Evolutionism Transformed: Positivists and Materialists in the Société D’ Anthropologie de Paris from Second Empire to Third Republic

  • Joy Harvey
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 2)


Below the surface of the usual tale of the acceptance of evolutionary ideas in France in the nineteenth century lies an even more intriguing story which links this introduction and acceptance to an alliance between positivists and materialists within the Central Committee of the Société d’Anthropologic de Paris. These two groups were linked by their politics, which were republican, by their free-thinking in religion, by a vision of continual social progress and finally by a polygenist view of human origin.1 Given this alliance, the acceptance of Darwinian evolution within this society was dependent on a modification of the evolutionary formulation which, in its hierarchical and progressive aspects, owed more to Lamarck than to Darwin. The evolutionary tree of Darwin with its multiple branches was transformed into a ‘forest of trees’.2


Central Committee Darwinian Evolution Scientific Materialist Spontaneous Generation Evolutionary Idea 
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. W. M. Simon, French Positivism in the Nineteenth Century (Ithaca, N. Y., 1963 ).Google Scholar
  2. D. G. Charlton, Positivist Thought in France During the Second Empire (Oxford, 1959 ).Google Scholar
  3. E. Dally, BASPV 2 ser.), 1870, p. 153.Google Scholar
  4. G. de Mortillet and A. Hovelacque, ‘Les Précurseurs de l’Homme’, Association Franqaise pour I’Avancement des Sciences (Lyon, 1873), pp. 607–613.Google Scholar
  5. P. Broca, Congres International d’Anthropologic et d’Archeologie Prehistorique II (Paris, 1867 )Google Scholar
  6. E. Dally, BSAP IV, 1863, p. 456.Google Scholar
  7. A. de Quatrefages, Les Precurseurs de Darwin (Paris, 1870).Google Scholar
  8. L. A. Bertillon, ‘Valeur de l’Hypothese du Transformisme’, BSAPV, ser. II, 1870, p. 525ff.Google Scholar
  9. G. de Mortillet, ‘Transformisme et Paleontologie’, BSAP V, ser. II, 1870, pp. 360–368.Google Scholar
  10. E. Littre, ‘L’Hypothese de la Generation Spontanee et celle du Transformisme, Doivent- elles etre Incorporees a la Partie Positive de la Philosophie Biologique?’, La Philosophie Positive XIX, 1879, pp. 165–180.Google Scholar
  11. H. Thulie, L’£cole d’Anthropologic de Paris 1876–1906(Paris, 1907 )Google Scholar
  12. M. Vire, ‘La Creation de la Chaire d‘Etudes d’Evolution des Etres Organises & la Sorbonne en 1888’, Revue de Synthese XCV-XCVI, 1979, p. 377Google Scholar
  13. M. Duval, Darwinisme (Paris, 1886 ).Google Scholar
  14. P. Topinard to E. T. Hamy in ‘E. T. Hamy Correspondence’, Museum d’Histoire Naturelle Archives, 2256, no. 156, 4 Nov. 1886.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company Dordrecht, Holland 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joy Harvey
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations