The grand conception of the uniform origin and development of all things, earthly or sidereal, thus summed up for us in the one word evolution, belongs by right neither to Charles Darwin nor to any other single thinker. It is the joint product of innumerable workers, all working up, though some of them unconsciously, towards a grand final unified philosophy of the cosmos. In astronomy, Kant, Laplace, and the Herschels; in geology, Hutton, Lyell, and the Geikies; in biology, Buffon, Lamarck, the Darwins, Huxley, and Spencer; in psychology, Spencer, Romanes, Sully, and Ribot; in sociology, Spencer, Tylor, Lubbock, and De Mortillet—these have been the chief evolutionary teachers and discoverers. But the use of the word evolution itself, and the establishment of the general evolutionary theory as a system of philosophy applicable to the entire universe, we owe to one man alone—Herbert Spencer. Many other minds—from Galileo and Copernicus, from Kepler and Newton, from Linnaeus and Tournefort, from D’Alembert and Diderot, nay, even, in a sense, from Aristotle and Lucretius—had been piling together the vast collection of raw material from which that great and stately superstructure was to be finally edified. But the architect who placed each block in its proper niche, who planned and designed the whole elevation, who planted the building firmly on the rock and poised the coping-stone on the topmost pinnacle, was the author of the ‘System of Synthetic Philosophy,’ and none other. It is a strange proof of how little people know about their own ideas, that among the thousands who talk glibly every day of evolution, not ten per cent. are probably aware that both word and conception are alike due to the commanding intelligence and vast generalising power of Herbert Spencer.
Among the reefs of rock upon the Australian coast, an explorer’s dredge often brings up to the surface some tangled tresses of reddish seaweed, which, when placed for a while in a bucket of water, begin slowly to uncoil themselves as if endowed with animal life, and finally to swim about with a gentle tremulous motion in a mute inquiring way from side to side of the pail that contains them. Looked at closely with an attentive eye, the complex moving mass gradually resolves itself into two parts: one a ruddy seaweed with long streaming fronds; the other, a strangely misshapen and dishevelled pipe-fish, exactly imitating the weed itself in form and colour. When removed from the water, this queer pipe-fish proves in general outline somewhat to resemble the well-known hippocampus or sea-horse of the aquariums, whose dried remains, in a mummified state, form a standing wonder in many tiny domestic museums. But the Australian species, instead of merely mimicking the knight on a chess-board, looks rather like a hippocampus in the most advanced stage of lunacy, with its tail and fins and the appendages