Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 425–455

Darwin on Variation and Heredity

  • Rasmus G. Winther
Article

Abstract

Darwin’s ideas on variation, heredity, and development differ significantly from twentieth-century views. First, Darwin held that environmental changes, acting either on the reproductive organs or the body, were necessary to generate variation. Second, heredity was a developmental, not a transmissional, process; variation was a change in the developmental process of change.An analysis of Darwin’s elaboration and modification of these two positions from his early notebooks (1836–1844) to the last edition of the Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication(1875) complements previous Darwin scholarship on these issues. Included in this analysis is a description of the way Darwin employed the distinction between transmission and development, as well as the conceptual relationship he saw between heredity and variation. This paper is part of a larger project comparing commitments regarding variation during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Charles Darwin development externalism generation heredity Pangenesis nineteenth century transmission variation 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rasmus G. Winther
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceIndiana UniversityBloomingtonU.S.A.

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