It is not my province to deal with other theories of development which followed from Darwin's Pangenesis, or to discuss their histological probabilities. We can, however, affirm that Charles Darwin's idea that invisible gemmules are the carriers of hereditary characters and that they multiply by division has been removed from the position of a provisional hypothesis to that of a well-founded theory. It is supported by histology, and the results of experimental work in heredity, which are now assuming extraordinary prominence, are in close agreement with it.
By G. SCHWALBE. Professor of Anatomy in the University of Strassburg.
The problem of the origin of the human race, of the descent of man, is ranked by Huxley in his epoch-making book "Man's Place in Nature", as the deepest with which biology has to concern itself, "the question of questions,"--the problem which underlies all others. In the same brilliant and lucid exposition, which appeared in 1863, soon after the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species", Huxley stated his own views in regard to this great problem. He tells us how the idea of a natural descent of man gradually grew up in his mind, it was especially the assertions of Owen in regard to the total difference between the human and the simian brain that called forth strong dissent from the great anatomist Huxley, and he easily succeeded in showing that Owen's supposed differences had no real existence; he even established, on the basis of his own anatomical investigations, the proposition that the anatomical differences between the Marmoset and the Chimpanzee are much greater than those between the Chimpanzee and Man.
But why do we thus introduce the study of Darwin's "Descent of Man", which is to occupy us here, by insisting on the fact that Huxley had taken the field in defence of the descent of man in 1863, while Darwin's book on the subject did not appear till 1871? It is in order that we may clearly understand how it happened that from this time onwards Darwin and Huxley followed the same great aim in the most intimate association.
Huxley and Darwin working at the same Problema maximum! Huxley fiery, impetuous, eager for battle, contemptuous of the resistance of a dull world, or energetically triumphing over it. Darwin calm, weighing every problem slowly, letting it mature thoroughly,--not a fighter, yet having the greater and more lasting influence by virtue of his immense mass of critically sifted proofs. Darwin's friend, Huxley, was the first to do him justice, to understand his nature, and to find in it the reason why the detailed and carefully considered book on the descent of man made its appearance so late. Huxley, always generous, never thought of claiming priority for himself. In enthusiastic language he tells how Darwin's immortal work, "The Origin of Species", first shed light for him on the problem of the descent of man; the recognition of a vera causa in the transformation of species illuminated his thoughts as with a flash. He was now content to leave what perplexed him, what he could not yet solve, as he says himself, "in the mighty hands of Darwin." Happy in the bustle of strife against old and deep-rooted prejudices, against intolerance and superstition, he wielded his sharp weapons on Darwin's behalf; wearing Darwin's armour he joyously overthrew adversary after adversary. Darwin spoke of Huxley as his "general agent." ("Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley", Vol. I. page 171, London, 1900.) Huxley says of himself "I am Darwin's bulldog." (Ibid. page 363.)
Thus Huxley openly acknowledged that it was Darwin's "Origin of Species" that first set the problem of the descent of man in its true light, that made the question of the origin of the human race a pressing one. That this was the logical consequence of his book Darwin himself had long felt. He had been reproached with intentionally shirking the application of his theory to Man. Let us hear what he says on this point in his autobiography: "As soon as I had become, in the year 1837 or 1838, convinced that species were mutable productions, I could not avoid the belief that man must come under the same law. Accordingly I collected notes on the subject for my own satisfaction, and not for a long time with any intention of publishing. Although in the 'Origin of Species' the derivation of any particular species is never discussed, yet I thought it best, in order THAT NO HONOURABLE MAN SHOULD ACCUSE ME OF CONCEALING MY VIEWS (No italics in original.), to add that by the work 'light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history.' It would have been useless and injurious to the success of the book to have paraded, without giving any evidence, my conviction with respect to his origin." ("Life and Letters of Charles Darwin", Vol. 1. page 93.)
In a letter written in January, 1860, to the Rev. L. Blomefield, Darwin expresses himself in similar terms. "With respect to man, I am very far from wishing to obtrude my belief; but I thought it dishonest to quite conceal my opinion." (Ibid. Vol. II. page 263.)
The brief allusion in the "Origin of Species" is so far from prominent and so incidental that it was excusable to assume that Darwin had not touched upon the descent of man in this work. It was solely the desire to have his mass of evidence sufficiently complete, solely Darwin's great characteristic of never publishing till he had carefully weighed all aspects of his subject for years, solely, in short, his most fastidious scientific conscience that restrained him from challenging the world in 1859 with a book in which the theory of the descent of man was fully set forth. Three years, frequently interrupted by ill-health, were needed for the actual writing of the book ("Life and Letters", Vol. I. page 94.): the first edition, which appeared in 1871, was followed in 1874 by a much improved second edition, the preparation of which he very reluctantly undertook. (Ibid. Vol. III. page 175.)