Darwin's geological specimens are now very appropriately lodged for the most part in the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge, his original Catalogue with subsequent annotations being preserved with them. From an examination of these catalogues and specimens we are able to form a fair notion of the work done by Darwin in his little cabin in the "Beagle", in the intervals between his land journeys.
Besides writing up his notes, it is evident that he was able to accomplish a considerable amount of study of his specimens, before they were packed up for despatch to Henslow. Besides hand-magnifiers and a microscope, Darwin had an equipment for blowpipe-analysis, a contact-goniometer and magnet; and these were in constant use by him. His small library of reference (now included in the Collection of books placed by Mr F. Darwin in the Botany School at Cambridge ("Catalogue of the Library of Charles Darwin now in the Botany School, Cambridge". Compiled by H.W. Rutherford; with an introduction by Francis Darwin. Cambridge, 1908.)) appears to have been admirably selected, and in all probability contained (in addition to a good many works relating to South America) a fair number of excellent books of reference. Among those relating to mineralogy, he possessed the manuals of Phillips, Alexander Brongniart, Beudant, von Kobell and Jameson: all the "Cristallographie" of Brochant de Villers and, for blowpipe work, Dr Children's translation of the book of Berzelius on the subject. In addition to these, he had Henry's "Experimental Chemistry" and Ure's "Dictionary" (of Chemistry). A work, he evidently often employed, was P. Syme's book on "Werner's Nomenclature of Colours"; while, for Petrology, he used Macculloch's "Geological Classification of Rocks". How diligently and well he employed his instruments and books is shown by the valuable observations recorded in the annotated Catalogues drawn up on board ship.
These catalogues have on the right-hand pages numbers and descriptions of the specimens, and on the opposite pages notes on the specimens--the result of experiments made at the time and written in a very small hand. Of the subsequently made pencil notes, I shall have to speak later. (I am greatly indebted to my friend Mr A. Harker, F.R.S., for his assistance in examining these specimens and catalogues. He has also arranged the specimens in the Sedgwick Museum, so as to make reference to them easy. The specimens from Ascension and a few others are however in the Museum at Jermyn Street.)
It is a question of great interest to determine the period and the occasion of Darwin's first awakening to the great problem of the transmutation of species. He tells us himself that his grandfather's "Zoonomia" had been read by him "but without producing any effect," and that his friend Grant's rhapsodies on Lamarck and his views on evolution only gave rise to "astonishment." ("L.L." I. page 38.)
Huxley, who had probably never seen the privately printed volume of letters to Henslow, expressed the opinion that Darwin could not have perceived the important bearing of his discovery of bones in the Pampean Formation, until they had been studied in England, and their analogies pronounced upon by competent comparative anatomists. And this seemed to be confirmed by Darwin's own entry in his pocket-book for 1837, "In July opened first notebook on Transmutation of Species. Had been greatly struck from about the month of previous March on character of South American fossils..." ("L.L." I. page 276.)
The second volume of Lyell's "Principles of Geology" was published in January, 1832, and Darwin's copy (like that of the other two volumes, in a sadly dilapidated condition from constant use) has in it the inscription, "Charles Darwin, Monte Video. Nov. 1832." As everyone knows, Darwin in dedicating the second edition of his Journal of the Voyage to Lyell declared, "the chief part of whatever scientific merit this journal and the other works of the author may possess, has been derived from studying the well-known and admirable "Principles of Geology".
In the first chapter of this second volume of the "Principles", Lyell insists on the importance of the species question to the geologist, but goes on to point out the difficulty of accepting the only serious attempt at a transmutation theory which had up to that time appeared--that of Lamarck. In subsequent chapters he discusses the questions of the modification and variability of species, of hybridity, and of the geographical distribution of plants and animals. He then gives vivid pictures of the struggle for existence, ever going on between various species, and of the causes which lead to their extinction--not by overwhelming catastrophes, but by the silent and almost unobserved action of natural causes. This leads him to consider theories with regard to the introduction of new species, and, rejecting the fanciful notions of "centres or foci of creation," he argues strongly in favour of the view, as most reconcileable with observed facts, that "each species may have had its origin in a single pair, or individual, where an individual was sufficient, and species may have been created in succession at such times and in such places as to enable them to multiply and endure for an appointed period, and occupy an appointed space on the globe." ("Principles of Geology", Vol. II. (1st edition 1832), page 124. We now know, as has been so well pointed out by Huxley, that Lyell, as early as 1827, was prepared to accept the doctrine of the transmutation of species. In that year he wrote to Mantell, "What changes species may really undergo! How impossible will it be to distinguish and lay down a line, beyond which some of the so-called extinct species may have never passed into recent ones" (Lyell's "Life and Letters" Vol. I. page 168). To Sir John Herschel in 1836, he wrote, "In regard to the origination of new species, I am very glad to find that you think it probable that it may be carried on through the intervention of intermediate causes. I left this rather to be inferred, not thinking it worth while to offend a certain class of persons by embodying in words what would only be a speculation" (Ibid. page 467). He expressed the same views to Whewell in 1837 (Ibid. Vol. II. page 5.), and to Sedgwick (Ibid. Vol. II. page 36) to whom he says, of "the theory, that the creation of new species is going on at the present day"--"I really entertain it," but "I have studiously avoided laying the doctrine down dogmatically as capable of proof" (see Huxley in "L.L." II. pages 190-195.))
After pointing out how impossible it would be for a naturalist to prove that a newly DISCOVERED species was really newly CREATED (Mr F. Darwin has pointed out that his father (like Lyell) often used the term "Creation" in speaking of the origin of new species ("L.L." II. chapter 1.)), Lyell argued that no satisfactory evidence OF THE WAY in which these new forms were created, had as yet been discovered, but that he entertained the hope of a possible solution of the problem being found in the study of the geological record.
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