The paper characterizes Darwin's theory, providing a synthesis of recent historical investigations in this area. Darwin's reading of Malthus led him to appreciate the importance of population pressures, and subsequently of natural selection, with the help of the wedge metaphor. But, in itself, natural selection did not furnish an adequate account of the origin of species, for which a principle of divergence was needed. Initially, Darwin attributed this to geographical isolation, but later, following his work on barnacles which underscored the (...) significance of variation, and arising from his work on botanical arithmetic, he supposed that diversity allowed more places to be occupied in a given region. So isolation was not regarded as essential. Large regions with intense competition, and with ample variation spread by blending, would facilitate speciation. The notion of place was different from niche, and it is questioned whether Darwin's views on ecology were as modern as is commonly supposed. Two notions of struggle are found in Darwin's theory; and three notions of variation. Criticisms of his theory led him to emphasize the importance of variation over a range of forms. Hence the theory was populational rather than typological. The theory required a Lamarckian notion of inheritable changes initiated by the environment as a source of variation. Also, Darwin deployed a use/habit theory; and the notion of sexual selection. Selection normally acted at the level of the individual, though kin selection was possible. Group selection was hinted at for man. Darwin's thinking (and also the exposition of his theory) was generally guided by the domestic-organism analogy, which satisfied his methodological requirement of a vera causa principle. (shrink)
(1989). The introduction and development of continental drift theory and plate tectonics in China: a case study in the transference of scientific ideas from west to east. Annals of Science: Vol. 46, No. 1, pp. 21-43.
An account is given of the reconnaissance investigations in China of the American geologist and mining engineer, Raphael Pumpelly. Pumpelly is well known to Chinese historians of science as being the first professionally trained Western geologist to examine the geology of China. This paper offers a reconstruction of Pumpelly's journeys and seeks to understand what an explorer might do in a land where there had been no previous geological investigations by persons trained in the methods of Western science. Pumpelly's hypotheses (...) about the geology of China are also analysed and a sketch of his influence on the history of Chinese geology is given. (shrink)
Bailey Willis was the second major American geologist to undertake reconnaissance research in China--in the years 1903-04. Together with the stratigrapher Eliot Blackwelder, topographer Harvey Sargent, and guide Li Shan, he travelled first in Shandong Province, then from Peking to Xian, thence across the mountains into Sichuan, and then by river via the Yangzi Gorges to Shanghai. It was hoped that they would discover the primeval ancestor of trilobites in China, but the search proved unsuccessful. Willis's stratigraphic findings are described, (...) as are his structural interpretations of what he observed in China. His work in China gave rise to some unfounded speculations about the possible causes of lateral Earth movements, due to rocks of different densities being adjacent to one another in the Earth's crust. These ideas were followed by several other 'theories of the Earth' during Willis's later career, some of which were also probably related to his experiences in China. He seemingly practised the formulation of 'multiple working hypotheses'. The paper also discusses the influence of Willis's survey and stratigraphic work on the subsequent development of Chinese geology, with particular attention given to the various meanings of the term 'Sinian System'. Mention is made of later work in China on Lower Cambrian stratigraphy. (shrink)
This is an interesting and charming book—even if not strictly an essay in the history of science. The dissident author studied earth sciences in Romania during the beastly Ceauşescu regime but managed to get out by attending a conference in Newcastle and never returning until after the end of Eastern European communism. Yet he remained a Romanian patriot and is presently a professor honoris causa in Bucharest, while residing with his family in salubrious Glyndebourne.Constantin Roman must, by his account, surely (...) be one of the world's most upwardly mobile earth scientists. Starting in England with only £5 in his pocket, by ability, persistence, and charm, and using Newcastle as a stepping‐stone, he became acquainted with the right people and obtained a scholarship to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to do a Ph.D. on the tectonics of the Caucasus and across into Central Asia, using seismic data to identify plate boundaries and movements. On this basis, and studying areas of compression and tension, he proposed the existence of two nonrigid “buffer plates”—Sinkiang and Tibet—between the Indian and Eurasian plates. This was an iconoclastic suggestion in the early 1970s. Later, after getting his doctorate under Edward Bullard, Roman became an oil industry consultant and, I infer, made good money.Primarily, the book is about the madnesses of dictatorships and bureaucracies—and also the lovely life of a research student at Cambridge. When it came to Kafkaesque bureaucracy, the British authorities could be quite as obdurate as their Romanian counterparts: you can't have a work permit unless you have a job; you can't have a job unless you have a work permit. The difference, though, was that Roman could enlist support via his influential Cambridge contacts, and eventually he broke the logjam by getting an acquaintance at the Telegraph to offer him a kind of pseudo‐job . He was tenacious, resourceful, and bright, and seemingly charming to boot. It worked!Roman displayed similar qualities as a researcher. When he was well into his Ph.D. work, Bullard drew his attention to a paper emanating from Peter Molnar and his group at MIT that dealt with the same topic and arrived independently at essentially the same theory. The American paper had been refereed and accepted and was shortly to be published. Bullard warned his student that if this happened before Roman submitted his thesis he could only expect to get an M.A. So with bounce and initiative Roman dashed up to London and persuaded New Scientist to publish the main arguments of his thesis before the MIT paper got into print. This is presented as a coup, and so it was. Roman's Ph.D. was saved. But while that was all very well for the Cambridge “chaps,” one may wonder what the Americans thought about the matter. We're not told.We're not told a few other things either, particularly what happened between Roman and his first supervisor, Dan McKenzie . We are, however, told much about the delightful “lotus eaters” at Cambridge and the life there that is open to all—providing they have the right energy, brains, and charm. Roman got where he did by his ample possession of these qualities.But I wonder about Cambridge. It is the privileged tip of a huge social and economic pyramid, supported by a massive base of taxes, endowments, and, ultimately, the exploitation of third‐world lands and peoples and, formerly , of British workers. Roman knew that his home country was a mad dictatorship. He got out, and into what was then undoubtedly a better place. But what of those nameless ones today who suffocate in containers in their desperate struggle to get into Britain, or the refugees who are now incarcerated in alien detention centers in the Australian deserts? The West welcomes some, but not all. Continental Drift says nothing about such matters, but much about winning supporters through contacts, energy, and persistence. (shrink)
Early geology in focus Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-012-9646-5 Authors David Oldroyd, School of History and Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2075, Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
An account is given of the work on glacial phenomena in the English Lake District from the time of Adam Sedgwick until the mid-twentieth century, with emphasis on the nineteenth century. In the early years, the following theories were envisaged: 'diluvialism'; the theory of 'waves of translation'; the theory of 'ice rafting'; the 'glacial-submergence' hypothesis ; and the 'land-ice' theory. While it was quite easy to recognize ice action and the former existence of glaciers, it was difficult to work out (...) a persuasive sequence of events that would account satisfactorily for the great variety and quantity of evidence available, considering land-forms, and the distribution of moraines, tills, gravels, and glacial erratics. When the first systematic geological survey was being undertaken in the Lake District both local amateurs and the surveyors favoured the glacial-submergence theory, but there were problems about explaining the distribution of glacial erratics, and controversy developed as to whether this distribution was best explained in terms of floating icebergs or landice. The problem was difficult in that there was uncertainty as to how many glaciations there had been, though the preferred number was two, following the early observations in Wales by Andrew Ramsay, in Lancashire by Edward Hull and others, and by some Continental geologists, of two different tills, and one intermediate water-deposited unit. These seemed to have equivalents in the Lake District. However, the Scottish surveyors, under the influence of their theorist colleague, James Croll, with his astronomical explanation of ice ages, favoured multiple glaciations. Croll himself sought to apply the land-ice theory to explain the distribution of glacial erratics in the regions round the Lake District. James Geikie read widely in the Continental literature, and thought that the theory of several glaciations, developed by Albrecht Penck in the 1880s, on the basis of observations of the valleys and rivers terraces running north from the Alps, fitted well with Croll's theory. Thus the idea of a sequence of glaciations was applied to Britain with some success, partly as a result of Geikie's advocacy. But the evidence of such a sequence in the Lake District itself was by no means clear, and it was not developed for the region until the work of Frederick Trotter and Sidney Hollingworth . In the meantime, much geomorphological work on the form and formation of lakes and tarns had been done by the chief aficionado of Lakeland geology, Cambridge professor, John Marr. But he thought there might have been only one major glaciation. The paradox is that, for England, the glacial sequence has had to be worked out more by examination of deposits in the flatter southern regions, as much as in the mountains where the glaciers were formed and most active. In the Lakeland mountains, as in other parts of the world, the last glaciation has tended to remove or obscure the products of earlier glaciations. (shrink)
An account is given of one of the most heated controversies in nineteenth-century British geology—the battle between Archibald Geikie and John Judd concerning the interpretation of the Palaeogene igneous rocks of the Inner Hebrides, particularly those of the Cuillins and the Red Hills of Skye. The controversy erupted in the first instance over the question of the respective ‘territories’ of the two geologists, then developed into disagreement as to the origin of the plateau lavas of Skye: were they formed from (...) fissure eruptions or from the outpourings of great volcanoes ? Debate then focused on the question of the relative age of the gabbro of the Cuillins and the granite of the Red Hills. A certain locality at Druim Hain at the junction between the two rock-types became crucial for the dispute. Following earlier observers, Judd held that the granite was older and had been intruded by the gabbro. Geikie took the opposite view. Geikie's work relied particularly on field observations, for which he was assisted by several other geologists. Judd, who worked by himself, rested his argument more on the evidence furnished by petrology, using thin sections. Both geologists were influenced by Ferdinand von Richthofen. Geikie's work appeared to be vindicated in his own lifetime by the map work of Alfred Harker, which effectively closed the controversy. But later commentators such as Walker hold that in a sense both were correct. There were indeed great volcanoes active in the Inner Hebrides in the Palaeogene, as well as fissure eruptions. Moreover, recent mapping does not support all the observations of Geikie and Harker. The controversy illustrates different styles in nineteenth-century geology, with petrological arguments, based on the examination of thin sections, pitted against field observations. It may also be seen as being linked with the ongoing rivalry in the nineteenth century between the members of the Geological Survey and the ‘amateur’ university geologists. Geikie prevailed in the debate in part because he was able to draw on more resources for its prosecution, being helped by various friends and members of the Geological Survey. The study draws on the newly discovered Geikie archive at Haslemere, which contains his complete outgoing official correspondence, and 27 of his field notebooks, previously missing. With the help of this material, it is possible to gain a clearer insight into the methods deployed by Geikie in his fieldwork, and his ways of working and thinking. (shrink)
Humboldtian science Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9480-6 Authors David Oldroyd, School of History and Philosophy, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2052 Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
Mineralogy, chemistry, botany, medicine, geology, agriculture, meteorology, classification,…: The life and times of John Walker, Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9471-7 Authors David Oldroyd, School of History and Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2052 Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
The paper discusses some of the problems that may be encountered in writing the history of geology with the help of non-written sources, but also offers suggestions as to the kinds of sources that may prove useful. It considers particularly the well-known proposition of R. G. Collingwood that historical writing should involve the attempted 're-enactment of past experience', and also criticisms of such idealist philosophies of history as have been made by Michel Foucault. In considering the relative merits of these (...) two contrasting views, an example is taken from the author's own work, which illustrates the point that attempted 'thought reading', in the manner commended by Collingwood, can sometimes lead to error; thus Foucault's position gains some support. However, it is contended that so much geological knowledge is specific to particular localities that much of the primary literature may be unintelligible without at least some first-hand knowledge of those localities. Thus, an appropriate mix of written and unwritten sources is necessary for writing the history of geology. (shrink)