburgh: Bell & Bradfute, 1822), pp. xi, 525.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    John Fleming, History of British Animals (Edinburgh: Bell & Bradfute, 1828), pp. 524, 518. For his views on the Flood see Fleming, “The Geological Deluge, As Interpreted by Baron Cuvier and Professor Buckland, Inconsistent with the Testimony of Moses and the Phenomena of Nature,” Edinburgh Phil. J., 14 (1826), 205–239. This was read to the Wernerian Society on 25 March 1826; Grant was on the council at the time and would presumably have been present. Wernerian Society MS minutes, vol. 1, f. 259, Edinburgh University Library Dc.2.55. Pietro Corsi has discussed Fleming in “The Importance of French Transformist Ideas for the Second Volume of Lyell's Principles of Geology,” Brit. J. Hist. Sci., 11 (1978), 222–224. As Brooke notes, caution is needed in tacking Fleming's apparent “actualism”: J. H. Brooke, “Natural Theology and the Plurality of Worlds: Observations on the Brewster-Whewell Debate”, Ann. Sci., 34 (1977), 253–254.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Evidence, Oral and Documentary, taken and received by the Commissioners appointed by His Majesty George IV July 23rd 1826...Visiting the Universities of Scotland (Parliamentary Papers, 35, 1837), I, 145–146.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Plinian minutes, MSS vol. 1 1826–8, Dc.2.53, f. 51, Edinburgh University library; see also ff. 11–12, 34, 35–6, 56–7. Gruber, Darwin on Man, pp. 39–40, 80, 479.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Nora Barlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (New York: Norton, 1969), p. 49. On the Darwin-Grant connection see also J. H. Ashworth, “Charles Darwin as a Student in Edinburgh, 1825–1827,” Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh, 55 (1935), 97–113; F. N. Egerton, “Darwin's Early Reading of Lamarck,” Isis, 67 (1976), 452–456; P. H. Barrett, ed., The Collected Papers of Charles Darwin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), II, 285–291; and K. S. Thomson and S. P. Rachootin, “Turning Points in Darwin's Life,” Biol. J. Linn. Soc., 17 (1982), 23–37.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    This he continued to do in all manner of ways at University College. He astonished E. A. Schäfer one day in class by asking him who taught Balaam's ass to speak Hebrew. Schäfer, “William Sharpey,” Univ. Coll. Gaz. (October 1901), 215.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Robert E. Grant, “On the Structure and Nature of the Spongilla friabilis”, Edinburgh Phil. J., 14 (1826), 283.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    [Robert E. Grant], “Observations on the Nature and Importance of Geology”, Edinburgh New Phil. J.1 (1826), 293–302. Anonymity was essential, because Grant was casting about for a professorship at this time.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    This was the novelty. As Hodge points out, Lamarck's transformism was never a deduction from stratigraphical paleontology. M. J. S. Hodge, “Lamarck's Science of Living Bodies”, Brit. J. Hist. Sci., 5 (1971), 332. But Grant's clearly was, for which reason he was never a “pure” Lamarckian; he fashioned, so to speak, a theory of historical Lamarckism.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Strong interest was shown at this period in changes resulting from domestication. Even John Fleming, in The Philosophy of Zoology: or a General View of the Structure, Functions, and Classification of Animals (Edinburgh: Constable, 1822), I, 27, considered that this was one line of evidence that strengthened the transformists' case. Roulin was shortly to describe how European domestic livestock changed yet again when transported to South America. M. Roulin, “Inquiries Respecting Certain Changes Observed to Have Taken Place in Domestic Animals, Transported from the Old to the New Continent,” Edinburgh New Phil. J., 7 (1829), 326–338.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Richard W. BurkhardtJr., The Spirit of System: Lamarck and Evolutionary Biology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), pp. 128–136.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    [Robert E. Grant], “Of the Changes which Life Has Experienced on the Globe”, Edinburgh New Phil. J., 3 (1827), 298–301. This paper has the same naturalistic and anticataclysmic tenor as the rest of his work; furthermore, it is a convenient halfway house to his mature position on directional temperature change and progressive development.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ibid. p. 299. Note Ami Boué's similar catalog of changes accompanying cooling in his “Geological Observations,” Edinburgh New Phil. J., 1 (1826), esp. 88–89. On diminishing igneous forces as a cause of directional earth history up to middecade see Philip Lawrence, “Charles Lyell versus the Theory of Central Heat: A Reappraisal of Lyell's Place in the History of Geology,”, J. Hist. Biol., 11 (1978), 101–128.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    After Grant left Edinburgh, Jameson's Journal continued to carry reports (perhaps by Knox) of Geoffroy's researches: see 7 (1829), 152–155, and 8 (1830), 152–154.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Fleming might have been aware of them also. Corsi, “Importance of French Transformist Ideas,” p. 224.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Or, as Wakley put it with characteristic bluntness, the “scheme of education...afforded not a single compliance with the demands of the ‘Church and State’ bigots of the day”. Lancet (1830–31: II), 689.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Leonard Horner to John Thomson, 7 July 1827, MS, College Correspondence 445, UCL.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    John Thomson to Leonard Horner, 9 July 1827, MS, ibid.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    David Brewster to Henry Brougham, 24 July 1827, MS, ibid., 387. Brewster secured specimens for Grant and encouraged his publication in, for instance, the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia. On Brewster's orthodoxy on theological matters, see Brooke, “Natural Theology,” p. 231.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Lancet (1835–36: II), 844.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Lancet (1835–36: II), 676; (1836–37: I), 21.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    M. Jeanne Peterson, The Medical Profession in Mid-Victorian London (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 25.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Lancet (1835–36: II), 566, 647, 676–678.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    See Grant's remarks in “Baron Cuvier,” pp. 342–343. On comparative anatomy's being considered merely a “branch” of natural history in Britain and “thus almost deprived of public support,” see Lancet (1833–34: I), 97. Zoology fared even worse, being labeled an “ornamental” science—hence the scoffing when the new Zoological Gardens opened in 1828.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    For example, Grant to Horner, 20 December 1828, MS, College Correspondence p. 149, UCL, where Grant admits not having a single specimen to illustrate the classes of birds and reptiles.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Quoted in J. M. Edmonds, “The First Geological Lecture Course at the University of London, 1831”, Ann. Sci., 32, (1975), 272–273.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Until at least 1837, when Grant seems to have withdrawn. Grant to C. C. Atkinson, 1 April 1837, MS, College Correspondence 3952, UCL.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    This was reprinted from the British Annual as Grant, General View of the Characters and the Distribution of Extinct Animals (London: Bailliere, 1839). Grant's bound copy of the Lancet lectures comprises some 562 pages of small type. The printed lectures constituted, in Wakley's words, “almost the only comprehensive and accessible source of information on this subject in the English language.” Lancet (1835–36: I), 586.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Lancet (1833–34: II) 1; and (1833–34: I), 89, 95, 96, 121, 767, 770.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Grant, “Baron Cuvier,” p. 368.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Lancet (1833–34: I), 351, 816, 505.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Lancet (1833–34: I), 235.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Lancet (1833–34: I), 270. Grant supported Blainville's pre-1839 position on the animal series, differing only in details (for example, Grant placed mollusks above articulates). He frequently visited Blainville at the Paris Museum and would have appreciated Blainville's vindication of Lamarck—which, as Appel suggests, was partly a “political” gesture in defiance of Cuvier. Toby A. Appel, “Henri de Blainville and the Animal Series: A Nineteenth-Century Chain of Being,” J. Hist. Biol., 13 (1980), 291–319.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Lancet (1833–34:II), 505, 512, 513, 537; (1833–34: II), 520. Grant was at this time carrying out original research on cephalopods at the Zoological Society (see note 117). Geoffroy's debate with Cuvier over the analogies of mollusks and vertebrates is chronicled in E. Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, Principes de philosophie zoologique (Paris: Pichon & Didier, 1830).Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Robert E. Grant, An Essay on the Study of the Animal Kingdom, being an Introductory Lecture delivered in the University of London, on the 23rd of October, 1828, 2nd ed. (London: Taylor, 1829), p. 11; Lancet (1833–34: I), 480.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Lancet (1833–34: II), 135.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Robert E. Grant, An Essay of the Study of the Animal Kingdom, being an Introductory Lecture delivered in the University of London, on the 23rd of October, 1828, 2nd ed. (London: Taylor, 1829), p. 7; Lancet (1833–34: I), 128, 346. Only once, to my knowledge, did he talk of the “watchful care of the Great Author” (Essay, p. 33), but we should beware of translating this into Paleyite terms.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Robert E. Grant, “On the Structure and History of Polygastric Animalcules,” Trans. Brit. For. Inst. (1844), 353. If anything, my analysis tends to overemphasize Grant's lip service to natural theology. In all of his writings I have never counted more than a handful of allusions to God or His wisdom. I have also made him sound more rigorously Powellian than was the case. In truth, Grant's problem was not theology at all, but the production of a self-consistent materialistic theory of life.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Robert E. Grant, “Palaeozoology” Lectures, Brit. Lib. Add. MS 31197, ff. 85, 125, 251. For an analysis see Adrian Desmond, “Robert E. Grant's Later Views on Organic Development: The Swiney Lectures on ‘Palaeozoology’, 1853–7,” Arch. Nat. Hist. (1984), in press.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Robert E. Grant, An Essay on the Study of the Animal Kingdom, being an Introductory Lecture delivered in the University of London, on the 23rd of October, 1828, 2nd ed. (London: Taylor, 1829), p. 6.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Robert E. Grant, On the Study of Medicine: Being an Introductory Address Delivered at the Opening of the Medical School of the University of London, October 1st, 1833 (London: Taylor, 1833), p. 10.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    [J. Fleming], “Systems and Methods in Natural History,” Quart. Rev., 41 (1829), 302–327, esp. 321–322. Grant's mature picture differed dramatically from Darwin's; in 1861 he envisaged not one but numerous “trees,” presumably as a result of his belief in the continuous spontaneous emergence of globular life, Tabular View, p. 9.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Grant, Greneral View of the Characters and the Distribution of Extinct Animals (London: Bailliere, 1839), p. 60.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Robert Knox, The Races of Men: A Fragment (London: Renshaw, 1850), p. 443.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Stephen Jay Gould and Martin Rudwick individually have pointed this out to me. As Rudwick says (pers. comm.), the very ambiguity of the situation could have been a convenient cloak.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Lancet (1833–34: I), 953.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Lancet (1833–34: I), 276.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    The evidence comprises (1) the articles in Jameson's Journal, (2) Darwin's testimony, (3) the attribution of meaning by Owen (see note 87), (4) the “Palaeozoology” MS (see note 75), and (5) the Tabular View.Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Peter Bowler distinguishes between continuous and discontinuous progression in Fossils and Progress: Paleontology and the Idea of Progressive Evolution in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Science History publications, 1976).Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Lancet (1833–34: II), 1001. What makes it so compelling that Grant is here referring to transformism, is that Geoffroy himself spoke (in a Lamarckian context) of “la transmutation et la métamorphoses des partes.” Grant, as Geoffroy's disciple and transliterator of his osteological and morphological terminology, would have well understood the Geoffroyan meaning of “metamorphosis.” E. Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, “Recherches sur l'organisation des gavials,” Mém. Mus. Hist. Nat., 12 (1825), 97–155 (151).Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    Richard Owen, “Report on British Fossil Reptiles, Part II,” Rep. Brit. Ass. Adv. Sci., 1841, 197n; Darwin, Origin, p. xiv; Grant, Tabular View, p. iii.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    Lancet (1833–34: I), 701. Cf. Geoffroy St.-Hilaire's position at this time in Mém. Acad. Roy. Sci., 12 (1833), 1–138; and Franck Bourdier, “Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire versus Cuvier: The Campaign for Paleontological Evolution (1825–1838),” in Cecil J. Schneer, ed., Toward a History of Geology (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969), pp. 36–61.Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    M. J. S. Hodge, “The Universal Gestation of Nature: Chambers' Vestiges and Explanations,” J. Hist. Biol., 5 (1972), 140–146, and “Lamarck's Science,” pp. 329, 341, 344, 345.Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    Grant, “Structure and History,” p. 358; cf. Tabular View, p. 3.Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    Robert E. Grant, An Essay on the Study of the Animal Kingdom, being an Introductory Lecture delivered in the University of London, on the 23rd of October, 1828, 2nd ed. (London: Taylor, 1829). p. 18; also Lancet (1833–34: I), 1001; “Structure and History,” p. 355; “Baron Cuvier,” p. 371; and Tabular View, pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
  92. 92.
    He insisted that all life processes were ultimately reducible to naturalistic explanation, that is, to chemical and mechanical principles, even though for the time being this might be difficult to achieve in practice. Robert E. Grant, An Essay on the Study of the Animal Kingdom, being an Introductory Lecture delivered in the University of London, on the 23rd of October, 1828, 2nd ed. (London: Taylor, 1829), pp. 5, 18; Lancet (1833–34: I), 198, 275; Tabular View, p. vi.Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Quoted in “Biographical Sketch,” pp. 691–692.Google Scholar
  94. 94.
    Dov Ospovat, “Perfect Adaptation and Teleological Explanation: Approaches to the Problem of the History of Life in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Stud. Hist. Biol., 2 (1978), 34–39.Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    “Professors' Fees Books,” MS, UCL; and on Roget, Lancet (1846: I), 445–446.Google Scholar
  96. 96.
    See J. Estlin Carpenter's introduction to William B. Carpenter, Nature and Man: Essays Scientific and Philosophical (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 1888), p. 10.Google Scholar
  97. 97.
    William B. Carpenter, “On Unity of Function in Organized Beings,” Edinburgh New Phil. J., 23 (1837), 97. In Principles of General and Comparative Physiology, 2nd ed. (London: Churchill, 1841), pp. 190–191, he talks of one division showing an “approximative tendency” toward another.Google Scholar
  98. 98.
    W. B. Carpenter, Inaugural Dissertation on the Physiological Inferences to be Deduced from the Structure of the Nervous System in the Invertebrated Classes of Animals (Edinburgh: Carfrae, 1839), pp. 44–46; also “Unity of Function,” pp. 97–98; Principles, pp. 189–191; and Nature of Man, p. 26.Google Scholar
  99. 99.
    Richard Owen, “Report on the Archetype and Homologies of the Vertebrate Skeleton,” Rep. Brit. Ass. Adv. Sci., 1846, 253; also 232, 241, 259.Google Scholar
  100. 100.
    This is suggested by his response to Rev. D. Lardner's request on 19 March 1829 for a book on animal physiology; see the MS correspondence in the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London.Google Scholar
  101. 101.
    Peter Mark Roget, Animal and Vegetable Physiology Considered with Reference to Natural Theology, (London: Pickering, 1834), I, 48, 51–52, 263, 268, 407; II, 627.Google Scholar
  102. 102.
    Lancet (1846: I), 391, 419–420, 445–446, 482–483. Roget was paid a large initial sum from the Bridgewater estate and received royalities on five editions before his death in 1869.Google Scholar
  103. 103.
    Bowler recognized that Roget “almost seems to anticipate Owen” with regard to natural theology. The present study suggests why: both men inherited and modified Geoffroyan views, Roget receiving his indirectly via Grant. Peter J. Bowler, “Darwinism and the Argument from Design: Suggestions for a Revaluation” J. Hist. Biol., 10 (1977), 33.Google Scholar
  104. 104.
    Roget, Animal and Vegetable Physiology, I, 54, 55–56; II, 630–634, 637–638.Google Scholar
  105. 105.
    Ironically, he was elected to the Geological Society council in the year that Lyell's anti-Lamarckian Volume 2 of Principles of Geology was published (1832). It has been suggested that Lyell was restructuring geology to thwart the Scottish and Continental transformists. Bartholomew, “Lyell and Evolution”; Corsi, “Importance of French Transformists Ideas”; and Dov Ospovat, “Lyell's Theory of Climate,” J. Hist. Biol., 10 (1977), 317–339. Some historians have speculated that Grant might have been partially the cause. Corsi, “Importance of French Transformist Ideas,” and Bowler, Fossils and Progress, 43n64. Although neither Bartholomew (pers. comm.) nor I have found any direct evidence, it is true that Grant's synthesis would have fulfilled Lyell's worst fears, since Lamarckism was here mated to a cooling earth model to explain a progressive fossil record. Whatever Lyell thought of Grant, Grant himself, in the 1853 Swiney Lectures on “Palaeozoology,” reacted specifically against Lyell's steady-state geology.Google Scholar
  106. 106.
    Managers' Minutes, 1832–1853, vol. 8, ff. 307, 552, MS, Royal Institution; College Correspondence Applications, MS, UCL. Remember that Owen himself was lauded as “the Cuvier of England.” R. Owen, The Life of Richard Owen (London: Murray, 1894), I, 327.Google Scholar
  107. 107.
    Consider also Owen's position. At the College of Surgeons the elitist council was constantly assailed by doctrinaire radicals like Grant and Wakley, demanding democratic representation for the college's unrepresented and powerless membership. See Grant's On the Present State of the Medical Profession in England (London: Renshaw, 1841), pp. 48–52. Owen's political distance from a socially leveling democrat like Grant would have seemed unbridgeable in these politically turbulent reform years.Google Scholar
  108. 108.
    “Professor Grant and Mr. Wakley,” Med. Gaz., 13 (1833), 293. It did not help that Wakley opposed the Lord's Day Observance Bill in 1836, on the grounds that workingmen had only Sunday free to spend their wages. S. Squire Sprigge, The Life and Times of Thomas Wakley (London: Longmans, Green, 1899), p. 304. Grant's “satirical references to Providence” are mentioned in Rickman J. Godlee, “Thomas Wharton Jones,” Brit. J. Ophthalmol., 93 (1921), 145–181.Google Scholar
  109. 109.
    Sir Richard Owen scientific notes, 1828–1832, British Library, Add. MS 34, 406, ff. 38, 82.Google Scholar
  110. 110.
    Owen MS notebook no. 4, British Museum (Natural History).Google Scholar
  111. 111.
    Ibid. This is either Lamarck's Philosophie zoologique, which was reissued in 1830, or Geoffroy's Principes de philosophie zoologique, published in the same year.Google Scholar
  112. 112.
    Owen, Hunterian Lectures I and 2 (1837), ff. 66–67, in Manuscript Notes, and Synopses of Lectures (1828–1841), British Museum (Natural History). Powell recalled that “the theory of ‘unity of composition’ was, in the minds of many, closely allied to that of ‘transmutation,’ which seemed to be a sort of natural sequel to it.” Powell, Unity of Worlds, p. 409.Google Scholar
  113. 113.
    Owen, Hunterian Lecture 3 (1837) MS, f. 34, in Owen, ibid.Google Scholar
  114. 114.
    On one aspect, Owen's use of Mesozoic reptiles, see Adrian Desmond. “Designing the Dinosaur: Richard Owen's Response to Robert Edmond Grant,” Isis, 7 (1979), 224–234.Google Scholar
  115. 115.
    Zoological Society Minutes of Council, vols. I–IV, MS, Zoological Society of London.Google Scholar
  116. 116.
    See Grant's letter reproduced in Geoffroy St. Hilaire, “Considérations sur des oeufs d'Ornithorinque, formant de nouveaux documens pour la question de la classification des Monotrèmes,” Ann. Sci. Nat., 18 (1829), 157–164.Google Scholar
  117. 117.
    Robert E. Grant, “On the Structure and Characters of Loligopsis, and Account of a New Species (Lol. guttata, Grant) from the Indian Seas,” Trans. Zool. Soc. London, 1 (1835), 21–28; and “On the Anatomy of the Sepiola vulgaris, Leach, and Account of a New Species (Sep. stenodactyla, Grant) from the Coast of Mauritius,” ibid., pp. 77–86. Contrast these with Owen's anti-Lamarckian “On the Osteology of the Chimpanzee and Orang Utan,” ibid., pp. 343–379.Google Scholar
  118. 118.
    Lancet (1834–35: II), 389.Google Scholar
  119. 119.
    Lancet (1834–35: II), p. 199. Wakley castigated Owen for voting with the junto, in Lancet (1836–37: I), 766.Google Scholar
  120. 120.
    Owen, Life, I, 169.Google Scholar
  121. 121.
    Lancet (1850: II), 711.Google Scholar
  122. 122.
    John Beddoe, Memories of Eighty Years (Bristol: Arrowsmith, 1910), pp. 32–33.Google Scholar
  123. 123.
    J. B. Morrell, “Science and Scottish University Reform: Edinburgh in 1826,” Brit. J. Hist. Sci., 6 (1972), 42.Google Scholar
  124. 124.
    “Professors' Fees Books”, MS, UCL. Half of all earnings over £ 100 had to be repaid to the college (the penalty of teaching at a joint-stock university). I have calculated that Grant averaged £ 117 per annum in the 1830's and £ 113 in the 1840's, before deduction of the college's share. In 1834 the chair of natural history at King's College, London, was actually abolished for lack of students.Google Scholar
  125. 125.
    K. Lyell, ed., Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. (London: John Murray, 1881), I, 178, 397; Edmonds, “First Geological Lecture Course,” p. 260; J. B. Morrell, “London Institutions and Lyell's Career: 1820–41,” Brit. J. Hist. Sci., 9 (1976), 142.Google Scholar
  126. 126.
    His friend Marshall Hall was earning £2,200 a year from his practice by 1833, although admittedly he was “the rising sun of the profession”. Charlotte Hall, Memoirs of Marshall Hall (London: Bentley, 1861), pp. 69, 120.Google Scholar
  127. 127.
    Grant, Present State of the Medical Profession in England (London: Renshaw, 1841), pp. 56–57, attacked the Royal College of Physicians of class, religious, and monopolistic grounds, in particular decrying the college's Oxbridge Anglican restriction for Fellowship, which biased it against the Presbyterians and the dissenters.Google Scholar
  128. 128.
    Lancet (1846: I), 418.Google Scholar
  129. 129.
    Lancet (1835–36: II), 844; Beddoe, Memories, p. 32.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Desmond
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonEngland

Personalised recommendations