Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 372 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.

John Fiske’s “Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy.”

F.H.  Collins’s “Epitome of the Synthetic Philosophy.”

A.D.  White’s “Herbert Spencer:  The Completion of the Synthetic





There is no doubt that, by the judgment of a large majority of scientists, the place of pre-eminence in the history of science during the nineteenth century should be assigned to Charles Robert Darwin.  The theory associated with his name deserves to be called epoch-making.  The Darwinian hypothesis, indeed, should not be confounded with the cosmic theory of Evolution which was formulated earlier and independently by Herbert Spencer, and supported by many arguments drawn from sources outside the field of natural history.  The specific merit of the Darwinian hypothesis is that it furnishes a rational and almost universally accepted explanation of the mode in which changes have taken place in the development of organic life upon the earth.  With the possible cosmical applications of his theory Darwin did not concern himself, though the bearing of his hypothesis upon wider problems was at once discerned, and has been set forth by Spencer and others.  Before stating, however, the conclusions at which Darwin arrived in his “Origin of Species,” the “Descent of Man,” and other writings, and before indicating the extent to which these conclusions have been adopted, we should say a word about his interesting, amiable, and exemplary personality.  Concerning his private life, there is no lack of information.  He himself wrote an autobiographical sketch which has been amplified by his son Francis Darwin, and supplemented with numerous extracts from his correspondence.


Charles Robert Darwin was born at Shrewsbury, Feb. 12, 1809.  His mother was a daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the well-known Staffordshire potter, and his father, Dr. Robert Waring Darwin, was a son of Erasmus Darwin, celebrated in the eighteenth century as a physician, a naturalist, and a poet.  It is a curious fact that in some of his speculations Erasmus Darwin anticipated the views touching the evolution of organic life subsequently announced by Lamarck, and ultimately incorporated by Charles Darwin in the theory that bears his name.  The only taste kindred to natural history which Dr. Darwin possessed in common with his father and his son was a love of plants.  The garden of his house in Shrewsbury, where Charles Darwin spent his boyhood, was filled with ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as fruit-trees.

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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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