Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802)
A common (but erroneous) conclusion is that Charles Darwin conceived modern biological evolution, including natural selection.1 An example of statements commonly found in the scientific literature indicating this would be the comment by Michael Fitch: ‘Not until Darwin, did anyone draw the same conclusion … except Alfred R. Wallace. … But Darwin undoubtedly preceded him in the conception of the theory’ of evolution by natural selection.2 A study of the works of pre-Darwinian biologists shows that, in contrast to this common assumption, Darwin was not the first modern biologist to develop the idea of organic evolution by natural selection.3, 4
Furthermore, most (if not all) of the major ideas credited to Darwin actually were discussed in print by others before him. De Vries noted that some critics have even concluded that Darwin did not make any major new contributions to the theory of evolution by natural selection.5 A study of the history of evolution shows that Darwin ‘borrowed’ all of his major ideas—some feel plagiarized would be a more accurate word—without giving due credit to these people. A few examples are discussed below.
The pre-Darwin modern theories of biological evolution
The modern theory of biological evolution probably was first developed by Charles De Secondat Montesquieu (1689–1755), who concluded that ‘in the beginning there were very few’ kinds of species, and the number has ‘multiplied since’ by natural means.6 Another important evolutionist was Benoit de Maillet (1656–1738), whose book on evolution was posthumously published in 1748. In this book de Maillet suggested that fish were the precursors of birds, mammals, and men.7 Yet another pre-Darwin scientist was Pierre-Louis Maupertuis (1698–1759) who in 1751 concluded in his book that new species may result from the fortuitous recombining of different parts of living animals.
Darwin never once openly admitted that his grandfather had a major influence on his central ideas.
At about this same time the French encyclopedist, Denis Diderot (1713–1784), taught that all animals evolved from one primeval organism. This prototype organism was fashioned into all those types of animals alive today via natural selection. George Louis Buffon (1707–1788) even expounded the idea at length that ‘the ape and man had a common ancestry’ and, further, that all animals had a common ancestor.8 Macrone concluded that, although Darwin put evolution on a firmer scientific basis
‘ … he was hardly the first to propose it. A century before Darwin the French naturalist Georges Buffon wrote extensively on the resemblance among various species of birds and quadrupeds. Noting such similarities and also the prevalence in nature of seemingly useless anatomical features (such as toes on a pig), Buffon voiced doubts that every single species had been uniquely formed by God on the fifth and sixth days of creation. Buffon suggested in guarded language at least a limited sort of evolution that would account for variances among similar species and for natural anomalies.’9
De Vries noted that
‘Evolution, meaning the origin of new species by variation from ancestor species, as an explanation for the state of the living world, had been proclaimed before Darwin by several biologists/thinkers, including the poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, in 1795. Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck in 1809, Darwin’s grandfather, the ebullient physician-naturalist-poet-philosopher Erasmus Darwin, and in Darwin’s time anonymously by Robert Chambers in 1844.’10where questions wordwall how maintenance of records is important? are of improvement who takes interview is called who grow crops who activities during covid 19? how much math is in architecture whose meaning in telugu where subject to physical damage conductors? what classification is a shark what is vacancies where i am from examples which opportunities and challenges? why transfer credit card balance how degree marks are calculated? how internet works diagram what architect do who machine gun kelly? how many users does tiktok have where i'm from poem answers how often users return to your site where from kapil dev? who leaders in all time assists how challenge rating works? how much internet speed do i need for gaming? when recruiter says the position is on hold how much marketing agencies make? why means testing is bad? 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