May 20



The following are the latest in a long series of quotes provided by me which were found by doing an in depth search of the pre-Origin literature concerning evolution. They help demonstrate, yet again, that Darwin did not have priority on any of the ideas published in his highly influential book.

Darwin not original

Mr Darwin did not invent evolution any more than George Stevenson invented the steam-engine, or Mr Edison the electric telegraph

Anon, Popular Science Monthly, 1880, p.637.

Darwin claims that he was too ill to provide historical sketch for the first edition of On the Origins

I was so much out of health when I was writing my Book, that I grudged every hour of labour, and therefore gave no sort of history of the progress of my opinion.

Letter 26080, Darwin to Spencer, H., 2, Feb 1860.

Darwin accepts that he did not originate evolution

No educated person, not even the most ignorant, would suppose that I had meant to arrogate to myself the origination of the doctrine that species had been independently created.

Letter to Rev. Baden Powell.  18 Jan, 1860.

Hooker-Wallace’s priority over Darwin

He Wallace….forgets his own unquestioned claims to the honour of having originated independently of Mr Darwin, the theories which he so ably defends.

Anon (1868), Boston Fields, Vol.6, p.392 (Reference to Hooker’s Address to the British Association, Norwich).

Wallace on Chambers’ priority on transmutation (evolution)

It is less commonly remembered, but perhaps not universally forgotten, that among English speaking naturalists, the theory (of transmutation) was a commonplace topic of discussion for two to three decades before 1859; and especially after the publication and immense circulation of the successive editions of the Robert Chamber’s Vestiges, of which the first appeared in 1844.

Wallace, A.R.  (1905), My Life London Chapman Hall.

Chamber’s view of On the Origin of Species

His book, in no essential respect, contradicts the present (i.e. Vestiges ): on the contrary, while adding to its explanation of nature, it expresses substantially the same general ideas.

Chambers, R. (1860). Vestiges, 11th Edition, p. 1x1v.Vestiges

A summation of evolution from 1759

It is discovered, that Nature, teeming one day in the vigour of youth, produced the first animal, a shapeless, clumsy, microscopical object. This by the natural tendency of original propagation to vary, and perfect the species, produced other better organized. These, again, produced others more perfect than themselves, till, at last, appeared the most complex species of animals, the human kind, beyond whose perfections it is impossible for the work of generation to proceed.

Anon (1759). Philosophical Rhapsodies, Monthly Review 21, London, Griffiths.

Erasmus Darwin on the importance of sexual generation

And it is hence probable, that if vegetables could only have been produced by buds and bulbs and not by sexual generation, that they would not at this time have existed one thousandth part of the present number of species, which have probably been originally mule productions. Nor would any kind of improvement or change have happened to them, except by the difference of food and climate.

Darwin E. (1803), Zoonomia, Vol. 1, p.409.


Almost Natural Selection

When grate changes are made on the surface of a country, as when forests are changed into open land and marshes into cornfields, or any other change that is considerable, the changes of climate must correspond; and as the wild productions are very much affected by that, they must also undergo changes; and these changes may in time amount to the entire existence of some of the old tribes, both of plants and of animals. The modifications that the hereditary specific characters admit, and the introduction of not varieties only, but species altogether new. That not only was, but must have been the case. The production of soils and climate are as varied as these are; and when changes take place in either of these, if living productions cannot alter their habits so as to accommodate themselves to the change, there is no alternative they must perish.

Mudie, R. (1832). Popular Guide to the Observations of Nature, London, Whitaker, pp.369-370.


Humboldt on island’s and transmutation

Those who delight in conjectures respecting the gradual transformation of species and who regard different parrots, peculiar to islands situated near each other, as merely transformed species, and who ascribe the remarkable numerical relations to a migration of the same species, with which they have been altered by climatic influences, continuing for thousands of years, appear to replace each other.

Humboldt A.V. (1850). Views of Nature, London, Bohn, p.286

Monboddo’s “wild fantasy”

The wild fantasy that was maintained by Lord Monboddo that man originated from a race or orang-outangs, which had learned by accident to bend their thumbs in opposition to the fingers.

The Faculties of Birds,

James Rennie and Charles Knight, 1835, p.192.

Reverend Herbert on transmutation

The Hon. and Rev. W. Herbert, Dean of Manchester, who in a work on the Amyllidaceae, 1837, advanced the proposition that “botanical species are only a higher and more permeant class of varieties”, the precise language used by Darwin.

Beverley, R.M. (1867). The Darwinian Theory of Transmutation of Species, Nisbet, London, p116.

Relevant comment just before the Origin

Individuals of every species develop peculiarities which are capable of transmutation, and it is the knowledge of this fact which has enabled man to propagate the large number of varieties of dogs, pigs, oxen etc.

MacGilivray,W and Lankester, E. (1855). The Natural History of Deeside and Braemar, Private Circulation.

Rafinesque on new species

Plants vary gradually, in features, aspect, size, colour a natural spontaneous deviation from seedlings. This may happen quicker in animals, less quicker in perennials, slower still in trees, except when the tendency has already become active. These deviations may gradually form distinct varieties, next Breeds, at last becoming separate Species when they assume a striking difference, and peculiar specific characters of a more permanent nature.

Rafinesque, R.S. (1836). Flora Telluriana, Parts 1-4, p13.

William Paley on superfecundity

All superabundance supposes destruction, or must destroy itself. Perhaps there is no species of terrestrial animals whatever, which would not overrun the Earth, if it were permitted to multiply in perfect safety; or if fish that would not fill the ocean: at least if any single species were left to their natural increase without disturbance or restraint, the food of other species would  be exhausted by their maintenance. It is necessary, therefore, that the effects of such prolific facilities be curtailed.

Paley, W. (1825). Works of William Paley, Cambridge, Hilliard, Vol.1, 247.


….in different species of entities the same sort of organ serves for different purposes and different species of organ serve for the same purpose…..There are shifts in nature originating in the imperfections of this world which in a higher and more perfect globe would not be necessary.

Hope, T. (1831). Essay of Man, Literary Gazette, London, p.408.

By a “Homologue”, Owen means the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function. Thus the pectoral fins of the fish the wings of the bird and the fore-feet of the mammal and the arms and hands of Man, are said to be homologous parts, because they are really the same organs under different modifications.

Anon (1851), North British Review,15, p. 402.

Survival of the fittest

A continual war seems to be going on among the inferior creatures of the animal kingdom, the strong praying upon the weak, the sluggish submitting to the power of the swift, and those with obtuse instincts to others possessed of more cunning

Anon (1838). The Saturday Magazine p.104, London, Parker.

It seems equally plain that he law of survival of the fittest through the creation of the struggle for

existence is probably a fundamental law of evolution in organisms.

Anon 1840. Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., p.387.

The season of coupling with animals, is a period of strife, and the most robust prevail and maintain the vigour of the species. It is also remarkable that the amorous instincts of the females of all animals leads them to prefer the most vigorous males.

Ryan, M. (1837). The Philosophy of Marriage, London, Churchill, p.189.

Inferior races mad extinct

Inferior races (of Man) have in the same instances become extinct simply by the intrusion of a more vigorous race, just as a feeble plant prevailing over a considerable extent of the country is sometimes pushed out of existence by the continual encroachment of an hardy and more vigorous plant.

Anon (1855). Merchant’s Magazine, 32, New York, pp. 706-707.

Peculiarities originate in offspring

How free (people) so ever they may fancy themselves from any hereditary peculiarity; for it will require no argument to prove that, like the varieties of other animals, all the peculiarities must have originated in the offspring of couples who were free from them.

Adams, J. (1814). A Treatise on the Supposed Hereditary Properties of Disease. London, Callow, p.11.

Yet on the whole the increasing direction of the population must have for the race at large, a tendency upwards, toward a higher moral a as well as higher intellectual level. The very “struggle for life and the survival of the fittest” will work in this direction, and may be regarded as a good result.

Wilson Yet on the whole the increasing direction of the population must have for the race at large, a tendency upwards, toward a higher moral a as well as higher intellectual level. The very “struggle for life and the survival of the fittest” will work in this direction, and may be regarded as a good result.

Wilson Cornell, W.D.  First Principles of Political Economy, Philadelphia,

Carey. W.D.  First Principles of Political Economy, Philadelphia, Carey.

Comments Relating to Patrick Matthew

Mr Darwin published an apology to Mr Matthew for his entire ignorance of this publication (Naval Timbers), but the latter could not get over the feeling that another man had won the fame he had missed.

Larrabee, W.H. (1889). Glimpses of Darwin’s Working Life. Popular Science, p.624.

Again, Darwin accepts the priority of Wells and Matthew on Natural Selection

As for the mere enunciation of the principal of NS is concerned, it is quite immaterial whether or not Professor Owen preceded me, for both of us, as shown in the historical sketch were long ago preceded by Dr Wells and Mr Mathew.

Origin of Species, 1872 edition p.11.

Mr Matthew can be relied upon

Mr Matthew w is an author whose science and practical knowledge can be relied upon

Loudon, J.C. (1838). Arborteum et Fructicetum Britannicum, Longmans, London, Vol.4, p 2376.

Important advert for Matthew’s book

Advert for Naval Timbers……refers to…”The subject of species and variety”.

London Lit. Gaz. Belle Lett., 1832.

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