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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 57. Research after Darwin; Huxley

It is somewhat curious that the immediate effect of the publication of The Origin of Species and of the acceptance of its theories by a considerable and ever-increasing number of experts did not lead to the progress of research along the precise lines Darwin himself had followed. To trace the origin of animals and plants and their interconnection was still the object of zoologists and botanists, but the more active researchers of the last part of the nineteenth century attacked the problem from standpoints in the main other than that of Darwin. The accurate description of bodily structure and the anatomical comparison of the various organs was the subject of one school of investigators: Rolleston’s Forms of Animal Life, re-edited by Hatchett Jackson, Huxley’s Vertebrate and Invertebrate Zoologies, and Milnes Marshall’s Practical Zoology testify to this. Another school took up with great enthusiasm the investigation of animal embryology, the finest output of which was Balfour’s Text-Book of Embryology, published in 1880. Francis Maitland Balfour occupied a chair, especially created for him at Cambridge university, in 1882, and, for a time, Cambridge became a centre for this study, and Balfour’s pupil, Sedgwick, carried on the tradition. Members of yet another school devoted themselves to the minute structure of the cell and to the various changes which the nucelus undergoes during cell-division. Animal histology has, however, been chiefly associated with physiology; and, as this chapter is already greatly overweighted, we have had to leave physiology on one side. The subjects of degeneration, as shown by such forms as the sessile tunicata, the parasitic crustacea and many internal parasitic worms, with the last of which the name of Cobbold is associated, also received attention, and increased interest was shown in the pathogenic influence of internal parasites upon their hosts.

Towards the end of our period, a number of new schools of biological thought arose. As Judd tells us:

  • Mutationism, Mendelism, Weismannism, Neo-Lamarckism, Biometrics, Eugenics and what not are being diligently exploited. But all of these vigorous growths have their real roots in Darwinism. If we study Darwin’s correspondence, and the successive essays in which he embodied his views at different periods, we shall find, variation by mutation (or persaltum), the influence of environment, the question of the inheritance of acquired characters and similar problems were constantly present to Darwin’s ever open mind, his views upon them changing from time to time, as fresh facts were gathered.
  • Like everything else, these new theories are deeply rooted in the past.