SJG Archive

The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive

SJG Archive

Darwin and Modern Science (1909)

Edited by A.C. Seward


O.M., G.C.S.I., C.B., M.D., D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S., ETC.

The Camp,
near Sunningdale,
January 15, 1909.

ear Professor Seward,

The publication of a Series of Essays in Commemoration of the century of the birth of Charles Darwin and of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of "The Origin of Species" is assuredly welcome and is a subject of congratulation to all students of Science.

These Essays on the progress of Science and Philosophy as affected by Darwin's labours have been written by men known for their ability to discuss the problems which he so successfully worked to solve. They cannot but prove to be of enduring value, whether for the information of the general reader or as guides to investigators occupied with problems similar to those which engaged the attention of Darwin.

The essayists have been fortunate in having for reference the five published volumes of Charles Darwin's Life and Correspondence. For there is set forth in his own words the inception in his mind of the problems, geological, zoological and botanical, hypothetical and theoretical, which he set himself to solve and the steps by which he proceeded to investigate them with the view of correlating the phenomena of life with the evolution of living things. In his letters he expressed himself in language so lucid and so little burthened with technical terms that they may be regarded as models for those who were asked to address themselves primarily to the educated reader rather than to the expert.

I may add that by no one can the perusal of the Essays be more vividly appreciated than by the writer of these lines. It was my privilege for forty years to possess the intimate friendship of Charles Darwin and to be his companion during many of his working hours in Study, Laboratory, and Garden. I was the recipient of letters from him, relating mainly to the progress of his researches, the copies of which (the originals are now in the possession of his family) cover upwards of a thousand pages of foolscap, each page containing, on an average, three hundred words.

That the editorship of these Essays has been entrusted to a Cambridge Professor of Botany must be gratifying to all concerned in their production and in their perusal, recalling as it does the fact that Charles Darwin's instructor in scientific methods was his lifelong friend the late Rev. J.S. Henslow at that time Professor of Botany in the University. It was owing to his recommendation that his pupil was appointed Naturalist to H.M.S. "Beagle", a service which Darwin himself regarded as marking the dawn of his scientific career.

Very sincerely yours,


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