Evolution and Educational Theory in the Nineteenth Century

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


The standard histories of educational ideas have very little to say about Darwin.1 Where he does receive a mention, it is almost invariably in the context of general observations about the conflict between science and religion in the mid-nineteenth century2 or about the impact of scientific thinking on wider social fields, including education.3 At a slightly more practical level, a few commentators refer to Darwin in relation to arguments for the inclusion of science in the school curriculum and a corresponding diminution in the importance of classics.4 All this, however, is highly predictable. What is required is a sustained and systematic attempt to trace the influence of evolutionary thinking on the various fields which contributed to the shaping of educational theory and practice in the second half of the nineteenth century. This paper represents a first, tentative effort to map the territory. It will, inevitably, be a rough, working sketch rather than a finely-drawn piece of cartography, but it is hoped that others will be stimulated to refine and improve it.


Educational Theory Educational Implication Evolutionary Idea Education Society Pedagogic Creed 
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  1. Paul Nash Models of Man: Explorations in the Western Educational Tradition (New York, 1968), p. 283. Google Scholar
  2. Merle Curti, The Social Ideas of the American Educators ( Totowa, New Jersey, 1971 ), pp. 207–208.Google Scholar
  3. On Darwin as a psychologist, see Howard E. Gruber, Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity (London, 1974), pp. 218–242.Google Scholar
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  21. See Walter M. Humes, ‘Alexander Bain and the Development of Educational Theory’ in: The Meritocratic Intellect: Studies in the History of Educational Research ed. James V. Smith and David Hamilton (Aberdeen, 1980 ), pp. 15–29.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Humes
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GlasgowScotland

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