A Mini-Gallery of Interesting Naturalists

Edward Drinker Cope

great neo-Lamarckian American biologist and palaeontologist E. D. Cope proposed the famous 'Law of the Unspecialized' 

"... the highly developed, or specialized types of one geologic period have not been the parents of the types of succeeding periods, but ...the descent has been derived from the less specialized of preceding ages...Animals of omnivorous food-habits would survive where those which required special foods, would die. Species of small size would survive a scarcity of food, while large ones would perish... the lines of descent of Mammalia have originated or been continued through forms of small size. The same is true of all other Vertebrata... Degeneracy is a fact of evolution ... and its character is that of an extreme specialization, which has been, like an overperfection of structure, unfavorable to survival. In general, then, it has been the 'golden mean' of character which has presented the most favorable condition of survival, in the long run." 
(E. D. Cope, 1896, p. 173-174)
Charles Darwin


famous author of the equally famous book "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (London, Murray 1859)

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."
(Charles Darwin, 1859, last words)
go to some excerpts from Darwin's work

go to the bibliography of Darwin's books

Robert Chambers 


a Scottish publisher and popular writer whose anonymous book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation were an international sensation in 1844

"The idea, then, which I form of the progress of organic life upon the globe - and the hypothesis is applicable to all similar theatres of vital being - is, that the simplest and most primitive type, under a law to which that of like-production is subordinate, gave birth to the type next above it, that this again produced the next higher, and so on to the very highest, the stages of advance being in all cases very small - namely, from one species only to another; so that the phenomenon has always been of a simple and modest character."
(Robert Chambers, 1844)
go to a few excerpts from Chambers' work
Alfred Russell Wallace


co-author of the theory of natural selection
and great biogeographer

"If, therefore, we have traced one force, however minute, to an origin in our own will, while we have no knowledge of any other primary cause of force, it does not seem an improbable conclusion that all force may be will-force; and thus, that the whole universe is not merely dependent on, but actually is, the will of higher intelligences or of one Supreme Intelligence... "
(Wallace, 1895)
go to some excerpts from Wallace's work
go to selected bibliography of Wallace
Richard Owen


great Darwin's rival and outstanding British anatomist and palaeontologist

"To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic phenomena may have been committed we as yet are ignorant. But if, without derogation of the Divine power, we may conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify them by the term 'Nature', we learn from the past history of our globe that she has advanced with slow and stately steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of worlds, from the first embodiment of the Vertebrate idea, under its old Ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in the glorious garb of the human form."
(Owen 1849)
go to some excerpts from Owen's work
go to the bibliography of Richard Owen
Georges Cuvier


outstanding French anatomist and catastrophist,
author of the Discours sur les revolutions de la surface du globe (Discours preliminaire publ. 1812), 1825 Dufour et D'Ocagne. Paris, Amsterdam.

"...when I maintain that the rock strata contain the bones of several genera and the loose strata contain the fossil bones of several species which no longer exist, I do not claim that a new creation must have produced those species existing today. I say only that they did not exist in the places where we see them at present and that they must have come there from somewhere else. 
Let us suppose, for example, that a huge irruption of the sea covers the continent of New Holland with a mountain of sand or other debris. The sea will bury there the bodies of  kangaroos, phascolomes [wombats], dasyures [small carnivorous marsupials], perameles [bandicoots], flying phalangers [species of Australian marsupial], echidna [species ant eater] and ornithorhynchus [duck-billed platypus], and will destroy entirely the species of all these genera, because none of them exists now in other countries. 
Suppose this same revolution changes into dry land the numerous small straits which separate New Holland from the continent of Asia. It will open the way for elephants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, horses, camels, tigers, and all the other Asian quadrupeds. These will come to populate the land where they have been previously unknown. 
Suppose then that a naturalist, having diligently studied all this living nature, decides to search through the soil on which it dwells. He will find there the remains of totally different creatures."
(Cuvier, 1825)
go to some excerpts from Cuvier's work
Lorenz Oken


German outstanding transcendental naturalist and philosopher

"A line, one extremity whereof strives towards the centre, the other to the periphery, the one to the identity, the other to duality, will exhibit itself in the world as a line of Light, in the planet as a Magnetic line. Magnetism is centroperipheric antagonism, a radial line, 0 - - _, the action of the line being cleft at one extremity. Magnetism has its root in the beginning of creation. It is prophesied with time."
(Oken, 1847)
go to some excerpts from Oken's work
Robert Broom


 born in Scotland, the greatest South African palaeontologist 

"Dubois went to Java to look for a missing link and found Pithecanthropus after some years. I went to look for a missing link and found one within a few weeks. It may have been an accident, but it is rather strange that the skull should have been blasted out within a week of my going to Sterkfontein, and a most careful hunt for two years did not yield another but only odd bones and teeth.
(Robert Broom)
go to short bibliography of Broom's work

See more on Robert Broom 


Rupert Sheldrake


great contemporary British biologist and philosopher

"... some cases of evolutionary atavism, in which species reproduce features of other species long since extinct, may be due to their picking up a sort of 'ancestral memory' by the process of morphic resonance. Horses, for instance, are sometimes born with two toes, like their distant ancestors."
(Rupert Sheldrake)
go to some excerpts from Sheldrake's works

Julian Barbour

(1937 - )

great contemporary British physicist and philosopher

"... I wonder if, at root, there is that much difference between the Heraclitan and Parmenidean schools, representing 'verbs' and 'nouns' respectively. If my definition of an instant of time is accepted, it becomes hard to say in what respect those two great Pre-Socratics might differ. The two best-known sayings attributed to Heraclitus are 'Everything flows' (Panta rei) and the very sentence which, entirely unconsciously, I used to clinch the argument that the cat Lucy who leapt to catch the swift was not the cat who landed with her prey: 'One cannot step into the same river twice'. There is always change from one instant to another - no two are alike. But that is just what I have tried to capture with the notion of Platonia as the collection of all distinct instants. Heraclitus argued that the appearance of permanence, of enduring substance, is an illusion created by the laws that govern change..."
(Barbour: 2000, p. 330)
 go to excerpts from his book The End of Time

Please, visit also the beautiful page History of Evolutionary Biology (for about 1800-1950) maintained by John Alroy at:


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