Evolution Since Darwin: Topics in the History of Evolutionary Biology, Primary Sources, 1858-1958

WashU affiliated authors: Garland Allen, Allan Larson (Dept. of Biology)

Abstract: This collection of papers grew out of a seminar for graduate students in ecology, evolution and population biology that we have taught for 25 years at Washington University in St. Louis. The seminar has been based on several propositions, or guiding principles, that we think warrant its extension to other readers as well: historians and philosophers of science as well as those interested in exploring aspects of evolutionary theory in the first century after publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). One of our central propositions is that the best work in any field of contemporary science is enhanced by knowledge of its history. Far from being irrelevant relics of the past, older ideas and the ways in which they were formulated and investigated can provide novel insights into investigation of the same or related issues today. Even ideas that have turned out to be wrong by modern standards were often put forward in ingenious ways, and spoke to questions that were at the time, or still are, deemed important. A number of our students have remarked about how many of the issues with which Darwin and later generations of evolutionists struggled (the nature of species, continuous vs discontinuous change, sympatric vs allopatric speciation) are still hotbeds of controversy. The ways of asking and answering the questions may have changed, but many of the issues are still being investigated today.

Citation or DOI: https://doi.org/10.7936/s2y7-sx54