Chapter 1 Notes
The History of Evolutionary Biology: Evolution and Genetics
Evolution before Darwin
Past Ideas of Inheritance and the Origin of Species Were Fundamentally Different from Ours
Plato and Aristotle’s ideas on biology are discussed by Ruse (1996, pp. 21–22). Ruse’s Darwin and Design (2003, Chapters 1 and 2) discusses the Greek origins of the argument from design and the development of natural theology.
Mechanical Explanations of the World Did Not Lead to an Understanding of Evolution
The establishment of a mechanistic world view is discussed by Bowler (1989, Chapter 2).
At this time, ideas on inheritance and development also emerged. Because it was difficult to see how mechanical processes could cause a homogeneous embryo to differentiate into a complex organism, the mechanical philosophy led to a revival of the theory of preformation. The Swiss naturalist Charles Bonnet (1720–1793) showed that female aphids could produce offspring without fertilization and argued that their development was simply an unfolding of a structure already present in miniature. Logically, the germs of all organisms were created at the beginning and are simply unfurling in sequence. Epigenetic alternatives were proposed, but they were seen as requiring some kind of vital force, unacceptable to the materialist view. The more materialist versions emphasized spontaneous generation of life from inanimate matter; this idea had been discredited for larger organisms such as insects or mice but remained plausible for smaller forms right up to the 19th century. Particularly interesting is the work of Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698–1759; see Fig. 1.12), a strong supporter of Newton’s physics and of materialist explanations. He collected pedigrees showing the inheritance of polydactyly (a sixth finger and toe), which led him to a theory of inheritance in which the hereditary particles came together through a kind of Newtonian attraction. Although this theory seems to us close to modern genetics, de Maupertuis emphasized spontaneous generation of life from the chance aggregation of these particles—a view very different from those of both Mendelian inheritance and Darwinian evolution. See Bowler (1989, Chapter 3).
The New Science of Geology Revealed an Old and Changing Earth
Bowler (1989, Chapter 5) summarizes the influence of the new geology on natural history.
There are two recent biographies of Hutton: Baxter (2003) and Repcheck (2003). Interestingly, Hutton (1794) hinted at the idea of natural selection, and his ideas may have influenced Darwin, who studied in Edinburgh:
...if an organised body is not in the situation and circumstances best adapted to its sustenance and propagation, then, in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be the most liable to perish, while, on the other hand, those organised bodies, which most approach to the best constitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race.
Fossils Played a Crucial Part in the Development of Geology
Buckland (1824) described the extinct reptile, Megalosaurus (see Fig. 1.8). The paleontologist Richard Owen coined the term dinosaur in 1842.
Diverse Ideas on Evolution Emerged in the Years before Darwin
Early ideas on evolution are discussed by Bowler (1989, Chapter 3) and Ruse (1996, Chapter 2).
O’Brian (1987) is an excellent biography of Joseph Banks (see Fig. 1.11); see also Chambers (2000).
After 1800, the Western Belief in Progress Strengthened as the Pace of Economic and Technological Change Accelerated
Ruse (1996) discusses the relationship between ideas of “progress” and evolution, from ancient times to the present.
The reception of Chambers’ (1844) Vestiges is discussed by Bowler (1989, pp. 141–147), Browne (1995, pp. 457–470), and Desmond and Moore (1991, pp. 320–325).
Darwin’s Voyage in the Beagle Provided the Observations That Led Him to the Theory of Evolution
Darwin (1839) gives the best account of his voyage and the ideas that it stimulated. See also Browne’s (1995) biography of Darwin.
In a letter to Charles Lyell, the astronomer John Herschel referred to the origin of species as the “mystery of mysteries.”
On the Origin of Species Set Out the Argument for Evolution by Natural Selection
Darwin came to the idea of natural selection as he read Malthus’ Essay on Population, between September 28 and October 3, 1838. The origin of his ideas is known in great detail, thanks to his extensive correspondence and notebooks. It is described by Browne (1995, pp. 384–390). At this time, he wrote:
One may say there is a force like a hundred thousand wedges trying [to] force every kind of adapted structure into the gaps in the economy of nature, or rather forming gaps by thrusting out weaker ones. The final cause of all this wedgings, must be to sort out proper structure and adapt it to change. (Notebooks, D135)
Wallace’s paper together with extracts from Darwin’s work were read at the Linnaean Society on July 1, 1858. See Browne (2002, Chapter 1), the University of Maryland Darwin–Wallace Web site, and Darwin and Wallace (1858). Wallace (1889) went on to write a book, Darwinism, setting out the case for evolution by natural selection. See Raby (2002) and Slotten (2006).
Within 15 Years of the Publication of the Origin, Most Educated People Accepted Evolution as a Fact
Browne (2002) gives a detailed account of the reception of Darwin’s ideas in the context of Victorian culture. See also Desmond and Moore (1991).
The Eclipse of Natural Selection
Natural Selection Was Not Widely Accepted as the Mechanism of Evolution
See Bowler (1989, Chapter 9) and Provine (1971) on the “eclipse of Darwinism.”
Papers by Bumpus (1899) and Weldon (1895; see Fig. 1.23) were essentially the only studies of natural selection in the half-century following the Origin.
The Theory of Natural Selection Faced Real Obstacles, Which Were Only Resolved in the 20th Century
Bowler (1989, pp. 205–208) explains Thomson’s argument for a young Earth.
Fleeming Jenkin’s (1867) review of the Origin argued that natural selection could not be effective with blending inheritance.
Alternative Mechanisms of Evolution Were Popular
Provine (1971) gives a good account of the arguments between the Mendelians and Biometricians. See also Bowler (1989, Chapter 9).
Bateson (1894) argues for the importance of discontinuous variations.
Rediscovery of Mendelian Heredity Strengthened the Divide between Gradualists and Saltationists
Mendel published his theory of inheritance in 1866, but its significance was only appreciated in 1900. See Carlson (2004).
Morgan Introduced the Fruit Fly Drosophila melanogaster as a Model Organism for Genetic Studies
The work of Morgan and his students is described by Kohler (1994). For an excellent historical account of the origins of classical genetics, see Whitehouse (1973).
Discrete Mendelian Genes of Small Effect Can Account for Continuous Variation
Provine (1971) describes the resolution of the conflict between the Biometricians and the Mendelians. Provine (1986) describes the experiments by Wright and Castle on hooded rats (see Fig. 1.33).
Box 1.1 Hardy–Weinberg Law
The original papers by Hardy (1908) and Weinberg (1908) are reprinted in Hill (1984).
The Evolutionary Synthesis
The Ideas of Mendel and Darwin Were Reconciled in Classical Population Genetics
Fisher (1918) established much of the theory of quantitative genetics, as well as introducing analysis of variance. Reprinted with commentary by Hill (1984).
Provine (1971) gives a detailed account of this period.
The “Evolutionary Synthesis” Brought Together Diverse Fields
Smocovitis (1996) is a history of Evolutionary Synthesis. Ruse (1996) gives an interesting history, up to the present. Kohn (2004) gives a lively account of the English evolutionary biologists and their emphasis on the ubiquity of adaptation. Dobzhansky’s series of papers on the Genetics of Natural Populations is collected in Lewontin et al. (1981), with commentaries, and gives a detailed account of Dobzhansky and Wright’s work on inversions (see Fig. 1.39). For Dobzhansky’s earlier work, see also Kohler (1994).
The “Evolutionary Synthesis” Left Major Questions Unresolved
Provine (1971), Kimura (1983), and Lewontin (1974) discuss the classical versus the balance views of evolution.
Wynne-Edwards (1962) stimulated debate over the importance of group selection. Hamilton’s key papers are collected in Hamilton (1996), together with interesting autobiographical commentaries.
Bateson W. 1894 (reprinted 1992). Materials for the study of variation: Treated with especial regard to discontinuity in the Origin of Species. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Baxter S. 2003. Revolutions in the earth: James Hutton and the true age of the world. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.
Bowler P.J. 1989. Evolution: The history of an idea. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Browne E.J. 1996, 2002 (2 volumes). Charles Darwin: A biography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Browne E.J. 1995. Charles Darwin: Voyaging, Volume 1 of a Biography. Jonathan Cape, London.
Browne E.J. 2002. Charles Darwin: The power of place. Jonathan Cape, London.
Buckland W. 1824. Notice on the Megalosaurus or great fossil lizard of Stonesfield. Trans. Geolog. Soc. A (Series 2), 1: 390–396.
Bumpus H.C. 1899. The elimination of the unfit as illustrated by the introduced sparrow, Passer domesticus. Biol. Lectures, Marine Biol. Lab, Woods Hole: 209–226.
Carlson E.A. 2004. Mendel’s legacy: The origin of classical genetics. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, New York.
Chambers N. 2000. The letters of Sir Joseph Banks. Imperial College Press, London.
Chambers R. 1844 (reprinted 1994). Vestiges of the natural history of Creation (1st edition; reprinted in James Secord, ed, Chicago). University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Darwin C. 1839. Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, R.N., from 1832 to 1836. Henry Colburn, London.
Darwin C. and Wallace A.R. 1858. On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Proc. Linn. Soc. (Zool.) 3: 45–62.
Desmond A. and Moore J.R. 1991. Darwin (2 volumes). Michael Joseph, London; Viking Penguin, New York.
Fisher R.A. 1918. The correlation between relatives on the supposition of Mendelian inheritance. Proc. R. Soc. Edinburgh 52: 399–433.
Hamilton W.D. 1996. Narrow roads of gene land, Volume 1: Evolution of social behaviour. W.H. Freeman, Oxford.
Hardy G.H. 1908. Mendelian proportions in a mixed population. Science 28: 49–50.
Hill W.G. 1984. Quantitative genetics, Part 1 (Benchmark Papers in Genetics). Van Nostrand Reinhold International, New York.
Hutton J. 1794. An investigation of the principles of knowledge and of the progress of reason, from sense to science and philosophy, Vol. 2. Strahan and Cadell, Edinburgh.
Jenkin F. 1867. “The Origin of Species” (review). N. Br. Rev. 46: 277–318.
Kimura M. 1983. The neutral theory of molecular evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Kohler R.E. 1994. Lords of the fly: Drosophila genetics and the experimental life. University of Chicago Press, Illinois.
Kohn M. 2004. A reason for everything. Faber and Faber, London.
Lewontin R.C. 1974. The genetic basis of evolutionary change. Columbia University Press, New York.
Lewontin R.C., Moore J.A., Provine W.B., and Wallace B. 1981. Dobzhansky’s “Genetics of natural populations” I–XLIII. Columbia University Press, New York.
Lyell C. 1830. Principles of geology. John Murray, London.
O’Brian P. 1987. Joseph Banks: A life. Collins Harvill, London.
Owen R. 1842. Report on British fossil reptiles. Part II. Report of the British association for the advancement of science, Plymouth, United Kingdom.
Provine W. 1971. The origins of theoretical population genetics. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2nd edition, 2001).
Provine W. 1986. Sewall Wright and evolutionary biology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Raby P. 2002. Alfred Russel Wallace: A life. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Repcheck J. 2003. The man who found time: James Hutton and the discovery of the Earth’s antiquity. Simon and Schuster, London.
Ruse M. 1996. Monad to man: The concept of progress in evolutionary biology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Ruse M. 2003. Darwin and design. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Slotten R.A. 2006. The heretic in Darwin’s court: The life of Alfred Russel Wallace. Columbia University Press, New York.
Smocovitis V.B. 1996. Unifying biology: The evolutionary synthesis and evolutionary biology. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Wallace A.R. 1858. On the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original type. Proc. Linn. Soc. (Zool.) 3: 53–62.
Wallace A.R. 1889. Darwinism. Macmillan, London.
Weinberg W. 1908. On the demonstration of heredity in man. Naturkunde in Wurttemberg, Stuttgart 64: 368–382.
Weldon W.F.R. 1895. Attempt to measure the deathrate due to the selective destruction of Carcinus moenas with respect to a particular dimension. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 57: 360–379.
Whitehouse H.L.K. 1973. Towards an understanding of the mechanism of heredity. E Arnold, London.
Wynne-Edwards V.C. 1962. Animal dispersion in relation to social behavior. Oliver & Boyd, London.