Nothing like some good ‘ol 19th century science

10 07 2007

With all the petsitting I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been able to obtain a few books that have long eluded me due to prohibitive prices. I know I may not even get to some of them for a few weeks, but I wanted to snap them up since the prices were the lowest I had seen them in some months. Anyway, here’s a look at what will soon be entering my collection;

The lying stones of Dr. Johann Bartholomew Adam Beringer,: Being his Lithographiæ Wirceburgensis – 1963 translation

I first heard of Beringer’s “Lying Stones” from the title essay of Stephen Jay Gould’s The Lying Stones of Marrakech and knew it would be an important book to have and to study. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Beringer was shown some fossils with comets, sun beams, reptiles, crustaceans, and the name of God preserved in stone, and he was instantly impressed with the specimens. What he initially did not know was that the stones were all hoaxes, created by some colleagues to poke fun at the pedantic professor. Their plan went too far, however, when Beringer decided to write a book about the rocks, and despite warnings from the hoaxers that the rocks were fake (even showing Beringer how it could be done), Beringer went ahead and published anyway. As Gould notes in his essay on the subject, the story of Beringer’s “lying stones” is much more complex than many geology texts have asserted, and I knew that this would be an important book to study in surveying the history of creationist thought.

Medals of Creation: Or, First Lessons in Geology and the Study of Organic Remains by Gideon Mantell (commentary by Stephen Jay Gould)

I’ve mentioned this book many times before, but I finally caved in and decided to buy it (the only other copies I’ve seen have been originals, costing the equivalent of $900). Mantell was the famed discoverer of the dinosaurs Iguanodon, a man that (along with William Buckland) that always receives a mention when the history of paleontology and dinosaurs is addressed. Despite Mantell’s contributions, however, I have heard from various sources that he had a rather interesting view of how to reconcile geology and the Bible (fossils were “medals” stamped to signify various ages), and so I knew I had to read this book.

The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution by E.D. Cope

While European 19th century anatomists and paleontologists often garner much consideration when the issue of evolution comes up (many were in direct contact with Darwin), American paleontologists had their own views on how evolution occurred. E.D. Cope, of the “Bone Wars” fame, wrote this book to explain his Neo-Lamarckian view of how evolution worked, and he was certainly more agreeable to hypothesizing about evolution than his rival O.C. Marsh. I am definitely looking reading this one.

The animal kingdom arranged in conformity with its organization by Georges Cuvier

Whenever the term “anatomist” comes to mind I immediately think of Cuvier and Sir Richard Owen. After reading so much about the history of evolution, however, I realized that I had never read any of Cuvier’s work for myself; I had always merely heard about catastrophism or little anecdotes through the words of other writers. Luckily for me, I was able to find a cheaply-priced volume of this work from an Atlanta bookseller, and I am very curious about what I’ll find in the pages of this book.

The origin and evolution of life: On the theory of action, reaction and interaction of energy

Another famous American paleontologist, Osborn had some rather, um, interesting ideas about evolution, including orthogenesis and artistogenesis. While Darwin often gets most of the attention when it comes to evolution, many of the strange views held by scientists around the beginning of the 20th century are forgotten, everyone seemingly having their own view of how evolution could proceed. The more I learn about the various hypotheses for evolution, the more it seems that before the Neo-Darwinian synthesis there was a muddle of Neo-Lamarckian, vitalistic, racist, and otherwise untenable views as to how species changed.

That’s all for now, although I do realize that I still have to read the works of Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, Buffon, Lamarck, Buckland, Owen, Erasmus Darwin, T.H. Huxley, Lyell, Hutton, Steno, da dVinci, and the often forgotten Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation before I have anything approaching a broad enough view on this subject. By the time I’m done, I’m sure that I could probably write a book solely on the history of evolution as an idea, but that will have to be a project for a later time.



2 responses

15 09 2011

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