Darwin has related how his theory of Coral-reefs which was begun in a more "deductive spirit" than any of his other work, for in 1834 or 1835 it "was thought out on the west coast of South America, before I had seen a true coral-reef." ("L.L." I. page 70.) The final chapter in Lyell's second volume of the "Principles" was devoted to the subject of Coral-reefs, and a theory was suggested to account for the peculiar phenomena of "atolls." Darwin at once saw the difficulty of accepting the view that the numerous and diverse atolls all represent submerged volcanic craters. His own work had for two years been devoted to the evidence of land movements over great areas in South America, and thus he was led to announce his theory of subsidence to account for barrier and encircling reefs as well as atolls.
Fortunately, during his voyage across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, in his visit to Australia and his twelve days' hard work at Keeling Island, he had opportunities for putting his theory to the test of observation.
On his return to England, Darwin appears to have been greatly surprised at the amount of interest that his new theory excited. Urged by Lyell, he read to the Geological Society a paper on the subject, as we have seen, with as little delay as possible, but this paper was "withdrawn by permission of the Council." An abstract of three pages however appeared in the "Proceedings of the Geological Society". (Vol. II. pages 552-554 (May 31, 1837).) A full account of the observations and the theory was given in the "Journal" (1839) in the 40 pages devoted to Keeling Island in particular and to Coral formations generally. ("Journal (1st edition), pages 439-69.)
It will be readily understood what an amount of labour the book on Coral reefs cost Darwin when we reflect on the number of charts, sailing directions, narratives of voyages and other works which, with the friendly assistance of the authorities at the Admiralty, he had to consult before he could draw up his sketch of the nature and distribution of the reefs, and this was necessary before the theory, in all its important bearings, could be clearly enunciated. Very pleasing is it to read how Darwin, although arriving at a different conclusion to Lyell, shows, by quoting a very suggestive passage in the "Principles" (1st edition Vol. II. page 296.), how the latter only just missed the true solution. This passage is cited, both in the "Journal" and the volume on Coral-reefs. Lyell, as we have seen, received the new theory not merely ungrudgingly, but with the utmost enthusiasm.
In 1849 Darwin was gratified by receiving the support of Dana, after his prolonged investigation in connection with the U.S. Exploring Expedition ("M.L." II. pages 226-8.), and in 1874 he prepared a second edition of his book, in which some objections which had been raised to the theory were answered. A third edition, edited by Professor Bonney, appeared in 1880, and a fourth (a reprint of the first edition, with introduction by myself) in 1890.
Although Professor Semper, in his account of the Pelew Islands, had suggested difficulties in the acceptance of Darwin's theory, it was not till after the return of the "Challenger" expedition in 1875 that a rival theory was propounded, and somewhat heated discussions were raised as to the respective merits of the two theories. While geologists have, nearly without exception, strongly supported Darwin's views, the notes of dissent have come almost entirely from zoologists. At the height of the controversy unfounded charges of unfairness were made against Darwin's supporters and the authorities of the Geological Society, but this unpleasant subject has been disposed of, once for all, by Huxley. ("Essays upon some Controverted Questions", London, 1892, pages 314-328 and 623- 625.)
Darwin's final and very characteristic utterance on the coral-reef controversy is found in a letter which he wrote to Professor Alexander Agassiz, May 5th, 1881: less than a year before his death: "If I am wrong, the sooner I am knocked on the head and annihilated so much the better. It still seems to me a marvellous thing that there should not have been much, and long-continued, subsidence in the beds of the great oceans. I wish that some doubly rich millionaire would take it into his head to have borings made in some of the Pacific and Indian atolls, and bring home cores for slicing from a depth of 500 or 600 feet." ("L.L." III. page 184.)
Though the "doubly rich millionaire" has not been forthcoming, the energy, in England, of Professor Sollas, and in New South Wales of Professor Anderson Stuart served to set on foot a project, which, aided at first by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and afterwards taken up jointly by the Royal Society, the New South Wales Government, and the Admiralty, has led to the most definite and conclusive results.
This article only represents the author's viewpoint and does not represent the position of our website< Br> This article is authorized for publication by the author and cannot be reproduced without permission.
- 1and other comforts. At Caylen, the most southern island,
- 2of abortions in many places and drove large numbers of
- 3base, born of intense personal contact and responsiveness
- 4driving one of the guests home after the party, he was
- 5in all the finer points of big game hunting. Of an evening
- 6On October 11, 1975, we were married in the big living
- 7thing, and I said so when we were together in 2000 to celebrate
- 8One of the most exciting rallies of the election occurred
- 9out to be lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably
- 10in a way that I hoped would unite the conservative and
Random graphics and text
- the moving ray. Inhaling sibilantly, Max leaped after her.
- understand only dimly if at all, we embrace identities
- while trying to change her mind every few miles or so.
- benefits. Jack Burns Sr., from a small town south of Fort
- all the inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch
- it would be a good while before I realized the congressman
- were a couple of airplanes I could borrow to fly around
- important, I had lost my desire to go to Washington; I
- They were approaching the river, and there was a fog to-night!
- southern governor who wasnt involved in Washingtons politics