Development and Adaptation: Evolutionary Concepts in British Morphology, 1870–1914

British Journal for the History of Science 22 (3):283-297 (1989)
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Bernard Norton's research concentrated on the Biometrical school of Darwinism and the social implications of the hereditarian ideas that began to gain popularity in the closing years of the nineteenth century. In this article I want to look at the previous generation of evolutionists, the evolutionary morphologists against whom the Biometricians (and their great rivals, the early Mendelians) were reacting. Despite the prominence of evolutionary morphology in the post-Darwinian era, comparatively little historical work has been done on it. In helping to fill this gap, I hope to honour Bernard Norton's memory by throwing light on a movement that forms a conceptual bridge linking the original Darwinian debate to the Biometrical – Mendelian controversy. I shall also argue that evolutionary morphology had ideological overtones that helped to shape the cultural environment within which the eugenics movement would emerge. Although originally a product of the Victorian faith in progress, evolutionary morphology seemed to confirm that exposure to an unstimulating environment led to degeneration. It thus fuelled the concern over racial degeneration which the supporters of eugenics would seek to allay through the application of their new hereditarian philosophy.



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References found in this work

Form and Function: A Contribution to the History of Animal Morphology.E. S. Russell - 1916 - Journal of the History of Biology 17 (1):151-151.
Life Sciences in the Twentieth Century.Garland Allen - 1976 - Journal of the History of Biology 9 (2):323-323.
Ontogeny and Phylogeny.Stephen J. Gould - 1979 - Science and Society 43 (1):104-106.
Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate, 1844-1944.Peter J. Bowler - 1988 - Journal of the History of Biology 21 (1):165-166.

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