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Title: Heroes of science : Botanists, zoologists, and geologists
Author: Duncan, P. Martin (Peter Martin)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Heroes of science : Botanists, zoologists, and geologists" ***


                            HEROES OF SCIENCE.


               PROFESSOR P. MARTIN DUNCAN, F.R.S., F.L.S.,


                43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET; 48, PICCADILLY;
                     AND 135, NORTH STREET, BRIGHTON.
                    NEW YORK: E. & J. B. YOUNG AND CO.




There is no little difficulty in obtaining correct and reliable life
histories of most of the greatest naturalists. Many of the men to whom
natural history science owes so much, lived extremely retired and
uneventful lives; but a few, and as might have been anticipated, the
reformers and epoch makers of their respective sciences, have had their
most interesting biographies well written. Abstracts of these biographies
form a large portion of this book; and the author desires to acknowledge
the very copious extracts he has made, from sources which he has
recognized in the proper places.




Most of us, on leaving school or college, are anxious about our future
career in the world, and concerning how we are to live, and what will be
our occupations. Some young people who have finished their education,
find themselves in comfortable circumstances, and are apt to look
forward to an easy life; but the majority have a hard struggle before
them, ere they can hope to be free from cares and to be successful.
Yet it usually happens, that those youths starting with the very best
prospects, do not live so happily, usefully, and well, as those who have
to struggle with poverty, and who casting aside inglorious ease, labour
on perseveringly. It is hard to believe, until the experience of years
brings its very practical proofs that knowledge is more valuable than
money; and therefore, how to get rich, is a predominant question with the
majority of us. But the history of the struggles and successes of some
of the men who have led most useful and beautiful lives, generally shows
that industry, perseverance and contentment have served them better than
pecuniary wealth, and that this has often been a source of trouble to
them. There is no better incitement to a youth who has tried to do his
best at school, and who is thinking about leading a useful, successful
life, than to read the history of the lives of the men whose names are
household words in the branches of knowledge he has learned.

At the present time, much care is taken to instruct young people about
the nature and uses of plants, the characteristics of animals and the
ancient history of the earth. Museums are readily visited, and little
home collections of plants, insects, birds, and fossils are frequently
easily made. Natural history, in all its branches, is easily studied; and
as one becomes learned in it, the names of many men, constantly, come
before the student as the masters of their respective subjects. Who has
not heard of Linnæus, Cuvier, and Lyell? If any young naturalist will
read the history of the lives of these great men, he will find much that
is very noble in them; he will see that they made their way through great
difficulties, by constant and great intellectual labour, and that they
led very good, and useful, and happy lives.

It may happen that any one just commencing to study nature, is anxious
to make a great discovery and to obtain a great name. The history of the
lives of these and other heroes of science, will prove to him, however,
that discoveries are not sudden gains of knowledge, but are the result
of very slow and gradual accumulation of facts. If he is a real student
of nature, he will strive for truth and not for personal distinction;
and the truth, brings a better reward than the fleeting praise of man.
The true lasts. He will be able to glean that the special gifts of men,
if properly fostered and cultivated, advance knowledge in particular
directions, and that certain great changes and advances in the method
of learning, have been due to men who have begun poor, have laboured
hard, have been persecuted and vilified, and who have nevertheless lived
happily in their consciences, and have often become great men in every

The following chapters contain the history of the lives of some of the
most interesting men of ancient and modern times—of men who are the
heroes of Botany, Zoology, and Geology, and who have added methods of
study and many facts to their sciences.





                               CHAPTER I.


    Old fancies and notions about plants—Aristoteles, the first
    botanist—Theophrastus—Plinius—Dioscorides—Their lives, labours,
    and troubles                                                         1

                               CHAPTER II.


    John Ray—Joseph de Tournefort—Their lives                           27

                              CHAPTER III.

                          THE LIFE OF LINNÆUS.

    The science of plants begins to mature, to be reformed, and to
    be made more exact                                                  52

                               CHAPTER IV.

                   THE LIFE OF LINNÆUS (_Continued_).

    The publication and reception of the artificial system of
    classifying plants                                                  81

                               CHAPTER V.


    The life of De Candolle—The Natural System                          98

                               CHAPTER VI.

                           HEROES OF ZOOLOGY.

    The nature of the science of zoology—Great zoologists usually
    botanists also—Aristoteles as a zoologist—Plinius—The long age
    of no progress—The life of Conrad Gesner—The zoology of Ray and
    Willughby—Swammerdam—Réaumur—The zoology of Linnæus                122

                              CHAPTER VII.


    The popular writings of Buffon, and his life—Pennant’s
    life—Lamarck and his life—The rise of popular natural history,
    and of exact descriptions and philosophical zoology                144

                              CHAPTER VIII.

                           THE LIFE OF CUVIER.

    The union of zoology and comparative anatomy, and the
    examination and study of fossil remains                            178

                               CHAPTER IX.

                           HEROES OF GEOLOGY.

    The rise of the science which treats of the ancient history
    of the earth—Students of the present changes which are
    the examples by which the past may be comprehended—The
    Greeks—The life of Pythagoras; a notice of the geology of
    Aristoteles—Strabo’s life—The nature of fossils and the life of
    Steno                                                              209

                               CHAPTER X.

                           THE LIFE OF HUTTON.

    The rise of the modern school of geology—The continuity of
    the operations of nature and their sameness—The necessity of
    studying the existing state of things in order to comprehend
    the past—The denial of catastrophes—Hutton’s theory of the
    earth the foundation of scientific geology                         221

                               CHAPTER XI.

                       THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SMITH.

    The succession of the strata recognized—Strata known by their
    fossils, position, and mineral contents—England surveyed by
    Smith and made the type of the results of the succession of
    changes studied by geology                                         236

                              CHAPTER XII.

                         THE LIFE OF MURCHISON.

    The older rocks of the globe studied accurately and
    surveyed—The general similarity of the succession of strata
    in many parts of the world decided—The geology of Wales and
    Scotland described—The commencement of accurate geological
    surveys                                                            275

                              CHAPTER XIII.

                           THE LIFE OF LYELL.

    The study of existing nature and its changes undertaken in
    order to comprehend the past changes during geological ages—The
    uniformity of natural operations under law—Catastrophes
    abolished—The succession of life on the globe, and that of the
    tertiary ages explained—The antiquity of man and of the great
    ice age established                                                307






    Old fancies and notions about plants—Aristoteles, the first
    botanist—Theophrastus—Plinius—Dioscorides—Their lives, labours,
    and troubles.

Everybody likes to gather flowers for the sake of their beauty and scent,
and most young people ask the names and the uses of the plants which
grow them. These appear to have been the questions that the earliest
races of men sought to answer for themselves. They gave plants names, and
ascribed some truthful and a great many very curious and false properties
to them. Many of the first races of men lived on fruits, vegetables,
and roots, and it became important to know good and nourishing plants
from those which were poisonous. The ablest men of the tribes, probably,
studied the names which had been given by custom to many plants; and the
healing power of some plants, and the poisonous nature of others began
to be known; the good and ill-disposed amongst men endeavoured to learn
all about them. Thus the first steps in the science of plants were to
name them, and to ascribe properties to them. It has often been noticed
that there is some resemblance between the history of the progress of
a science, during all the ages of civilization, and that of the rise
and progress of one in the child, youth, and man. The child receives
everything that it is told, as a truth, and loves the wonderful; the
youth likes to hear of mysteries, and his emotions and poetic feeling
lead him to desire general truths; and the man criticizes what he has
been told, tries to learn for himself, and longs for exact knowledge and
the absolute truth. So in the early days of civilization, men believed
in everything that was told them, and ascribed wonderful properties to
the nature around them which they saw was so beautiful and yet often so
terrible. As the world got older, curious legends were associated with
truths and falsities; and with the general diffusion of learning, and the
careful exercise of the reasoning powers, knowledge became more exact and
useful, and was followed for truth’s sake.

All branches of knowledge relating to nature passed through many stages,
and were influenced by the prevailing habits and methods of thought of
the age. The wonderful, the mysterious, the marvellous, the union of
poetry with true and false religion, the struggle between the desire for
truth and fear of the persecution of the ignorant, and the victory of
cultivated observation and reason, all followed, in order, during the
history of the progress of every science. A great writer states that it
cannot then surprise us that the earliest lore concerning plants, which
we discover in the records of the past, consists of mythological legends,
marvellous relations, and extraordinary medicinal qualities. To the
lively fancy of the Greeks, the narcissus, which bends its head over the
stream, was originally a youth who, in such an attitude, became enamoured
of his own beauty. The hyacinth, on whose flower certain markings are to
be traced resembling the Greek expression of grief (ΑΙΑΙ), recorded the
sorrow of the god Apollo for the death of his favourite Hyacinthus. The
beautiful lotus of India, which floats with its splendid flower on the
surface of the water, is the chosen seat of the goddess Lackshmi, the
daughter of Ocean. In Egypt, the god Osiris swam on a lotus leaf, and the
lotus-eaters of Homer lost their love of home immediately.

These legends and odd fancies, although believed in by the populace
of the Eastern nations until a late period in history, were of great
antiquity and under different names of gods and plants, heroes and
flowers had been handed down from the dawn of civilization. Yet this
was not all the knowledge about plants in those early years. The more
thoughtful amongst men began to recognize plants by name and to study
their uses. Some men were hunters and shepherds, but with them were those
who, with gentler spirit, tilled the ground and stored the fruits of the
earth. What these were, can be learned from the pictures in Egyptian
paintings. The corn of Egypt was wheat and barley, and it is interesting
to know that the wheat was of a kind that must have been produced by
skilled cultivation.

The vine comes early into notice in the Bible, and it had been studied,
for wine was made of its fruit. Solomon loved nature, because it brought
him into the presence of truth and beauty, and he “spoke of trees from
the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth
out of the wall.” This was part of his wisdom. And the great traveller,
Herodotus, shows us that a taste for natural history had, in his time,
found a place in the mind of the Greeks—a great race who followed after
the first child-like nature-studies of the Chaldeans, Assyrians, and
Babylonians had merged into real knowledge. In speaking of the luxuriant
vegetation of the plains of Babylon—now dreary wastes—he is so far from
desiring to astonish merely, that he says “the blades of wheat and barley
are full four fingers wide; but as to the size of the trees which grow
from millet and sesame, though I could mention it I will not, knowing
well that those who have not been in that country will hardly believe
what I have said already.” It is clear that when the Greeks were in the
child-like stage of plant lore, the older races had passed it, and were
successful cultivators of plants that had required much study to turn
to use. But the Greeks soon made amends, and the teacher of Alexander
the Great, Aristoteles, tried to arrange plants, and to classify them
according to their peculiarities. Plants and herbs had been long used as
medicine, and the poisonous properties of aconite had been employed to
destroy one of the noblest men of old, before this time, so that this
celebrated naturalist had the knowledge, which had been accumulating for
centuries, to put in order and to arrange.

Aristoteles was born at Stageira, in the year 384 B.C., and it is
interesting to note that his wonderful love of nature was fostered by,
and, indeed, probably arose from the profession of his father. His
father was the physician and friend of Amyntas, King of Macedonia, and
his mother was a descendant of the great physician Æsculapius. The young
Aristoteles lost both his parents at an early period of his life, but the
son of Amyntas, called Philip, was his friend, and kind people brought
the boy up. We know nothing of the boy’s habits or method of life; but
it can be readily understood by those who read these lives, and have had
a love of nature, before the experience of such a calamity as the loss
of parents, that many an hour of sorrow was shortened and solaced by
studying the graceful and blooming plants and the movements and habits
of animals. Certain it is that the boy loved study, and it soon became
evident that his loss was compensated, as it is very often in such
cases, by a spirit of self-reliance. In his eighteenth year he went to
Athens to study the healing art. When Aristoteles was about twenty-one
years of age, the philosopher Plato returned from Sicily, and the young
man then seems to have cared more for the study of the sciences which
were requisite for a polished physician, than for the art of healing.
He made his first self-sacrifice, as many a man has done since; he gave
up the uncertainties of the art of curing diseases, and learned natural
history and philosophy. His eagerness for knowledge and his extraordinary
acuteness and sagacity doubtless attracted Plato’s notice, who soon
called him “the intellect of the school,” and said his house was “the
house of the reader.” As Aristoteles grew up, his early training and his
love of the truth seen in nature, began to separate him from the common
run of men, and his self-reliance began to make him an antagonist to the
teachings even of the great Plato. But this opposition was not that of a
vain and conceited young man. Plato had noticed his ability, and he was
really a man of mark, whose opinions were valuable. Aristoteles studied
facts, and knew many truths about natural history, but his wonderful
master cared more for ideas. Such men must always clash, and Aristoteles
writes in one of his books about his opposition to the philosophy of
Plato, that it is painful to refute the doctrine of ideas, as it has
been introduced by persons who were his friends; “nevertheless it is a
duty to disregard such private feelings, for both philosophers and truth
are dear to me, but it is right to give the preference to truth.” Truth!
what is truth? said Pilate, and turned from the true. The Creator’s
light, seen with our longing eyes, precious beyond conception, the
sweetest solace of intellect; what is, what was—yet not to be defined by
finite man. The very root of science, it is that which we are to hold in
our consciences against all opposition. Appreciated by the savage, dear
to pagan, the pride of the Christian, the giver of confidence amongst all
men. Hard to get at, yet it is at the foundation of all those branches of
knowledge which relate to the study of the Creation. Aristoteles studied
natural history, that is, the plants and animals which came before him,
especially. He recorded their description, noted their reproduction, and
tried to make out their resemblances. He noticed the growth of things,
and the decay of the surface of the earth, and having the facts and
truths before him, he argued upon them. His master, Plato, was not a
naturalist, but accepting the truths handed down to him by those who
were observers of nature, he generalized about them, and got ideas by
thinking out the bearings of the truths. He loved the ideal, and wrote,
“Behold this world! You will find that its efficient cause is God, by
whom it was brought into being; its moving cause, the goodness of the
Creator.” He could no more occupy time by studying the structure of the
flowers, plants, and sea-shells, than Aristoteles could in imagining or
speculating on the causes of things. Both desired the truth, and tried to
get it in different manners; but as at the present day there are moral
philosophers and naturalists with totally different kinds of mind and
habits of thought, so in those old days the master and pupil never worked
together. The master gave way to his grand imagination, and the pupil was
strictly a matter-of-fact man.

Aristoteles remained at Athens until he was thirty-seven years of age,
when the death of Plato, in 347 B.C., happened. Before that time,
however, he had become a man of note, and the Athenians sent him on an
embassy to his friend and former patron, Philip of Macedon. It appears
that he was able to serve his adopted country; but he made a mistake
which all naturalists should avoid—he became a politician. His position
at Athens became uncomfortable, and he left the city after the death
of Plato, and, accompanied by a fellow-disciple of the great teacher,
went into Asia Minor. They were invited by the Prince of Atarneus, named
Hermeias, who had received lessons from Aristoteles. This man was once
the slave of a banker, and when at Athens received a liberal education.
Returning to his native country, he fought for Eubulus, the King of
Atarneus, successfully against the Persians. On the death of Eubulus he
was raised to the throne, and gladly welcomed one of the men who had
given him knowledge, and, therefore, power. The romance of Aristoteles’
life followed quickly, for, unfortunately, Hermeias was captured by
the Persians under a Greek general, after Aristoteles had been three
years with him. He was put to death, and Aristoteles fled to Mitylene,
the chief city of the neighbouring island of Lesbos. Hermeias had a
sister, Pythias, and Aristoteles, knowing her excellent character and
disposition, and being aware of the sad fate which she would suffer,
were she to fall into the hands of the Persians, married her, and she
accompanied him in his flight. She made him an excellent wife, and
Aristoteles had always a fervent and sincere affection for the patriotic
and philosophical prince his friend.

After two years’ residence in Mitylene, Aristoteles was invited by
Philip to return to Macedonia, to superintend the education of his son
Alexander, the future Alexander the Great, then fourteen years old. He
was with this very able prince during about four years, and instructed
him in morality, politics, and natural history. It was a strange position
for a student of nature to occupy, and that he did his duty to his pupil
is evident. It is the universal opinion that much that was admirable
in the character of Alexander the Great was due to the influence of
Aristoteles. The great conqueror was fond of literature, delighted in
physical and even medical pursuits, sought the intimacy of men who
thought, rather than that of men who had no other recommendation than
titles and riches, and was devoted to the study of nature. These were
the fruits of Aristoteles’ instruction, and it must be remembered that
Alexander differed entirely in his conduct from the brutal conquerors who
have been, over and over again, the scourge and curse of mankind.

Aristoteles lost his wife during this time, and she left him an only
daughter. Then Philip was assassinated, and his son reigned at Macedon
for two years, and then began his great expedition into Asia. Aristoteles
accompanied his pupil to Athens, and parted with him never to see him
again, but still to influence him for years. Unfortunately, however,
Aristoteles recommended a relation, named Callisthenes, to the young
king, and it was the cause of a rupture of friendship in years to come.
Left to himself, our hero resolved to open a school for the benefit of
the Athenian youth, and to teach good learning in philosophy and nature.
He chose a house near a temple of Apollo Lyceius, which was called
the “Lyceum,” and attached to it was a garden with walks, where the
instruction was given. The Greek word for the walks was _peripatua_, and
the school was called that of the peripatetics. His habit was to give
one lecture in the early part of the day, on the more difficult parts
of his teaching, to his more advanced students; and this was called the
morning walk, and lasted till the hour when people dressed and anointed
themselves. Another lecture, called the evening walk, was on more
popular subjects, and to a larger and less select class. It was during
these thirteen years of teaching that Aristoteles composed and completed
the greater part of his works which have descended to our days. Amongst
them are treatises on natural history, the result of his own observations
and of the carefully selected works of others.

His great pupil never forgot his master during his victorious career,
and Alexander is said to have sent Aristoteles the enormous sum of
eight hundred talents to prosecute his studies in natural history. He,
moreover, ordered several thousands of persons over the whole of Greece
and Asia, who lived by hunting, bird-catching, and fishing, or who
had the care of parks, herds, hives, stews, and aviaries, to furnish
Aristoteles with materials for a work on animals. Two volumes on plants
were written by Aristoteles, but they are lost to us; and he influenced
the botanists of his day by his great exactitude of description and

Aristoteles’ writings and teaching embraced a great variety of subjects,
and they were so genuine that he became the leader of one of the
principal schools of Greece; and his method of study and many of his
facts and ideas have influenced mankind down to the present day. His
works were much studied during the Middle Ages, and although his books on
botany have been lost, still he influenced the study of botany through
his pupil, Theophrastus, who became the great light of after years.

There is one point about Aristoteles’ character which everybody must
admire, and it was the gratitude he felt for the good friends of his
youth and of the days of struggling upwards in his career. It has been
noticed that he was brought up by kind people. They were not relations,
but probably were appointed his guardians by his father. They were
Proxenus and his wife, citizens of Atarneus, who had left that city and
had been long resident in Stageira. Not only were they the good friends
of the boy, but they evidently brought him in contact with Hermeias, who
subsequently became the prince of the place and Aristoteles’ fast friend
and brother-in-law. Aristoteles testified his gratitude to his friends by
directing in his will that statues of them, as well as of his parents,
should be set up at his expense. He likewise educated their son, Nicanor,
to whom he gave his daughter in marriage. Whilst growing old he wrote a
beautiful poem, which is still to be read, praising the virtues of his
friend and patron, Hermeias.

But success in life is sure to produce envy and hostility, and
Aristoteles was no exception to this rule. A charge was made against
him of impiety, and that he had made a god of his friend Hermeias. Such
charges were not uncommon in those days. Socrates, one of the greatest
and purest of men, had been accused of impiety a few years before, and
that teacher of the immortality of the soul, and the master and friend
of Plato, had been condemned and poisoned. The charges were absurd
enough, but the judges were ignorant, and sunk in paganism, and almost
invariably took the side of the accuser. Indeed, all through the history
of the progress of the rise of civilization there were men who teaching
a false religion, accused the bright lights of genius, science, and
wit, of irreligion. The false priest and the fighting class, with rare
exceptions, have always persecuted the leaders in science, and have
antagonized progress, except in their own interests.

When the charge was made against Aristoteles, Alexander the Great was
dead, and the great teacher, knowing full well what would be the result
of the trial, quitted Athens and took refuge in Chalcis, in Eubœa,
saying that he wished to prevent the Athenians _twice running against
philosophy_, alluding to the judicial murder of Socrates.

But Aristoteles’ work was nearly ended, and the slightly made, delicate,
and sensitive man sank during the first year of his exile, in the
sixty-third year of his age.

A great writer on moral philosophy, the man whose career has just been
noticed will always remain a master in natural history subjects also.
He was really a greater student of animal life than of plants; but it
appears that his method of study of botany, and much of his knowledge,
have descended to us, in consequence of his careful teaching, through his
pupil Theophrastus. A great writer remarks that “everywhere Aristoteles
observes _the facts_ with attention; he compares them with sagacity,
and endeavours to rise to the qualities they have in common.” He found
the study of plants in its very infancy and loaded with child-like and
wonderful stories, and he rejected the nonsense and studied what was
to be observed by any one in nature. In fact, he took the first step
which a well-educated boy of the present century does in trying to learn
nature unaided. He observed as correctly as possible, took notes of his
observations, compared the observations made on one plant with those
recorded about another, and tried to explain or discover the things which
were common to both. It must not be imagined that the botanical work
of Aristoteles exists as part of the systems of botany of the present
day; but he clearly gave the method of how to study, by insisting on the
superior value of observed facts, over notions and preconceived ideas
about things. The childhood of the science passed with him.

The name of Theophrastus has been noticed as that of the pupil of
Aristoteles, and it is one which will always be mentioned with respect
by students of natural history. He was born at Eresus, on the island of
Lesbos; but the date of his birth is uncertain; moreover, nothing is
known of his early youth, except that his name was Tyrtamus. His early
education must have been good, and he was sent to study at Athens by his
father, and to be a pupil of Plato. Becoming a friend of Aristoteles,
this great man, charmed with the abilities, and especially with the
beautiful pronunciation and oratory of the youth, gave him the name of
Theophrastus, or one who speaks divinely. Theophrastus studied with
Plato, and on the death of his master, left the academy and mixed with
the turbulent politics of the day, but in a truly patriotic spirit. He
was absent from Athens for many years, and the historian Plutarch writes
that Theophrastus delivered his country twice from the oppression of
tyrants. One of the defeated at the battle of Chæronæa, Theophrastus
returned to Athens, gave up the military life, and became the favourite
pupil of Aristoteles in the Lyceum.

Theophrastus became an earnest student of Aristoteles’ teaching, and his
singular grace of expression and knowledge of his mother tongue soon made
him a prominent philosopher.

When Aristoteles retired, his pupil became his successor; and as he
combined the knowledge of that teacher with the eloquence of Plato, his
success was extraordinary. The number of his pupils, on one occasion, is
said to have amounted to two thousand who flocked around him from all
parts of Greece. He soon began to feel the effects of his well-deserved
and useful success upon the envious minds of the men who had caused the
retirement of Aristoteles. And this envy and malice were rendered all the
more intense because, having been a gallant soldier, and being a great
teacher of advanced knowledge, Theophrastus became an authority on all
intellectual subjects. A man was put forward by a party in the State,
to bring the same charge of impiety against Theophrastus which had
succeeded in the instances of Socrates and Aristoteles. But Theophrastus
pleaded his own cause before the Areopagus with such convincing eloquence
that he was pronounced innocent. On the other hand, his accuser would
have fallen a victim to the false charge he had brought, had not his
noble-minded antagonist pleaded for his pardon.

After this event the teacher pursued his course of public teaching and
private research without any molestation for years. His school increased
in reputation, and the most distinguished scholars of the day were
members of it. Demetrius Phalereus, ruler of the State, was one of the
students in his youth, and he protected Theophrastus and patronized him
in every way. Botany was not the strongest subject of this great man,
and probably what he knew about it was largely derived from the teaching
of Aristoteles; but evidently his work on plants was one of the earliest
that was written with anything like scientific precision. Nevertheless,
Theophrastus added much original matter, for he had a botanic garden, and
he collected plants during his travels in Greece. His military friends
kept him supplied with specimens of Asiatic, Egyptian, and Arabian
plants, and with descriptions of their natures and peculiarities, some
of which were true and others quite imaginary. What was true and what
was not true was frequently a puzzle to this philosopher, as it is to
modern naturalists. He wrote, “The drug sellers and root cutters tell
us some things which may be true, but other things which are merely
solemn quackery. Thus they direct us to gather some plants, standing from
the wind and with our bodies anointed; some by night, some by day, some
before the sun falls on them. So far there may be something in their
rules; but others are too fantastical and far-fetched. It is, perhaps,
not absurd to use a prayer in plucking a plant; but they go further than
this. We are to draw a sword three times round the mandragora, and to
cut it looking to the west; again, to dance round it, and to use obscene
language, as those who sow cumin should utter blasphemies. Again, we
are to draw a line round the black hellebore, standing to the east, and
praying; and to avoid an eagle either on the right or on the left; for
they say if an eagle be near, the cutter will die in a year.”

This was the nonsense, out of which Theophrastus had to extricate the
true wisdom of plants, and he tried to put aside fancies, legends, and
the opinions of men, and to puzzle out the meaning of the similarities
and differences of plants, by first of all learning and describing their
construction, habits, methods of growth, and increase.

Only a fragment of the last of ten books on plants written by
Theophrastus has come down to us. The writings made such an impression
on the students that their general bearing has been transmitted, and the
main points are as follows. Theophrastus classified plants by the manner
in which they were reproduced, the localities where they were found,
their size, as trees or shrubs or herbs, and according to their uses, as
furnishing juices, pot-herbs, and seeds that may be eaten. The first book
treated of the parts of the plant—the root, stem, leaves, flower, and
seed, and the second of the manner in which plants seed, and the proper
times for sowing seeds, and how to sow. In this part he mentions that
some plants, evidently of the same kind, have seed and others not, or
that there are different sexes in plants, the female bearing the seed.
That he was a practical observer is proved by his writings on the method
of the reproduction in the great palm trees, which are such striking
features in the East. Moreover, he studied the way in which figs grew and
the seed became fertile, and he compared the reproduction of the fig with
that of the palm tree. The third, fourth, and fifth books are devoted
to a consideration of trees, their various kinds, the places they come
from, and the economical uses to which they may be applied. The sixth
book treats of winter shrubs and spring plants; the seventh of pot-herbs;
the eighth of plants yielding seeds used for food; and the ninth of those
plants that yield useful juices, gums, resins, and other exudations. The
love of the marvellous, however, creeps in here and there, and amongst
good facts there are very considerable “tough yarns;” but these come from
the old soldiers of Alexander the Great.

There is one thing most interesting in the works of this man, and it
is the desire he had to make his knowledge useful to mankind. This is
especially noticed in another work on the causes of plants, of which
six parts remain to the present day. It is really a work on gardening
and farming, with a good deal of pure and applied knowledge on botany.
It is not everybody, nowadays, that can combine what is scientific,
that is to say, exact knowledge, with useful and applied knowledge. Too
frequently the scientific botanist does not teach gardening or farming;
and certainly, as a rule, the writers on these last subjects are not
scientific botanists, and, indeed, they are often of a very different
kind of mind. It has been said of the works of Theophrastus that there is
much valuable matter in them that deserves the attention of the botanist,
and that a very little knowledge of botany will enable the reader to
separate the chaff from the wheat.

So noted was the learning of this great man on other subjects, that his
good work on plants remained the text-book of centuries; and, in fact,
little or no satisfactory knowledge about plants, beyond that given to us
by Aristoteles and Theophrastus, was discovered for many centuries.

The fall of Demetrius from power removed the protector of Theophrastus,
and the ignorant anti-educationalist party of the day revived their
persecutions. In the year 305 B.C. a political noodle managed to frame a
law, and to get it passed by the ruling body of the day, which forbade
all philosophers under pain of death to give any public instruction
without permission of the State.

This curious law was passed in order to prevent the education of the
people being advanced, and the result was that Theophrastus and several
other teachers left Athens. Good sense, however, seems to have prevailed
over ignorance and hostility to learning, and the law was abolished in
the following year. Moreover, the proposer of it was fined the great sum
of five talents for his folly. Then Theophrastus returned to Athens, and
taught there until he died. The whole population followed his body to the

It is a remarkable fact that the writings of Aristoteles and Theophrastus
on plants, were not improved upon for many hundreds of years. They were
both observers of nature, and their works contained all the knowledge on
the subject, of their time. When the Romans obtained the supremacy in
Europe, and had possessions in Asia and in Africa, men were not found
amongst them who could add to the knowledge of the Greeks about plants;
so the books of the two great men who were the fathers of botany were
simply copied by their successors, or criticized, and doubtful novelties
were added.

There were many Roman writers on agriculture, but few wrote on the nature
and structure of plants, and amongst them the most celebrated was Caius
Plinius Secundus, commonly called Pliny the Elder.

Where this great man was born is not known, but possibly it was at Como.
He was of noble family, entered the army, and became a distinguished
soldier. He was appointed Augur at Rome, and subsequently had supreme
power in Spain. These were not apparently the positions which were
likely to stimulate a young man of wealth to study natural history, and
certainly, in later days, the military man and active politician have
not proved, as a rule, enthusiastic students of plants and animals. Want
of time and inclination are, of course, the usual excuses of such men,
and the love of luxury and of intellectual idleness might be added also.
Nevertheless there is an instance in the case of the elder Plinius, where
a man, greatly and importantly occupied, spent much time in studying
nature, in compiling the observations made by his predecessors, and in
writing books which have given him a fame which will last with the world.
In summer he began his work as soon as it was light; in winter, generally
at one in the morning—never later than two, and sometimes earlier. No
man, writes his nephew, spent less time in bed, and sometimes he would,
without retiring from his books, indulge in a short sleep, and then
pursue his studies. Before daybreak he went to the Emperor Vespasian,
who chose to transact business at that hour, and when the Emperor had
finished, Plinius returned to his studies. After a slender repast at
noon, he would in the summer recline in the sun, and during the time
some book was read to him, and he made extracts from the author. He used
to say that “no book was so bad but something might be learned from
it.” After this he had a cold bath and took refreshment and rest. Thus
reinvigorated, he resumed his studies until supper, when a book was read
to him, and he made remarks on it. This, of course, must have been an
occasional method of passing the day, for no man could live without some
hours of exercise and sleep. Probably he retired to sleep at eight under
these circumstances, and had a good sleep in the hot hours of the day.
When in the country all his time was devoted to study, except when he
slept and bathed. He is said to have used a carriage instead of walking,
and, unfortunately, but naturally, he got weak lungs and became corpulent.

Plinius laboured for many years at natural history and the other
sciences, and he was a most diligent collector of information. A warrior
and a statesman, yet he contrived to write a vast number of works, his
books on natural history alone amounting to twenty-seven volumes. He
appears to have known all that it was possible to know at his age of
the world, and yet there was no great amount of new work put into his
books. It has been very properly said that the loftiness of his ideas
and the nobleness of his style enhance still more his profound learning.
Naturally, as he copied much from other writers, and especially, in
one part of botany which relates to medicine, from an author named
Dioscorides, he could not examine into the truth of every statement which
had been made. Hence Plinius retailed some curious stories now and then,
which are more amusing than true; but, on the whole, he established, on
solid grounds, the learning of his own and previous ages.

This active-minded man, who lived in luxury and had great
responsibilities, is an example to many of the same class who do not care
to enjoy the study of the beautiful nature around them. He lost his life
whilst endeavouring to sustain the courage of his friends, during the
great eruption of Vesuvius, when the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum
were destroyed. He was on shore at the time, and probably was suffocated
by noxious fumes.

The name of Dioscorides has been mentioned as that of an author known
to Plinius; he was born in Cilicia, at Anazarbus, and flourished during
the reign of the Emperor Nero. Nothing is known about his early life,
but it appears that he was a soldier, and possibly connected with the
surgical and medical art in the army. Certain it is that he travelled
over many countries—Greece, Italy, Gaul, and Asia Minor—gathering plants
and studying, not so much their structures and mutual resemblances and
differences, as their medical or healing powers. He obtained plants from
travellers in India, and learned the merits of herbs and drugs from many
nations. He wrote on the substances used in medicine in a Materia Medica,
and named and briefly described between five and six hundred medicinal
plants. Unfortunately Dioscorides wrote in a careless manner, and there
is much nonsense mixed up with truth in his writings. But he was of use;
he was not merely a student of the beauties of nature, but of the value
of certain plants to man in his pain and trouble, and he founded the
science of medical botany.

Aristoteles, Theophrastus, Plinius, and Dioscorides are the men of mark
who raised botany and plant-learning out of their infancy and gave
them a youthful vigour. They placed the method of learning, on its
right basis. Instead of imagining what was true, and then collecting
and studying plants to prove the correctness of the imagined notion,
they began in the opposite direction. They strove to learn and discover
facts,—truths, and then reasoned upon them. Ignorant people, and those
men who have the minds of children, always like their opinions and ideas
better than facts, and especially if the facts will not fit in with their
notions. Such people do not know how hard it is to find out the truth
in nature, how difficult it is for finite man to comprehend infinite
wisdom. This was as true formerly as it is now, and hence the method of
learning, taught by the earlier of those great men, was opposed to the
understandings of the majority of their fellow men. They troubled the
complacent ignorance of the day, and were therefore persecuted. Like
brave men, they did not care for persecution, knowing that they did not
deserve the wicked charges brought against them; they persevered, and not
only enjoyed life much more than their opponents, but led good and useful

The works of these men were studied by all the learned, during fifteen
hundred years and more; they were the text-books of science during what
are called the dark or middle ages, and although now out of date, they
were the good seeds of knowledge, sown in difficulty, in those early days.

Aristoteles, Theophrastus, and Plinius were not only botanists, but
naturalists in every sense, and the first named is especially celebrated
as a student of and writer upon animals; he was a great zoologist.
Theophrastus knew much about geology, and so did Plinius.

These men, then, brought the science of botany out of its childhood, and
saw it partly on its way through its youth; they had removed it beyond
the fanciful ideas and strange notions of the earliest writers on the
subject, and had begun to classify plants, and to study the relations
of plants to surrounding nature, and to the wants of man. Chemistry and
the use of the microscope were unknown, and therefore progress in the
necessary direction could not be made at that time of the world.

It must be remembered that botany does not consist in collecting,
drying, and drawing plants alone, but it relates to everything about the
vegetable kingdom of nature. The growth of the plant from the seed; how
it lives, breathes, and its sap circulates; how starch, and sugar, and
other products are formed—have to be considered. The manner of unfolding
of the flower, the anatomy of its fruits, and of the leaves and stems
and root, and the method by which the kind reproduces, and the decay of
the plant have to be studied. Then the uses of plants, medicinal and as
food, have to be treated. How they can be best grown, and how plants are
distributed over the land at different heights, form other subjects; and
the arrangement of plants in a classification founded on the similarity
of their most important anatomical structures, and constituting what is
termed a natural system, is one of the most necessary studies.





    John Ray—Joseph de Tournefort—Their lives.

The world went to sleep for many centuries, so far as natural history and
many other things are concerned, after the time of Pliny, and sixteen
hundred years elapsed before any advance was made in botanical knowledge.
This was the age when the only light on the earth was struggling
Christianity, and it was shaded by superstition and violence. At last men
began to learn Greek again, and to read the ancient authors carefully, so
that nature began to be studied. A few foreign botanists began to attempt
to add to the knowledge the ancients had given them, and to classify

But the first man who made a real advance, and whose work has influenced
the study of plant life down to the present day, was an Englishman,
who was bred in comparative poverty, suffered persecution, and lived a
beautiful life.

The name of this distinguished man was John Ray, and he was the son of
Roger Ray and Elizabeth his wife, being born in 1628. His father was a
blacksmith, of Black Notley, near Braintree, in Essex, and the boy was
sent to school at the Grammar School at Braintree. There he found the
kindness of Mr. Love, the master, in teaching him, a set-off against the
general want of education in the establishment; and he had reason to
be thankful, for before he was sixteen years of age he was sent, from
the school, to Cambridge. He entered at St. Catherine’s Hall, under the
tutorship of Mr. Duckfield. But the youth did not like the Hall; he
wished to study, and the inmates, he said, chiefly addicted themselves
to disputations; so he went to Trinity, where he found the politer arts
and sciences were principally minded and cultivated. Ray worked hard,
and had an excellent tutor, who was a great Greek scholar, and soon made
up for the defective teaching he had had at Braintree. He acquired much
Latin and Greek, and some Hebrew, and it soon became evident that the
youth could speak well and fluently. His leisure was that of a student;
he loved to observe nature, to study the little gems of the garden and
country, and all these things brought him speedily before the notice of
the authorities of the College. When he had been there three years, he
was elected a Minor Fellow, together with his great friend Isaac Barrow,
who had been a Charterhouse boy, and subsequently a scholar at Felsted,
an Essex school. They were the favourite pupils of their master. Ray
took his degree of Bachelor of Arts, and then that of Master of Arts,
becoming then a Major Fellow. In 1651 he was chosen the Greek Lecturer
to the College; two years afterwards Mathematical Lecturer, and in 1655
Humanity Reader. Then he was made Junior Dean and College Steward, and
he became the tutor to many men of subsequent worth, especially to Mr.
Francis Willughby, of Middleton Hall, in Warwickshire. During these
years Ray wandered over the country collecting and studying plants.
He wrote the story of his journeys in and about England, calling them
“Itineraries.” His first journey was in 1658, and he rode from Cambridge
to Northampton; he passed by Higham Ferrers and saw the outside of a
great stone building called a college, and he wrote that Northampton was
indifferently handsome, the houses being built of timber, notwithstanding
the plenty of stone dug in that county. He saw in a Mr. Bowker’s garden
“divers physical plants,” and he noticed the luxuriance of the lupinus
there. Then he went to Warwick by Daventry, and saw Holdenby House. At
Shuckborough he did not see the star-stones he had heard of. He visited
Warwick, but cared more for Guy’s Cliff than for the rib of the dun cow
and Guy’s sword; and then he went into Derbyshire, and investigated the
Pool’s-hole, near Buxton, and noticed the wild flowers of the hills.
Travelling on to North Wales, he visited the brine-pits of Northwych,
and at Chester he noticed the red stone of the cathedral, which he
considered had little beauty within or without. He visited Swindon, and
got home by Shrewsbury and Gloucester. This was a journey done in the
old-fashioned manner, on horseback. It opened Ray’s eyes to the immense
amount of nonsense that was talked about nature, and especially about
any unusual natural phenomenon. He seems especially to have visited the
wells and springs, and he expressed his doubts of the wonderful cures,
attributing his want of belief to his scientific frame of mind.

At this period, it was usual for young men of ability and learning,
though not in orders, to deliver sermons and common-place readings, as
they were called, not only in the chapels or halls of their own colleges,
but even before the University body at St. Mary’s church. In these Ray
eminently distinguished himself. He was among the first who ventured
to lead the attention of his hearers from the unprofitable subtleties
of scholastic divinity and the trammels of the old Greek philosophy
to an observation of nature and a practical investigation of truth.
The rudiments of many of his subsequent writings originated in these
juvenile essays, particularly his celebrated book on the “Wisdom of God
manifested in the Works of the Creation,” known all over the world by
its numerous editions and translations, and universally admired for its
rational piety, sound philosophy, and solid instruction. This book is
the basis of the labours of all those divines who have made the book of
nature a commentary on the book of revelation, a confirmation of truths
which nature has not authority of herself to establish. In it the author
inculcates the doctrine of a constantly superintending Providence, as
well as the advantage, and even the duty, of contemplating the works of
God. “This,” he says, “is part of the business of a Sabbath-day, as it
will be, probably, of our employment through that eternal rest of which
the Sabbath is a type.” Archbishop Tenison is recorded to have told Dr.
Derham that “Mr. Ray was much celebrated in his time at Cambridge for
preaching solid and useful divinity, instead of that enthusiastic stuff
which the sermons of that time were generally filled with.” It would be
refreshing to hear a Ray in the nineteenth century. Two of his funeral
discourses are mentioned with particular approbation; one, on the death
of Dr. Arrowsmith, master of his college; the other, on that of one
of his most intimate and beloved colleagues, Mr. John Nid, likewise a
Senior Fellow of Trinity, who had a great share in Ray’s first botanical
publication, the “Catalogus Plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium,”
printed in 1660 (a catalogue of plants growing around Cambridge). Before
this little volume appeared, its author had visited various parts
of England and Wales for the purpose of investigating their native
plants, as he did several times afterwards. Nor were his observations
confined to natural history, but extended to local and general history,
antiquities, the arts, and all kinds of useful knowledge. Ray’s first
botanical tour occupied nearly six weeks, from August 9th to September
18th, 1658. On the 23rd of December, 1660, he was ordained both deacon
and priest at the same time by Dr. Sanderson, then Bishop of Lincoln.
In 1661 he travelled with Mr. Willughby into Scotland, returning by
Cumberland and Westmoreland; and the following year, with the same
companion, he accomplished a more particular investigation of Wales. How
critically he studied the botany of the countries he visited, is evident
from the different editions of his works called “A Catalogue of British
Plants,” and “A Methodical Synopsis of British Wild Plants.” In fact, Ray
felt the necessity of being able to recognize plants by their accurate
descriptions, and saw that classification was the alphabet of the science.

All this time Mr. Ray continued to enjoy his fellowship and to cultivate
his Cambridge connections; but in September, 1662, his tranquillity
was disturbed by the too famous Bartholomew Act, by which two thousand
conscientious divines were turned out of their livings, and many
fellows of colleges deprived of their maintenance and means of literary
improvement. Among the latter was the subject of our memoir, with
thirteen honest men at Cambridge besides, of whose names he has left us
a list. One of them, Dr. Dillingham, was master of Emanuel College; but
Ray was the only person of his own college who suffered this deprivation.
One of Ray’s biographers writes:—“The reader must not suppose that he,
or perhaps any other person in this illustrious catalogue, was in the
least degree deficient in attachment to the doctrine or discipline of the
Church of England, or that they had taken the oath, called the Solemn
League and Covenant, which Ray certainly had neither taken nor even
approved. They were required to swear to the infamous proposition that
the said oath was not binding to those who had taken it, and on this
ground they conscientiously gave up their preferment.” It is curious to
read the apology made for Ray, to Dr. Derham on this subject, by a Mr.
Brokesby, “that he was at that time absent from his college, where he
might have met with satisfaction to his scruples, and was among some
zealous nonconformists who too much influenced him by the addition of
new scruples. And we may also ascribe somewhat to the prejudice of
education in unhappy times.” By this it appears that the “scruples” of
nonconformists were most favourable to the sanctity of an oath, and that
the “unhappy times” alluded to were more advantageous to principle than
the golden days of Charles II., whose ministers doubtless valued the
obedience far more than the honesty of any man; nor was this taste by any
means peculiar to them or their profligate master.

Mr. Ray (or, as he wrote his name for a while about this period, Wray),
having thus the world before him, made an arrangement with Mr. Willughby
for a tour on the Continent; and in this plan two of his pupils were
included, Mr. Nathaniel Bacon and Mr., afterwards Sir Philip, Skippon.
They sailed for Calais in April, 1663, but being prevented by the state
of political affairs from prosecuting their journey through France,
they traversed the Low Countries and Germany, proceeding by Venice into
Italy, most of whose cities they visited, either by sea or land, as well
as Malta and Sicily; and returned by Switzerland, through France, into
England in the spring of 1666.

Mr. Willughby, indeed, separated from the rest of the party at
Montpellier, and visited Spain. An ample account of their observations
was published by Ray in 1673, making a thick octavo volume. The
travellers studied politics, literature, natural history, mechanics, and
philosophy, as well as antiquities and other curiosities; but in the
fine arts they assume no authority, nor display any considerable taste
or knowledge. Mr. Willughby’s account of Spain makes a part by itself,
and a rich critical catalogue of such plants, not, for the most part,
natives of England, as were observed in this tour, concludes the volume.
There is no doubt that Ray has the credit of having discovered several
species of plants in Switzerland not previously known to belong to that
country. Ray passed the summer of 1666 partly at Black Notley, and partly
in Sussex, studying chiefly the works of Hook, Boyle, Sydenham, on
fevers, and the “Philosophical Transactions,” “making few discoveries,”
says he, “save of mine own errors.” The following winter he was employed
at Mr. Willughby’s, in arranging that gentleman’s museum of seeds, dried
plants, birds, fishes, shells, and other objects of natural history and
coins, and in forming tables of plants and animals for the use of Dr.
Wilkins. He began to arrange a catalogue of the English native plants
which he had gathered, rather for his own use than with any immediate
view of publication at present. He wrote to Dr. Lister, “The world is
glutted with bungling;” “I resolve never to put out anything which is
not as perfect as is possible for me to make it. I wish you would take a
little pains this summer about grasses, that so we might compare notes.”
The above resolution of our author is no doubt highly commendable, but
the world has rather to lament that so many able men have formed the
same determination, at least in natural science. If it were universally
adhered to, scarcely any work would see the light, for few can be so
sensible of the defects of any other person’s attempt to illustrate the
works of nature, as a man of tolerable judgment must be of his own.
This is especially the case with those who, like Ray, direct their
aspiring views towards system and philosophical theory. Happily he did
not try this arduous path, till he had trained himself by wholesome
practical discipline in observation and experience. His first botanical
works assumed the humble form of alphabetical catalogues. His and Mr.
Willughby’s labours in the service of Bishop Wilkins were, indeed, of a
systematical description, and accordingly the authors themselves were
probably more dissatisfied than any other persons with their performance.
They relaxed from these labours in a tour of practical observation
through the west of England, as far as the Land’s End, in the summer
of 1667, and returning by London, Mr. Ray was solicited to become a
Fellow of the Royal Society, into which learned body he was admitted
November 7th. Being now requested by his friend Wilkins to translate his
celebrated work, “An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical
Language,” into Latin, he undertook, and by degrees accomplished, that
arduous performance. The following summer was agreeably spent in visits
to various literary friends, and in a solitary journey to the north. His
former companion, Willughby, being just married, stayed at home; but Ray
joined him in September, 1668, and remained for most part of the ensuing
winter and spring.

The seclusion and leisure of the country, with the converse and
assistance of such a friend, were favourable to the prosecution of a
new subject of inquiry, which now strongly attracted the attention of
our great naturalist—the theory of vegetation. The first step of the
two philosophers in this little-explored path was an examination of
the motion of the sap in trees; and the result of their inquiries,
communicated to the Royal Society, appeared soon after in the
“Philosophical Transactions.” Their experiments clearly prove the
ascent of the sap through the woody part of the tree, which is easily
detected by boring the trunks at different depths before their leaves
are unfolded; and they observed, also, the mucilaginous nature of the
flowing sap, “precipitating a kind of white coagulum or jelly, which,”
says Ray, in a note preserved by Derham, “may be well conceived to be
the part, which every year, between bark and tree turns to wood, and
of which the leaves and fruits are made. And it seems to precipitate
more when the tree is just ready to put out leaves and begins to cease
dropping, than at its first bleeding.” The accuracy of the leading facts
recorded by these ingenious men is confirmed by subsequent observers,
who have further pursued the same subject, which is now sufficiently
well understood. The sap originates in the liquid matters which are
absorbed by the roots of plants; they enter the minute cells of the ends
of the roots and permeate the cellular tissue. This sap ascends in the
plant, assisted by the evaporation from the leaves. The sap ascends with
considerable rapidity to the leaves, where it is subject to changes, the
result of physiological action. It descends from the leaves, having had
its chemical constitution altered, and is fit for the nutrition of the
plant. The sap ascends through the cellular and woody tissue, especially
in the layers of wood not more than two years old. The hard heartwood
does not convey sap, but in some trees, like the poplar, sap moves in the
very centre.

The elaborated sap returns from the leaves in a slow stream, through the
delicate cellular structures of the bark, right down to the root, giving
rise to the cambium layer, from the inner surface of which the annual
layer of young wood is formed.

At this time Ray began to prepare for the press his “Collection of
Proverbs,” a curious book in its way, by which he is perhaps better known
to the generality of his countrymen, than by any other of his literary

The first edition was published in 1672, but the work was subsequently
much enlarged, and the author may almost be said to have exhausted his
subject. From its very nature, delicacy and refinement had often to be
dispensed with, but this is evidently not the fault or the aim of the
writer. His learning and critical acuteness diffuse light over the whole,
and make us overlook the coarse vehicle of our instruction. The first
edition of the “Catalogue of English Plants,” already mentioned, came
out in 1670, and the second in 1677. Their great author gave his work
to the world with that diffidence for which he alone, perhaps, could
perceive any just foundation. It was a wonderful book, considering that
there was no recognized authority to help the author, who, seeing that
there must be some real method in nature, strove to arrange or classify
plants by the similarity or dissimilarity of those structures which
were of the greatest importance. About this period the health of Mr. Ray
seems to have been considerably impaired. He refused a tempting offer
to travel again on the Continent, as tutor to three young noblemen; nor
could the powerful attractions of Alpine botany, which was then to be
studied, overcome that reluctance to leaving home, which arose from a
feeble state of body. Indeed, this very reluctance or listlessness is
accounted for by the turn which his disorder took, as it terminated in
the jaundice. After this depressing complaint had left him, Ray resumed
his botanical travels at home with fresh alacrity, visiting the rich
stores of the north of England, with a companion named Thomas Willisel,
whose name and discoveries he subsequently gratefully commemorated on
many occasions. Nothing forms a more striking feature in Ray’s character
than the unreserved and abundant commendation which he always gave to
his friends and fellow-labourers. Then unfortunately an event occurred
which called forth his affectionate feelings. On the 3rd of July, 1672,
Mr. Willughby was unexpectedly carried off by an acute disorder, in the
thirty-seventh year of his age. The care of his two infant sons was
confided by himself to Mr. Ray, who was also appointed one of his five
executors, and to whom he left an annuity of sixty pounds for life. The
eldest of these youths was created a baronet at the age of ten years, but
died before he was twenty. Their sister, Cassandra, afterwards married
the Duke of Chandos. Thomas, the younger son, was one of the ten peers
created, all on the same day, by Queen Anne, and received the title of
Lord Middleton. The care of his pupils, and of the literary concerns of
their deceased parent, now interrupted Mr. Ray’s botanizing excursions,
and caused him also to decline the offer of Dr. Lister, then a physician
at York, to settle under his roof. Bishop Wilkins did not long survive
Mr. Willughby, and his death made another chasm in the scientific and
social circle of our great natural philosopher, who felt these losses
as deeply and tenderly as any man. He sought consolation in a domestic
attachment, fixing his choice on a young woman of good parentage, whose
name was Margaret Oakley, and who resided in the family at Middleton
Hall. He was married at the parish church, June 5th, 1673, being then in
the forty-fifth year of his age, and his bride about twenty. This lady
took a share in the early education of his pupils, as far as concerned
their reading English. She is said to have been recommended by her
character, as well as by her person, to the regard of her husband. She
bore him three daughters who, with their mother, survived him.

The first fruit of our author’s leisure and retirement was a book on
a new classification of plants, published in 1682. His principles
of arrangement are chiefly derived from the fruit. The regularity
and irregularity of flowers, which took the lead in the system of
contemporary botanists, made no part of that of Ray. It is remarkable
that he adopts the ancient primary division of plants into trees, shrubs,
and herbs, and that he blamed Rivinus, one of his fellow-labourers,
for abolishing it, though his own prefatory remarks tend to overset
that principle, as a vulgar and casual one, unworthy of a philosopher.
That his system was not merely a commodious artificial aid to practical
botany, but a philosophical clue to a correct natural classification, he
probably, like his fellow-labourers for many years in this department,
believed, yet he was too modest and too learned to think he had
brought the new and arduous design to perfection. For whatever he
has incidentally or deliberately thrown out respecting the value of
his labours, is often marked with more diffidence on the subject of
classification than any other. The great service that Ray did to botany
was the foreshadowing the so-called natural system of classification,
which was to supersede the artificial system of Linnæus, which will be
described in a future page. He first applied his system to practical
use in a general “History of Plants,” of which the first volume, a
thick folio, was published in 1686, and the second in 1687. The third
volume of the same work, which is supplementary, came out in 1704. This
vast and critical compilation is still in use as a book of reference,
being particularly valuable as an epitome of the contents of various
rare and expensive works, which ordinary libraries cannot possess. The
description of species is faithful and instructive, the remarks original,
bounded only by the whole circuit of the botanical learning of that day;
nor are generic characters neglected, however vaguely they are assumed.
Specific differences do not enter regularly into the author’s plan, nor
has he followed any uniform rules of nomenclature. So ample a transcript
of the practical knowledge of such a botanist cannot but be a treasure;
yet it is now much neglected, few persons being learned enough to use it
with facility for want of figures and a popular nomenclature; and those
who are, seldom requiring its assistance.

But if the fame or the utility of Ray’s botanical work has neither of
them been commensurate with the expectations that might have been formed,
a little octavo volume which he gave to the world in 1690, amply supplied
all such defects, and proved the great corner-stone of his reputation in
this department of science. This was “A Methodical Synopsis of British
Wild Plants.” The two editions of his alphabetical catalogue of English
plants being sold off, and some pettifogging reasons of his booksellers
standing in the way of a third, with any improvements, he remodelled the
work, throwing it into a systematic form, revising the whole, supplying
generic characters, with numerous additions of species and various
emendations and remarks. The uses and medicinal qualities of the plants
are removed to the alphabetical index at the end. A second edition of
this “Synopsis” was published in 1693, but its author never prepared
another. The third, now most in use, was edited twenty-eight years
afterward by Dillenius. Of all the systematical and practical floras of
any country the second edition of Ray’s “Synopsis” was the most perfect
of his time, and for many a long year afterwards. “He examined every
plant recorded in his work, and even gathered most of them himself. He
investigated their different names with consummate accuracy; and if the
clearness and precision of other authors had equalled his, he would
scarcely have committed an error. It is difficult to find him in a
mistake or misconception respecting nature herself, though he sometimes
misapprehends the bad figures or lame descriptions he was obliged to
consult.” Above a hundred species are added in this second edition, and
the cryptogamic plants in particular are more amply elucidated. The
work led to much disputing, but Ray took no delight in controversy; its
inevitable asperities were foreign to his nature. One of the biographers
of Ray writes: “We must not omit to notice that in the preface to
both editions of his ‘Synopsis’ the learned author, venerable for his
character, his talents, and his profession, as well as by his noble
adherence to principle in the most corrupt times, has taken occasion
to congratulate his country, and to pour out his grateful effusions to
Divine Providence in a style worthy of Milton for the establishment of
religion, law, and liberty by the revolution which placed King William
on the throne. An honest Englishman, however retired in his habits and
pursuits, could not have withheld this tribute at such a time, nor was
any loyalty ever more personally disinterested than that of Ray.” The
year 1690 was the date of the first publication of his noble work on “The
Wisdom of God in Creation,” of which we have already spoken, and whose
sale through many editions was very extensive. In 1700 he printed a book
more exclusively within the sphere of his sacred profession, called “A
Persuasive to a Holy Life,” a rare performance of the kind at that day,
being devoid of enthusiasm, mysticism, or cant, as well as of religious
bigotry or party spirit, “and employing the plain and solid arguments
of reason for the best of purposes.” His three “Physico-Theological
Discourses concerning the Chaos, Deluge, and Dissolution of the World,”
of which the original materials had been collected and prepared formerly
at Cambridge, came out in 1692, and were reprinted the following year. A
third edition, superintended by Derham, was published in 1713. This able
editor took up the same subject himself, in a similar performance, the
materials of which, like Ray’s, were first delivered in sermons at Bow
church, he having been appointed reader of Mr. Boyle’s lectures.

Ray studied animals as carefully as he did plants, and his influence
on zoology will be noticed further on in this book, and he revised a
translation of Rauwolff’s travels, and gave a catalogue of Grecian,
Syrian, Egyptian, and Cretan plants. Ever wishing for the truth, he was
led during a correspondence with Rivinus, a foreign botanist, to revise
his system of the classification of plants, and to include that of his
friend in it. Ray was impressed with the greater importance of the seeds
and fruits of plants in classification than of the leaves and floral
envelopes; Rivinus and others believed in the superior importance of
the flower as a means of distinguishing and grouping plants. After due
consideration, Ray included part of the plan of his friend, but it is
certain that plants cannot be safely grouped, in every instance, by the
similarity of their flowers.

All this correspondence and alteration of systems was extremely useful,
for it led to the foundation of what is called the natural system of
classification, in opposition to the artificial style, which was founded
by the great man whose life will be noticed in the next chapter.

Ray lived a long, happy, and useful life, and died at Black Notley, in
a house of his own building, in 1705, in the seventy-seventh year of
his age. A friend wrote of him: “In his dealings, no man more strictly
just; in his conversation, no man more humble, courteous, and affable;
towards God no man more devout; and towards the poor and distressed no
man more compassionate and charitable according to his abilities.” He
was buried, according to his own wish, at Black Notley; but he would not
have his body buried in the chancel of the church, choosing rather to
repose with his ancestors in the churchyard. Ray died rich in honours,
but not rich in money, as he had to give up his living in the Church for
conscience’ sake and conform as a layman. He was singularly charitable in
his opinions to others; and as his work has lasted until the present day,
and has influenced the progress of natural history, England may well be
proud of the blacksmith’s son.

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort was born at Aix, in France, in 1656. He was
of a noble family, and was educated with care, and had all the comforts
of life. Living, however, far away from the gay scenes of Paris and in a
country town, Tournefort soon began to wander over the fields by himself,
and, like most boys, he loved to gather flowers. More than this, he began
to study them. But such pleasures were not to be his at once, for his
parents destined him to be a priest, and he was obliged to enter the
Catholic seminary at Aix. There he began to learn Latin, and in course
of time became a great proficient, speaking and writing that language
well, which at that time was fairly known by every educated person. His
theological studies were rather neglected by him, and whenever he had the
opportunity, he got books on natural philosophy, chemistry, medicine,
and, above all, on botany. He studied them with great assiduity, and
until he was twenty-one years of age. Tournefort’s father died in 1677,
and the young man then being independent, threw off his cap and gown,
said good-bye to the seminary and its priests, and devoted himself
forthwith and as long as life lasted to the science of natural history,
and especially to botany.

He did not rest satisfied with the books of Plinius and Aristoteles, or
of the feeble botanists of his youth, but he intended to study plants
as they grew, to discover their uses, and to endeavour to classify and
name them. Besides, he got a love for the healing art, for one of his
first teachers was a chemist of Aix, who gave him lessons about the
common simple plants which were used in medicine. So, after roaming
over the country far and wide, month after month, and collecting
plants in Provence, on the mountains of Dauphiné and Savoy, he went to
Montpellier in 1679 to study anatomy and medicine. The young student
was there for two years, and then he seems to have set the example to
his fellow-students, for botanical excursions became a favourite method
of passing away time. In 1681, in company with several fellow-students,
he went to the Pyrenees, and wandered about those difficult mountains,
submitting to much fatigue, cold, and hunger. Very robust in health,
and vigorous, his fatigues and hard fare seemed to do him good, and at
last he obtained a very fine collection of the plants of that region.
It is always told that the ardent young botanist and his friends got
into trouble, being taken prisoners more than once by _Miguelites_
(smugglers); but it is not likely that those people got much out of them.

On his return home he found that his reputation as a practical botanist
and as knowing useful plants, had spread about, although he had not
written any work at that time. M. Fagon, a distinguished botanist of
the age, was physician to Louis XIV., and had had many an excursion to
collect plants in Provence, Languedoc, and Auvergne, before he became
a great man at court. He got plants from those localities, and had
them planted in the botanic gardens, of which the king was fond; and,
fortunately for his prospects in life, he discovered the medicinal uses
of some natural baths at Barèges, which he recommended to the Duc de
Maine. On his return to Paris, M. Fagon was made professor of botany and
chemistry to the Jardin des Plantes, and subsequently became physician
to the king and princes, and director of the gardens. M. Fagon wanted
help, for little was known about the plants of the countries beyond
Europe, and he sought the services of a young and wise botanist who had
plenty of energy. He destined young Tournefort for a great career, and
offered him the professorship of the Botanic garden, intending that
the young teacher, after a while, should travel, and collect for the
garden. Finding the prospects good, Tournefort accepted the position, and
desirous of adding to the collection of plants, visited Spain again, and
then Portugal. Subsequently he came over to England, and then collected
in Holland. His name was well known as that of a practical botanist,
and the Dutch offered him a professorship at Leyden. He was elected
to the highest scientific honour in France—to the membership of the
Academy of Science. Two years afterwards Tournefort published his first
and great work, “The Elements of Botany, or a method of Distinguishing
Plants.” This work established his reputation all over Europe. It was
a very remarkable book. Tournefort travelled in Asia Minor, Circassia,
Georgia, Northern Assyria, Candia, and Greece, and was the first man
who gave publicity to the truth that the same plants are not found in
all countries, and that most countries have many plants peculiar to
them. He may be said to have founded the science of the geographical
distribution of plants. His descriptions of plants were 10,000 in number;
their arrangement in species and genera was excellent. Less praise must
be given about the manner of his separating the greater divisions of
the plants one from the other. Nevertheless, much of the work of this
great traveller has lasted until the present day as good science. Plants
are arranged in species, which consist of individuals, having a close
structural resemblance without any constant differences of the form
of the stem, roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds. A genus is a group of
species with a general resemblance, some special character predominating.
An order is a number of more or less similar genera, and a class contains
orders which have greater resemblance than those of another class.

All this classification relates to accurate observation and description,
and then to comparison, and the greater the knowledge of the botanist
of species and genera the more useful it is. There is a difficulty in
selecting those parts of a plant which should be those on which the
classification should depend, and this was the stumbling-block with these
early botanists. Ray saw the value of the seed and of the reproductive
organs in classification, and Tournefort, although he erred in
classifying his “classes” by the coloured part of the flower or corolla,
followed nature accurately in his description, and reasoned upon the
facts he had discovered.

This botanist, who lived in the days of great luxury, and when war
was almost constant, pursued his useful and simple career, and by his
collections alone, assisted in laying the foundations of botany as a
science. His travels in the East read like romances, for the habits
of Eastern nations were then but little known; and, moreover, the
diligent student was a scholar, and paid great attention to the splendid
antiquities which he constantly saw. Tournefort studied the zoology of
the countries he passed through, and was an adept in mineralogy. On
his return from his long journey in the East he was made Professor of
Medicine to the College de France. For the future his life was destined
to be quiet, happy it appears always to have been. Year after year he
laboured in arranging, cultivating, and describing the treasure of plants
he had brought from the East and elsewhere. Moreover, he taught as
professor. His end was sudden, for he met with an accident in the street,
and was killed by a passing waggon.

Tournefort’s important work was the forming a great amount of good
knowledge about the species of plants, and the arranging them in a
systematic order. But, as has been mentioned, he was a founder of the
science of the distribution of plants. He appears to have laboured
independently of Ray, his English fellow-botanist, whose method was the
best of the two. There are twenty-two classes in Tournefort’s method,
chiefly arranged, as has been stated, by the form of the corolla,
comparatively an unimportant structure. He distinguishes herbs and
under-shrubs on the one hand, from trees and shrubs on the other. His
system of classification was much used on the Continent, until it was
found to be less easy of application than that of Linnæus.

The life of Ray, by Dr. Derham and Sir J. E. Smith, is to be found in the
“Memorials of John Ray,” in the publications of the Ray Society, 1846.





    The science of plants begins to mature, to be reformed, and to
    be made more exact.

Carl Linnæus was born in the month of May, 1707, at Rashult, in the
parish of Stenbrohult, in Smaland, a province in the South of Sweden. His
father, Nils Linnæus, was assistant minister of the parish, and became,
in process of time, its pastor or rector, having married the daughter of
his predecessor.[1]

Our Carl was the firstborn child of this marriage. The family of Linnæus
had been peasants, and a remarkably lofty linden tree, growing near their
native place, is reputed to have given origin to the names of Lindelius,
or Tiliander (linden tree man). This origin of surnames taken from
natural objects is not uncommon in Sweden.

Of his father, Linnæus has given us a few glimpses in his diary, which
prepossess us in his favour, and make us wish that we knew more of the
worthy pastor. He was brought up by his maternal uncle, Sven Tiliander,
himself a clergyman, who educated the lad with his own children, and,
being fond of plants and gardening, inspired in his nephew also a love
for horticulture; so that this predilection appears to have been, in
some degree, hereditary. Young Nils was sent, in due time, to school,
and afterwards to the University of Lund, where he had to struggle, for
some years, with poverty, and to apply very diligently to his studies,
in order that he might qualify himself for the profession of his choice.
Returning to his native place, he was admitted to holy orders, and was
first curate, and afterwards co-pastor. Soon after he attained to this
degree, he was married to the eldest daughter of the pastor, Christina
Brodersonia, of whom her son says—“She possessed all the virtues of her
sex, and was an excellent economist.” No doubt she found ample room for
the exercise of this her distinguishing excellence, for her husband’s
stipend was small, and she brought him a goodly family of two sons and
three daughters. We may well believe that thrift and frugality were
necessary in the _ménage_ of this small household. Linnæus tells us that
the young couple welcomed their firstborn with joy, and reared him with
the tenderest solicitude, “devoting the utmost attention to impressing on
his mind the love of virtue, both in precept and example.” He has drawn
a charming picture of his birthplace; it was situated in a very pleasant
valley adjoining the lake Möklen, which formed a bay, in the centre of
which stood the parish church of Stenbrohult. On the banks of this fine
lake, surrounded by hills and valleys, woods and cultivated grounds, the
father of Linnæus dwelt; his garden and his fields yielding him, at the
same time, both amusement and profit. The young Carl had no sooner left
his cradle than he was constantly in the garden, in which, to use his
own expression, he almost lived, delighted with the brilliant hues and
fragrance of the beauteous shrubs and flowers which flourished there.

In a letter to Baron Haller, written at the time of his father’s death,
Linnæus says: “He was an uncommon lover of plants, and had a select
garden of numerous rare species.” The favourite taste of the father was
quickly imbibed by the child, who was his constant companion while he
cultivated the choice parterre, and eagerly tried to yield such slight
aid as his childish powers permitted. He has recorded the first occasion
when this innate passion was decidedly displayed, or rather, perhaps,
when it sprung into consciousness. He was hardly four years old when
he chanced to accompany his father to a rural fête at Möklen, and in
the evening, it being a pleasant season of the year, the guests seated
themselves on the flowery turf and listened to the good pastor, who
entertained them with remarks on the names and properties of the plants
which grew around them, showing them the roots of succisa, tormentilla,
orchides, etc. The little Carl attended with the utmost eagerness to all
he saw and heard, and “from that time never ceased harassing his father
with questions about the name, qualities, and nature of every plant he
met with.” An unlooked-for result of the evening lecture, and which seems
to have cost the worthy man no small trouble, for the child (not unlike
other children, for that matter) very often asked more than his father
was able to answer; in addition to which he “used immediately to forget
all he had learned, and especially the names of plants.” To cure him
of this mischievous habit of inattention his father refused to answer
his questions unless he would promise to remember what was told him,
which judicious management wrought a speedy and effectual cure, insomuch
that he tells us he ever afterwards retained with ease, whatever he
heard. Besides this retentiveness of memory he possessed an “astonishing
quickness of sight,” an almost necessary qualification for the study of
his favourite science.

When the boy was eight years old a separate plot of ground was assigned
him by his father, which was called “Carl’s garden,” and which he soon
stored with collections of plants and wild flowers, gathered from the
woods and fields around his dwelling. At the same time he introduced a
variety of weeds, a treasure which it afterwards cost his father no
small pains to eradicate from his flower-beds. The enterprising youngster
even tried the experiment of establishing a swarm of wild bees and wasps
in the garden, the result of which was a devastating warfare waged
against the domestic hives.

At length it was thought desirable that these flowery pursuits should
give way to more serious occupations, and he was committed to the charge
of a private tutor, whom he calls “a passionate and morose man, better
calculated for extinguishing a youth’s talents than for improving them.”
Nor did he fare any better in his next remove, which was to the grammar
school at Wexiö, where the masters “pursued the same methods, preferring
stripes and punishments to encouragements and admonitions.” Probably the
boy evinced his distaste for such coercive measures, since we find him
soon removed from school to the care of another private teacher, of whose
mild and gentle disposition he speaks in terms of approval. Nevertheless,
he too failed to inspire in his pupil a love for the studies which were
considered necessary as preparatory to admission into holy orders; for
Nils Linnæus, desirous that his eldest son should become his assistant
and eventually his successor, designed him for the Church. The boy had
to work for three years before he was promoted to a higher “form” in
the school, called the “circle;” and the principal use he seems to have
made of the greater liberty allowed him in this new rank, was to shun
the usual exercises and give himself up to the study of his favourite
pursuit—the knowledge of flowers. He acknowledges that his time was
chiefly spent in wandering about the outskirts of the town, and making
himself acquainted with all the plants he could find. According to the
system then pursued in Sweden, it was necessary that youths should pass
from the schools or private tutors to a superior seminary, called the
Gymnasium, where the higher branches of literature were taught; and
accordingly, at the age of seventeen, the young Linnæus was removed
thither. But the original predilections of his mind were then still more
strikingly evinced and matured. He showed the strongest distaste for
theological studies. In the metaphysics, ethics, Greek and Hebrew, and
theology his companions far outstripped him; but in mathematics, and
particularly physics, he as much excelled them. His favourite science,
botany, which at that time was wholly neglected, still continued to
be his most engrossing pursuit, and he soon contrived to form a small
library of books in that branch. Among others he mentions the “Chloris
Gothica” of Bromelius, and Rudbeck’s “Hortus Upsaliensis,” which he
confesses his inability then to comprehend clearly. Nevertheless he says
he “continued to read them day and night, and committed them to memory.”
His own copies of these books, “used with the utmost care and neatness,”
were preserved among his library, and after his death were sold with his
collection. The zeal and eagerness he evinced in these studies procured
him, both among masters and scholars, the name of “the Little Botanist.”

At the end of two years his father went to Wexiö, “hoping to hear from
the preceptors the most flattering account of his beloved son’s progress
in his studies and morals.” But he was sorely disappointed at learning
that, unexceptionable as the general behaviour of the youth had been,
he was evidently quite unfit for a divine; and, indeed, in the opinion
of the authorities, it was a pity to incur any further expense towards
giving him a learned education, some manual employment being far more
suitable for him. The youth, they thought, would be well placed as
apprentice to some tailor or shoemaker!

Grieved at having thus lost his labour, and supported his son at school
for twelve years (an expense he could very ill afford) to no purpose,
the venerable clergyman went his way, pondering what course to pursue.
It chanced that he was suffering from a complaint which required
medical advice, and he betook himself to the house of Dr. Rothmann, the
provincial physician, also a lecturer in physics, to whom, in the course
of conversation, he mentioned his perplexity with reference to his son
Carl. Rothmann suggested that, though the opinions of his colleagues
might be correct as to the boy’s inaptitude for theological studies,
there was good reason to believe he might distinguish himself in the
profession of medicine, and possibly that he might accomplish great
things in the pursuit of natural history. At the same time he liberally
offered, in case the father’s circumstances did not permit him to
maintain his son in a course of studies, to take him into his own house,
and provide for him during the year he must remain at the gymnasium.

This generous proposal was gratefully accepted, and the result was most
satisfactory. Linnæus received from his benefactor a course of private
instructions in physiology with so much success, that the youth was able
to give a most accurate report of all he had been taught. At the same
time, this worthy teacher put him into the right method of studying
botany, showing the necessity of proceeding in a scientific manner,
and directing his attention to the system of Tournefort. The very
imperfections he found in this work stimulated his desire for something
more perfect, and were, in this way, of use to the future naturalist.

The year following (1727) Linnæus proceeded to the University at Lund,
furnished, as he has himself recorded, with a “not very creditable
certificate.” This curiosity, after its kind, was to the effect that
youth at school may be compared to plants, which sometimes baffle all
the skill of the gardener, but, being transplanted to a different soil,
occasionally turn out well. With this view, and no other, the bearer was
sent to the University, which, possibly, might prove propitious to his

Happily, the young man had a friend at the University, in his former
preceptor—he of the mild and gentle disposition—who kept back the
doubtful recommendation, and procured his matriculation as one of his
private pupils.

At Lund, Linnæus lodged in the house of Dr. Stobæus, professor of
medicine, and physician to the king. This eminent man, perceiving the
industry of his lodger, and his acquirements in natural science, allowed
him free access to his excellent museum of minerals, shells, and dried
plants; and, highly delighted with the idea of a _hortus siccus_, Linnæus
immediately began to collect all the plants which grew in the vicinity,
and to “glue them upon paper.” Still, he was denied the privilege of
access to the doctor’s library; but, as it fell out, he managed to
obtain that also. He formed an acquaintance with a fellow-lodger, a
young German student, who enjoyed the advantage he coveted, and, in
return for teaching him the principles of physiology, he obtained of
this youth books from Stobæus’s library. He passed whole nights in
reading the volumes thus clandestinely procured; but it happened that the
mother of Stobæus, who was infirm and ailing, lay awake several nights
in succession, and seeing a light constantly burning in Linnæus’s room,
fearful of fire, desired her son to chide the young Smalander for his

Two nights after, at midnight, the lad was surprised by a visit from his
host, who found him, to his astonishment, diligently poring over his
books. Being asked why he did not go to bed, and whence he had procured
the books, he was compelled to confess everything. Stobæus ordered him
immediately to go to bed; and the next morning, calling for him, gave him
permission to make what use he pleased of his library. From that time
this excellent man admitted the youth to the utmost familiarity, received
him at his own table, and treated him even as a son.

While botanizing in the country, in the following spring, Linnæus was
bitten in the right arm by a venomous reptile, and so serious were the
consequences that his life was endangered. As soon as he was partially
recovered, he returned to his father’s house, in order to recruit his
health during the summer vacation, and while staying in Smaland he was
persuaded by his kind friend and benefactor, Dr. Rothmann, to quit Lund
for Upsala, as a superior school of medicine, and affording besides, many
other advantages of which he could easily avail himself.

In this University—the first and most ancient seat of Swedish learning,
and the scene, in after-years, of his greatness—our young student
underwent a severe process of training. Poor and unknown, he had no means
of adding to the scanty pittance his parents were able to allow him.
Scarcely could they afford to give the small sum of 200 silver ducats
(about £8) towards the expenses of his education there. In a short time
he found his pockets quite empty; and having no chance of obtaining
private pupils, he vainly looked for any other source of maintenance. In
a few words, he thus touchingly records the tale of his suffering, and
the first beam of hope that shone across his path. As Petronius says,
poverty is the attendant of a good mind; and Linnæus was not without it
in this university, ... he was obliged to trust to chance for a meal, and
in the article of dress was reduced to such shifts that he was obliged,
when his shoes required mending, to patch them with folded paper instead
of sending them to the cobbler.

Years afterwards, the most distinguished zoologist France ever produced,
M. de Lamarck, stated to a friend, “I was poor, indeed, but I had not,
like Linnæus, to gather up my fellow-students’ old shoes to wear.”

He repented of his journey to Upsala, and of his departure from the
roof of Stobæus; but to return to Lund was a tiresome and expensive
undertaking. Stobæus, too, had taken it very ill, that a pupil whom he
loved so sincerely had left that University without consulting him.

At this time Linnæus, in spite of his great industry and simple manner of
living, naturally had considerable anxieties about his success in life.

It chanced one day, in the autumn of the year 1728, whilst Linnæus was
very intently examining some plants in the academical garden, there
entered a venerable old clergyman, who asked him what he was about,
whether he was acquainted with plants, whence he came, and how long he
had been prosecuting his studies? To all these questions he returned
satisfactory answers, and was then invited to accompany his interrogator
to his house, which proved to be that of Dr. Olaus Celsius.

This estimable and learned man, to whom Scandinavia owes so much in
regard to natural history, had just returned from Stockholm, where he had
been engaged in preparing his celebrated work upon the plants mentioned
in the Holy Scriptures, which he published in 1745, having travelled to
the East on purpose to make it more complete. Little did Celsius imagine
that the youth, whom he first met, by chance, in the academical garden
at Upsala, was destined, in after years, by his genius, to immortalize
its fame. He, however, soon discerned the merits of Linnæus, took him
under his protection, offering him board and lodging in his own house,
and allowing him the full use of his library, which was very rich in
botanical books. Among all his patrons, Linnæus appears to have dearly
cherished the memory of this venerable man, never referring to him but in
terms of reverence and gratitude. The friendship and patronage of one so
distinguished, did not fail to procure for the youth the advantages he so
much needed. Before long, the son of Professor Rudbeck, and other young
men, became his private pupils, and by this means his pecuniary wants
were supplied.

Nothing, however, seems to have given Linnæus so much satisfaction in
reviewing the events of this period of his early history, as the intimate
friendship he now contracted with a fellow-student, named Artedi,
who afterwards distinguished himself by his knowledge of fishes and
umbelliferous plants. To the picture he has drawn of his friend, Linnæus
has added a slight sketch of himself. There was a great difference in the
personal appearance, as well as in the temperament and disposition of
the two youths. Artedi was of a tall and handsome figure, more serious,
and of a deliberate judgment; whereas his friend was short in stature
and stout, hasty in temper, and of a sanguine turn. The two companions
pursued their favourite studies with an honourable spirit of emulation.
They divided the kingdoms and provinces of nature between them, and while
Linnæus yielded the palm to Artedi in ichthyology (the science of fish),
the latter acknowledged Linnæus to be his superior in entomology, or that
of insects. Each kept his discoveries to himself, though for no great
length of time, since not a day passed without one surprising the other
by narrating some new fact, so that emulation produced mutual industry of
research, and stimulated each to new exertions.

Linnæus was now in his twenty-second year, about which time he met with
a review of Le Vaillant’s treatise, “Sur la Structure des Fleurs” (“On
the Structure of Flowers”), by which his curiosity was excited to a close
examination of the stamens and pistils (the central and reproductive
structures), and, perceiving the essential importance of these parts of
the plant, he formed the design of a new method of arrangement, founded
upon these organs. This was the first dawning idea of that great system
upon which his subsequent fame was based.

A flower of a complete kind consists of the parts of the plant which
reproduce or form the seed, enclosed within two particular envelopes. The
envelopes of the flower are the beautifully coloured parts called petals,
which form the corolla, or inner envelope, and the duller-coloured or
green sepals outside the corolla, and which form the calyx.

Protected by these coverings, are the central parts or organs. Quite
in the middle of the flower is the ovary, made up of one or several
portions—the pistils, which contain the future seeds or ovules. The top
of the whole, which projects in the middle of the flower, is the stigma,
and the prolonged part beneath it is the style, and this surmounts the
seed-case or ovary. Outside this central part, and between it and the
corolla, are the stamens, each of which—for their number varies—may
consist of a stalk or filament, bearing an anther, which is coloured, and
contains the pollen, or dust, which fertilizes the ovule, by falling on
to the stigma.

These central parts are the reproductive organs, and are those which,
above all others, are the most important, for without them a plant cannot
increase and multiply, and would become extinct. The floral envelopes,
beautiful as they are, are not so essential, and are of secondary
importance in classification. Now, in some kinds of plants the stigma
and the ovary exist in one individual and the stamens in another. The
plant which bears the ovary is called the female, and that which has
the pollen-making part is termed the male. Hence it is said that plants
have sexes. But in a vast number of plants these organs are combined
in the same individual. Linnæus considered the stamen to be of primary
importance, and established eleven classes of plants distinguished by
the numbers of the stamens, and these all relate to plants in which the
male and female organs are combined in the same individual. Thus the red
valerian has one stamen only, and it was classed in _monandria_, the
first part of the word meaning “one” and the last “male.” The lilac has
two stamens, and was classed in the _diandria_—“two male;” and other
plants were classified up to those which have ten stamens, the pink,
for instance, as _decandria_. An eleventh class included all plants
which bear flowers containing from twelve to nineteen stamens, such as
mignonette. Then two more classes were invented to comprise—1, plants
with twenty or more stamens placed on the calyx, as the cherry; 2, others
with twenty or more stamens which are placed on stalks rising from below
the ovary, as in the buttercup. Other classes were formed according to
the relative length of the stamens, as in the foxglove and wallflower,
and also from the grouping of the stamens in bundles. Then there were
three very important classes in which the sexes are in separate flowers.
Finally, the flowerless plants, such as the ferns, lichens, and fungi,
were united as cryptogamia, having their organs of reproduction more or
less concealed.

The next part of the classification refers to orders which are
subdivisions of classes. The orders of the first thirteen classes,
mentioned above, are founded on the number of styles (or of stigmas if
these are absent), and the names given, relate to the number and the term
gynia, or female.

Thus the order monogynia includes plants of all the thirteen classes that
have only one style to each flower, such as the primrose; and so on,
until polygynia, or “many female”—plants of such an order, having more
than twelve styles, like the rose and clematis.

One class has a very important division into two orders, one of which
has naked and the other covered seeds; another has orders from the
shape of the fruit or pod. Linnæus divided the cryptogamia into six
orders—the ferns, mosses, liverworts, lichens, fungi, and seaweeds. There
is no doubt that this classification enables the name of a plant to be
discovered, if it has been properly described and named, very easily,
and it added to the facilities of classificatory botany. But it did not
bring plants having many other and very important characters together,
and it separated many which are closely allied by similar structures.
It was and is called the artificial system. It was not a natural
classification like that foreshadowed by Ray. The careful distinction
of the sexes of plants was, of course, the foundation of the system, and
to that Linnæus paid great attention. Writing a little treatise on the
subject, he showed it to Celsius, who communicated it to Dr. Rudbeck.
This man, free from the usual jealousy of the age, took Linnæus as his
assistant, and asked him to lecture in the botanical garden. Thus the
young man became a teacher in the very place where he had applied the
year before for the humble situation of gardener. Dr. Rudbeck, moreover,
took him into his house as tutor to his children, and thus he had access
to a fine collection of books and drawings on natural history subjects.
His mornings were then occupied in giving instruction to the students,
and his evenings in composing the new system and meditating a general
reformation in botanical science. He had no time to waste at Upsala.
It will have been noticed how kindly Linnæus was treated by a few true
lovers of science, and it was greatly to the honour of the good simple
people of science-loving Scandinavia.

People imagine that the progress and prosperity of scientific men depend
upon themselves alone; but many a promising career has been arrested by
petty jealousy and the expression of ill will on the part of those who
are second-rate men of science. On the other hand, truly distinguished
scientific men are mostly only too glad to assist earnest, hard-working,
and meritorious students. Linnæus found that he was no exception to the
rule that appears to determine that a prosperous poor man shall have
enemies. He was opposed by a Dr. Rosen on his return from foreign travel,
but Linnæus stood his ground. But when his father suggested a voyage into
Lapland to collect plants, Linnæus gladly seized the opportunity, and
after arrangements had been made, he went to stay awhile at home.

Early in 1732 Linnæus left his father’s house, to set out on his arduous
undertaking. On his way to Upsala he paid a visit to his former friend
and preceptor, Stobæus, at Lund, and studied his collection of minerals,
the only branch of natural history with which (he tells us) he was
unacquainted. He shortly after proceeded to Upsala, from which place he
set out on his journey alone, May 12th, 1732, “being at that time within
half a day of twenty-five years of age.”

During this journey Linnæus travelled over the greater part of Lapland,
skirting the boundaries of Norway, and returned to Upsala by the eastern
side of the Bothnian Gulf, having performed a journey of near four
thousand English miles, mostly on foot, in five months. He necessarily
endured many hardships and vast fatigue, and his life was several times
imperilled. Bogs and forests intercepted his way, and food, even of the
coarsest description, was occasionally not easily procured; yet, amid all
difficulties, his spirit was unflagging, and obstacles only seemed to
quicken his zeal. The natural curiosities of the country, the manners of
the people, and the general features of the various regions he traversed,
all were observed and written down for future use. He collected above a
hundred plants, entirely undescribed and unknown before, and upon his
return arranged all the flora of Lapland according to his own favourite
system, and delivered an account of his journey publicly.

The result of his botanical observations was not published for several
years afterwards, during his residence in Holland. This expedition was
the first and most difficult of all the six journeys of Linnæus. He spoke
of it afterwards in one of his academical addresses in these words: “My
journey through Lapland was particularly toilsome, and I own that I was
obliged to sustain more hardships and dangers in that sole peregrination
through the frontier of our northern world, than in all the other
travels I undertook in other parts. But having once sustained the toils
of travelling, I buried in the oblivion of Lethe all the dangers and
difficulties I endured, the invaluable fruits I reaped having compensated
for every toil.” Writing to a friend on the same subject, he says: “All
my food in these fatiguing excursions consisted, for the most part, of
fish and reindeer’s milk. Bread, salt, and what is found everywhere
else, did but seldom recreate my palate. One of the greatest nuisances
which I met with in Lapland was the immense number of flies. I used to
keep them off, by drawing a crape over my face.” The youthful traveller
started on his adventurous journey “without encumbrances of any kind,
and carried all his baggage on his back,” by which means alone he was
enabled to prosecute the objects he had in view. Leaving Upsala by the
northern gate, he travelled for a considerable distance through fertile
corn-fields, bounded by hills, and the view terminated by extensive
forests. With respect to situation and variety of prospects, the young
Swede was of opinion that scarcely any city could stand a comparison
with this. At a short distance from the gates he left, on the right,
Old Upsala, the place renowned for the worship of the primeval gods of
Sweden, and for the inauguration and residence of her earliest king.
Here, in days of high antiquity, human sacrifices were offered at the
shrines of the pagan deities, and here our traveller noticed the three
large sepulchral mounds which tradition has assigned to the bodies of
Odin, Frigga, and Thor.

“Cheered with the song of the charming lark,” which attended his steps
through the lowland, his approach to the forest was welcomed by the
redwing, “whose amorous warblings from the tops of the spruce firs”
appeared to him to rival the nightingale itself. As the summer was
advancing, he thought it not desirable to lose time by the way, nor
to stray far from the high road in the early part of the tour; but
attentively observing what presented itself to him as he passed along, he
noted the various plants, animals, and insects, together with the general
features of the country.

Arrived in the province of Medelpad, he ascended its highest mountain,
leaving his horse “tied to an ancient Runic monumental stone.” He found
several uncommon plants here; and from the summit, gazed on the country
spread out below, varied with plains and cultivated fields, villages,
lakes, and rivers—a most picturesque and romantic region. The descent was
very difficult, and even dangerous. Leaving this mountain, he took his
route along the sea-shore, which was spread with the wrecks of vessels,
telling to the feeling heart of the young traveller a sad tale of woe.
“How many prayers, sighs, tears, vows, and lamentations—all, alas! in
vain—rose to my imagination at this melancholy spectacle!” he exclaims.
The sight reminded him of a student who, going by sea from Stockholm to
Abo, experienced so severely the terrors of the ocean, that he chose to
walk back round the head of the Bothnian Gulf, rather than adventure
himself again upon the deep. This youth, afterwards a Professor at Abo,
assumed the surname of Tillands, expressive of his attachment to _terra
firma_, and Linnæus named in honour of him, a plant which cannot bear wet.

In five or six days, Linnæus reached Hernosand, the principal town of
Angermania, on the Bothnian Gulf, and visited a tremendously steep and
lofty mountain called Skula, where was a cavern, which he desired to
explore. Here he was within a hair’s breadth of a fatal accident, for
one of the peasants who accompanied him, in climbing up, loosened a
large stone, which was hurled down the track Linnæus had just left,
and fell exactly on the spot he had occupied. “If I had not (he says)
providentially changed my route, nobody would ever have heard of me more;
I was surrounded by fire and smoke, and should certainly, but for the
protecting hand of Providence, have been crushed to pieces.” From this
point of the journey a change came over the face of nature. The country
was covered over with snow, in some places inches deep; the pretty spring
flowers disappeared, and in their place nothing but wintry plants were
seen peeping through the snow. At length, on the 23rd of May, he reached
Umœa, in West Bothnia, where he turned out of the main road to the
left, designing to visit Lycksele, Lapmark; by which means he lost the
advantage of the regular post horses, and found the ways so narrow and
intricate, that at every step he stumbled. “In this dreary wilderness
I began to feel very solitary, and to long earnestly for a companion
(he says); the few inhabitants I met had a foreign accent, and always
concluded their sentences with an adjective.”

As the night shut in, the way-worn traveller began also to long for
a good meal, and has thus recorded the result of his application, on
arriving at a village where he passed the night:—“On my inquiring what
I could have for supper, they set before me the breast of a cock of the
woods, which had been shot and dressed some time the preceding year. Its
aspect was not very inviting; but the taste proved delicious, and I
found, with pleasure, that these poor Laplanders know better than some of
their more opulent neighbours, how to employ the good things which God
has bestowed upon them.”

The bird is prepared by a process of salting and drying, and will keep
even for three years, if necessary. Linnæus next proceeded up the river
of Umœa as far as Lycksele, where he was hospitably received by the
worthy pastor of the place; and the next day, being Whit-Sunday, he
stayed there, and would fain have remained longer; but, for fear of the
floods impeding his journey, he hastened his departure on the morrow,
and on the 1st of June entered the territories of the native Laplanders,
passing through wild forests, with no traces of roads. A more desolate
picture of wretchedness than this region presented, could hardly be
imagined. It was flooded by the rivers, and the bogs were utterly
impassable. At every step the water was above the knees, and the feet
felt the ice at the bottom. “We pursued our journey (continues the diary)
with considerable labour and difficulty all night long, if that might be
called night which was as light as the day, the sun disappearing for half
an hour only, and the temperature of the air being rather cold.” The poor
inhabitants had themselves, at this season, nothing to eat but a scanty
supply of fish; for they had not begun to kill their reindeer, nor to
milk them. In addition to these evils, the villainous bites of the gnats
and other insects tortured the unhappy travellers, till at length he
exclaims—“I had now my fill of travelling!”

Gladly would he have returned by the way he came, but he could find no
road back; and even the hardy Laplanders themselves, “born to labour,
as the birds to fly,” could not help complaining, and declared they had
never been in such extremity before. It is evident that even the robust
frame of Linnæus was beginning to yield to the combined effects of
fatigue, exhaustion, and hunger. He at length obtained some food which he
was able to eat, and after incredible exertions succeeded in retracing
his steps to the river, on which he again embarked, and returned to Umœa;
having, as he ingenuously acknowledged, “with the thoughtlessness of
youth, undertaken more than he was able to perform.”

From Umœa, Linnæus proceeded to Pithœa, which he reached after two
days’ journey, “the night being as pleasant for travelling as the day.”
He notices the beauty of the fresh shoots of the spruce fir, which
constitute one of the greatest ornaments of the forests which adorn this
part of Sweden.

Being anxious to proceed with all haste, in order if possible to reach
the Alps of Lulean Lapland, “in time to see the sun above the horizon
at midnight, which is beheld then to the best advantage,” the traveller
made no longer stay at Lulea than was needful for the purposes of
exploring the neighbouring coast and islands. He has noted the various
entomological and other specimens he observed, and, after admiring the
beauty of some of them, exclaims, in a sort of rapture—“The observer of
nature sees with admiration that the whole world is full of the glory of

During this voyage, Swanberg, who has taken great delight in Linnæus’s
conversation, offered to instruct him in the art of assaying within a
very short time, if he would agree to visit Calix, on his way homeward.
At Quickjock, the wife of the curate provided our traveller with stores
sufficient for eight days, and procured him a Laplander, whose assistance
as interpreter and servant was highly necessary.

“On my first ascending these wild Alps (he says), I felt as if in a new
world. Here were no forests to be seen, but mountains upon mountains,
larger and larger, as I advanced, all covered with snow; no road, no
tracks, nor any sign of inhabitants were visible. The declining sun never
disappeared sufficiently to allow any cooling shade, and by climbing
to the more elevated parts of these lofty mountains, I could see it at
midnight, above the horizon. This spectacle I considered as not one of
the least of nature’s miracles, for what inhabitant of other countries
would not wish to behold it? O Lord, how wonderful are thy works!”

In this frozen region there were no traces of verdure, save in the deep
valleys between the mountains. Very few birds were visible, except
some ptarmigans, those hardy inhabitants of the bleak mountain tops. A
pretty little incident, recorded by Linnæus, shows so kind a heart that
it must not be omitted here. “The little Alpine variety of the ptarmigan
was now accompanied by its young. I caught one of these, upon which the
hen ran so close to me that I could easily have taken her also. She
kept continually jumping round and round me, but I thought it a pity to
deprive the tender brood of their mother; neither would my compassion for
the mother allow me long to detain her offspring, which I returned to her
in safety.”

After a long and wearisome journey along these mountain passes,
the traveller reached one of the cottages of the country. Here the
inhabitants, sixteen in number, received him kindly, and gave him two
reindeer skins to sleep between. In the morning some hundreds of reindeer
came home to be milked, and it amazed the stranger to perceive that,
although to his eyes they were all perfectly alike, yet each of the herd
had its appropriate name, and was readily distinguished by the owners.

Steering his course south-west, Linnæus proceeded to the lofty ice
mountains, or “main ridge of the country,” which he had no sooner
reached, than a storm overtook him, accompanied by a shower of thin
pieces of ice, which soon encrusted his garments. The cold was intense,
and the whole country was one dazzling waste. No sooner, however, had
he crossed the summit of the ridge than a change was perceptible, and
soon, from the lofty heights, he beheld the ample forests of Norway lying
far beneath. The whole appearance of the country was perfectly green,
and, notwithstanding its vast extent, looked like a garden in miniature.
The descent was slow and long protracted, but at length he reached the
plains, of which he had enjoyed so glorious a prospect. “Nothing (he
exclaims) could be more delightful to my feelings than this transition
from all the severity of winter, to the warmth and beauty of summer. Oh!
how most lovely of all is summer! The verdant herbage, the sweet-scented
clover, the tall grass reaching up to my arms, the grateful flavour of
the wild fruits, and the fine weather that welcomed me at the foot of
these Alps, seemed to refresh me both in mind and body.”

Here Linnæus found himself close to the sea-coast, and he went to sea in
a boat to search for the natural productions of that element. He would
fain have approached the celebrated whirlpool, called the Maelstrom, but
he found no one willing to venture it. On the 13th of July, he arrived
at the parsonage house of Rorstadt, from the occupant of which, himself
a traveller and a naturalist, Linnæus received a cordial welcome. A
rather significant entry in Linnæus’ diary tells us that here, “in this
far distant nook of the wide peopled earth,” the young enthusiast found
an object of surpassing interest. “The pastor (he says) has a handsome
daughter, named Sarah Rask, eighteen years of age; she seemed to me
uncommonly beautiful.” The next morning, Linnæus took his leave of this
elysium, and proceeded on his way. Climbing the mountains again, he found
a work of “no small fatigue and exhaustion,” and he has given us a most
painful account of the subsequent route he pursued towards the Alps of
Tornea. “What I endured,” he concludes, “is hardly to be described; how
many weary steps I had to set, the precipices that came in my way, and
my excessive fatigue. Water was our only drink during the journey, and
it never appeared so refreshing as when we sucked it out of the melting
snow.” At length, tired of advancing further into this inhospitable
country, he determined to return to Quickjock. In the course of his
journey thither his life was twice endangered, but at length he reached
the place of his destination, “having been four weeks without tasting
bread.” After resting some days at Quickjock, Linnæus descended the
river again to Lulea, where he “learned the art of assaying from the
mine-master, Swanberg, at Calix, in two days and a night,” and thence
his journey was continued through Tornea. He had intended to visit the
mountains, but before he could get thither the winter set in, and he was
obliged to return along the coast on the eastern side of the Bothnian
Gulf. The last entry in his journal is dated October 10th, and is as
follows: “About one o’clock, P.M., I arrived safe at Upsala. To the Maker
and Preserver of all things be praise, honour, and glory for ever!”

At first, indeed, he seemed to reap but a humble reward for his toils. On
his arrival at home, he presented to the Academy of Sciences an account
of his expedition, which obtained their approbation, and they gave him
112 silver dollars (not more than £10)—his travelling expenses. In the
following spring, he began a private course of lectures on the art of
assaying (which he had learned so cleverly from his chance companion
during the Lapland journey). This art had never been taught at Upsala
before; and the novelty of the subject, the skilful manner in which he
communicated instructions, and the reasonable terms he exacted, secured
Linnæus a considerable number of pupils.




THE LIFE OF LINNÆUS (_Continued_).

    The publication and reception of the artificial system of
    classifying plants.

Linnæus had many difficulties to contend with, however. He found his old
rival, Rosen, at work; and Linnæus accuses this man of the meanness of
obtaining, partly by entreaty, partly by threats, his manuscript lectures
on botany, which he valued more than anything he possessed, and which
he afterwards detected his rival in copying. This formidable enemy next
proceeded to prevent Linnæus from obtaining the means of subsistence.
There was no room for the young botanist at Upsala, and, indeed, botany
appeared to be a bad profession. So he turned again to mineralogy, and
got up a students’ expedition to Fahlun and Dalecarlia. He settled down
at Fahlun for a while as a teacher, and found himself as it were in a
new world, where everybody loved and assisted him. He earned money by
his medical knowledge. The Bishop of Abo asked Linnæus to give him
some instruction in botany and mineralogy, and became much attached
to the young man. The bishop advised Linnæus to go abroad and get his
doctor’s degree, and also to marry. The last was as difficult as the
first, but being more to his taste at the time, he wooed the daughter
of Dr. John Morœa, a man of considerable property. The young student
made his proposals with considerable trepidation, and had he not been
satisfied that the lady was willing, he would have let the matter alone.
The worthy doctor thought well of Linnæus, but not of his prospects in
life, but he decided that after a lapse of three years he would give his
reply. Thus, at the age of twenty-nine, Linnæus found himself with a
betrothed, no occupation, and a great deal of knowledge and perseverance.
He had to live, and so he determined to stick to physic, and to get a
doctor’s degree. He contrived to scrape together £15, and went on his
way to the University of Harderwyk. First, like a good son, he went to
see his father, and to console him on the loss of the mother—a loss
greatly felt by the young man at this critical period of his life. Then
Linnæus journeyed to the south, and arrived at Hamburg, where his whole
time was employed in viewing the fine garden, and everything else worthy
of attention. The public library he examined, and also the principal
cabinets of natural history, and he read there for the first time the
botanical works of Ray, whom he esteemed as one of the most penetrating
observers of the natural affinity of plants. Amsterdam was the next
place, and then Harderwyk, where, after being examined, and publishing
a paper on the cure of intermittent fever, he was dubbed M.D. He left
for Leyden, and met Dr. Gronovius, to whom he showed his classification.
Gronovius was so delighted with it that he had it published at his own
expense in eight large sheets. He called on the celebrated Boerhaave, and
after eight days’ waiting obtained an audience. Boerhaave took a liking
to the young man, and recommended him to Dr. Burmann, of Amsterdam, in
whose house he remained for many months. During that time Linnæus printed
his “Fundamenta Botanica,” of which a great writer has said, “it contains
the very essence of botanical philosophy, and has never been superseded
nor refuted.” He commended his book to his friend Artedi, who had just
finished a work on Fishes. Death put an end to this friendship with
Artedi, who was accidentally drowned.

This stay at Amsterdam determined the future career of Linnæus, for he
was introduced there to an English banker, Mr. Clifford, whose garden
at Hartecoup was one of the finest in the world. Linnæus removed to Mr.
Clifford’s house, where he said he lived like a prince, had one of the
finest gardens in the world under his inspection, permission to procure
all the plants that were wanted in the garden and such books as were not
to be found in the library, and of course enjoyed all the advantages he
could wish for, in his botanical studies, to which he devoted himself day
and night. He got his description of the plants of Lapland printed, and
everybody recognized the charms of the descriptions in the book.

In the year 1736, Linnæus paid a visit to England. He did so by the
request, and at the expense, of Mr. Clifford, who was desirous to procure
various plants for his collection, and that he should communicate
with the most celebrated botanists and horticulturists of the day. He
carried with him a letter from Boerhaave to Sir Hans Sloane, who was
a mere rich collector in natural history, and afterwards founder of
the British Museum. This letter is still preserved among the archives
of that institution, and it is written in the strongest language of
recommendation. Notwithstanding such an honourable introduction, however,
the old baronet, who was a sort of highly cultivated curiosity-shop
keeper and not a scientific man, was indisposed to do justice to the
merits of a young man whose innovations on established systems he
viewed with suspicion and dislike. He therefore treated the stranger
with coldness, and dismissed him without any marks of regard. One of
the principal objects of interest to Linnæus, in this country, was the
botanical garden at Chelsea; and from the keeper of that collection,
Philip Miller, an excellent botanist, he experienced much attention,
and was supplied with many rare plants. The garden at Chelsea was the
first in Great Britain that was subsequently arranged according to the
Linnæan system. Dr. Shaw, the Oriental traveller, Professor Martyn,
Peter Collinson, and many other men of true science, received Linnæus
consistently with his testimonials, and admiring his genius, forwarded
his objects by all the means in their power, and, on his return to
the Continent, continued to correspond with him on subjects of mutual
interest in science.

From London our traveller proceeded to Oxford, where he paid his respects
to the celebrated Dillenius, justly considered one of the first botanists
of the time. This learned man was not by any means disposed to regard
Linnæus favourably. He had received from Gronovius a sheet of the “Genera
Plantarum,” and conceiving it to be written in opposition to him, was
irate, and, pointing to the young Swede, said to a gentleman who chanced
to be in his company at the moment of Linnæus’s entry, “See, this is the
young man who confounds all botany!” Linnæus did not understand English,
but the word “confound,” so similar to the Latin _confundere_, let him
into the secret of the professor’s words. He, however, showed no sign of
comprehending him.

Linnæus almost despaired of gaining the friendship of this learned man,
and obtaining from him the plants he wanted. At length, on the third
day of his visit to Oxford, he went to take leave of Dillenius, and, in
parting, said, “I have but one request to make of you; will you tell me
why you called me, the other day, the person who confounds all botany?”
Unable to evade so direct a question, Dillenius took him to his library,
and showed him the sheet of his genera which he had obtained. It was
marked in sundry places with notes of query. “What signify these marks?”
said Linnæus. “They signify all the false genera of plants in your book,”
answered the other. This challenge led to an explanation, in which
Linnæus proved his accuracy in every instance. The result was an entire
change on the part of Dillenius, who afterwards detained Linnæus with him
a month, and found so much satisfaction in his company that he kept him
always in close converse, scarce leaving him an hour to himself. At last
he parted from him with tears in his eyes, after making him the offer to
stay and share his salary, which would have sufficed for them both.

Linnæus never learned any language, not even Dutch, although he lived
three years in Holland. “Nevertheless,” he says, “I found my way
everywhere well and happily.” Despite this great obstacle, Linnæus
appears to have counted among his friends and correspondents some of
the fair sex, in several countries. Lady Ann Monson in London, and
Mrs. Blackburne at Oxford, were among this number; and he had a most
enthusiastic admirer in Miss Jane Colden, of America, who was introduced
to his notice by one of his correspondents, as the only lady known to be
scientifically acquainted with the Linnæan system. She had drawn and
described four hundred plants, according to his method, using English

Pleased with the favour and interest thus manifested, Linnæus
acknowledged his sense of them, by preserving the names of these ladies
in the vegetable kingdom, and, among others, he named two genera of
beautiful plants, Monsonia and Coldenia. The study of botany was so
greatly promoted and facilitated by the easy and pleasant method
introduced by Linnæus, that it is no wonder the ladies acknowledged,
with gratitude, their obligation to the naturalist who first originated
a method by which this delightful study could be brought within the
attainment of all who loved it.

Linnæus wished to visit Paris, and travelled by way of Leyden, where he
enjoyed the society of Lieberkühn, a professor possessed of “incomparable
microscopes.” He stopped there until the spring of 1738, and not long
before his departure, he had an affecting interview with the great
Boerhaave, then on his death-bed. This illustrious man, who had proved
himself so generous a friend to the young naturalist, took a sorrowful
and affectionate leave of him. His parting words were: “I have lived out
my time, and done what I could; may God preserve thee, from whom the
world expects much more. Farewell, dear Linnæus!” Linnæus fell ill, and
was attended by his fellow-labourer, Von Swieten, and on his recovery Mr.
Clifford sent him for a tour into Brabant. Thence he went to Paris, saw
the Jussieus and Réaumur, and was admitted a corresponding member of the
Academy of Science. Leaving Paris, he went northwards to see his father,
and then to his love. The course of true love had run very crookedly, for
a mutual friend, who had been the medium of the correspondence of the
lovers, fell in love with the lady himself. She was true, however, and
they were finally betrothed. It was strange that the greatest botanist
of the day could not get a living out of his science, and it is not to
the credit of his native country. Again Linnæus had to take to physic,
and settling at Stockholm, found that the people would not trust him with
the cure of their dogs, much less with that of themselves. Abroad he had
been honoured everywhere, and in his own country he was a nobody. All of
a sudden things changed, he cured somebody, and everybody went to him to
be cured. Then his star began to shine, the people of Upsala began to
remember him. Count Tessin, who had been tutor to the King of Sweden, and
who was a lover of natural history, procured him a salary of two hundred
ducats a year, on condition that he would give public lectures on botany
and mineralogy. Linnæus wrote of this good friend: “He received me, a
stranger, on my return; he obtained me a salary from the States, the
appointment of physician to the Admiralty, the professorship of Botany
at Upsala, the title of Dean of the College of Physicians, the favour of
two kings, and recommended me by a medal, to posterity.” Having a good
income at last, Linnæus entreated that his marriage might not longer
be delayed. He married Sara Elizabeth Morœa, at her father’s home near

One of Linnæus’s biographers says, “He was fonder, on the whole, of
meddling with plants than with patients;” and in the true spirit of
science, Linnæus gave up his lucrative practice to settle down as
Professor of Botany to the University of Upsala. It was the summit of his
wishes, and in 1741 he began to reside at Upsala, which was to be his
future home.

His zeal, talents, and widespread renown soon produced the desired
effect, and in a few years the garden at Upsala ranked equal, if not
superior, to similar institutions in Europe. Contributions to its
stores continually poured in from all quarters, and the most celebrated
botanists vied with each other in presenting the treasures of every
region and climate of the globe to its distinguished superintendent.
Six years after the establishment of this garden, the new professor
published its description. The numbers of the foreign species of plants
in it at that time, amounted to one thousand one hundred. He was filled
with delight when he beheld these fruits of his labours. As a teacher and
lecturer, Linnæus distinguished himself in a particular manner. His old
students always spoke well of his teaching, and he trained some of the
most distinguished botanists in Europe.

The names of Kalm, Thunberg, Sparrman, Solander, and Fabricius, for
instance, are well known in the scientific world; and there is perhaps
nothing more truly honourable to the memory of their great master,
than the fact that he was the founder of such a school of able and
enterprising men.

Linnæus impressed upon his students, and took care to remember in his
own writings, that it was absolutely necessary to be exact in botanical
descriptions—that the genus should be properly named, and that it should
represent an idea into which certain species could enter.

To the poor, and even to the rich, foreign students who resided at Upsala
entirely on his account, he was most generous, refusing the perquisites
which he should have received for his lectures. To the former he remitted
the money from purely benevolent motives, while he declined it from
the others, that he might convince them how truly proud he was of his
science, so that he would fain make it free of cost to those who sought
after it. One of them having repeatedly urged Linnæus to accept a Swedish
bank-note as an acknowledgment for the pains he had taken to teach him,
he said, “Tell me candidly, are you rich, and can you afford it? Can you
well spare this money on your return to Germany? If you can, then give
the note to my wife; but, if you be poor, so help me Heaven, I will take
not a single farthing from you.” “You are the only Swiss that visits
me, and I feel a pleasure in telling you all I know, gratis,” was his
answer to another, who importuned him in the same manner. It was evident
that he was never so much at home, so entirely happy, as in his garden,
and while searching into the secrets and hidden properties and workings
of nature. Hence he reckoned it among the choicest favours vouchsafed
him by Providence, that he had been “inspired with an inclination for
science so passionate, as to become the source of highest delight to
him.” His diligence and minute observation were continually adding to
his knowledge, and imparting some fresh light in the study he loved.
Indeed, after mentioning with evident satisfaction the honours showed
him, Linnæus somewhat significantly, and very curtly, adds, “Thus was
he obliged to be a courtier, contrary to his inclination.” From his own
account of his personal appearance we learn that he was a little below
the standard height, and of a strong and compact figure. He rather
stooped in walking, having contracted this habit from the frequent
examination of plants and other objects. His head was large, and a good
deal raised behind, and there was a wart on the side of his cheek. His
hair was of a dark brown, till silvered by age, when his brow became much
furrowed and wrinkled. His eyes were brown, bright and piercing, and
his sight exceedingly keen. His ear, too, was very acute, and quick in
catching every sound, except that of music, in which he took no delight.

His natural temperament, he tells us, was vivacious; prompt to joy,
sorrow, and anger, but the latter was speedily appeased, and he was
so averse to disputes that he never would answer any of his numerous
assailants. In his early days he was full of energy and spirit, and
through life his movements were rapid and agile. In his habits he
observed the strictest temperance and method. He never delayed anything
he had to do, and noted down immediately what he wished to remember. He
has recorded that he never neglected a lecture; and by rigid economy of
time, and a regular and exact distribution of the hours, he completed
those extraordinary labours which remain lasting proofs of his talents,
acuteness, and industry.

Of his wife, Linnæus makes honourable mention, and numbers her as among
the choice gifts bestowed on him. “She was,” he says, “the wife for
whom he most wished, and who managed his household affairs while he was
engaged in laborious studies.”

The year 1764 was marked by several events of domestic interest in
the life of Linnæus. Early in the spring he was attacked by a violent
pleurisy, which threatened to cut short his existence. He relates how,
with great difficulty, and through the kind assistance and consummate
skill of Rosen, his present friend and old enemy, he was brought
safely through the crisis. It is truly pleasing to read in his private
memoranda, the gratitude he felt to his old rival, and the expressions
of intimate regard which thenceforward prevailed between them. Recovered
from this illness, Linnæus retired to Hammarby, to enjoy the fresh
invigorating air of the country, and to celebrate his “Silfer Bröllop,”
a Swedish custom of commemorating the twenty-fifth return of the wedding
day. One of his most celebrated pupils, Professor Fabricius, has given
some interesting particulars respecting his eminent master at this period
of his life.

“For two whole years,” he says, “I was so fortunate as to enjoy his
instruction, guidance, and confidential friendship. When I became
acquainted with the Chevalier von Linné, although he had not attained
his sixtieth year, increasing age had already furrowed his brow with
wrinkles. His countenance was open, almost constantly serene, and bore
great resemblance to his portrait in the book called Species Plantarum.
But his eyes, of all the eyes I ever saw, were the most beautiful.
They certainly were but small, but they shone with a brilliancy, and
had a degree of penetration, such as I never observed in another man.
His mind was noble and elevated, though I well know some persons have
accused him of several faults. But his greatest excellence consisted
in the systematic order of his thoughts. Whatever he did or said was
faithful to order, truth, and regularity. His passions were strong
and violent, his heart open to every impression of joy, and he loved
jocularity, conviviality, and good living. An excellent companion, he
was pleasant in conversation, and full of entertaining stories; at the
same time, suddenly roused to anger, he was boisterous and violent, but
immediately his displeasure subsided, and he was all good-humour again.
His friendship was sure and invariable, science being generally its
basis; and every one who knew him must be aware what concern he always
manifested for his pupils, and with how much zeal they returned his
friendship. In summer we followed him into the country. Our life was then
much happier. Our dwelling was about a quarter of a league distant from
his house at Hammarby, in a farm. He rose very early in summer, mostly
about four o’clock. At six he came to us, because his house was then
building, breakfasted with us, and gave lectures upon the natural orders
of plants as long as he pleased, and generally till about ten o’clock.
We then wandered about among the neighbouring rocks, the productions
of which afforded us plenty of entertainment. In the afternoon we went
to his garden, and in the evening mostly played at the Swedish game of
trissett, in company with the ladies. Occasionally, the whole family
came to spend the day with us, and then we sent for a peasant, who
played on an instrument resembling a violin, to which we danced in the
barn of our farm-house; and though the company was but small, and the
dances superlatively rustic, we passed the time merrily. While we danced,
Linnæus sat looking on, and smoking his pipe; sometimes, though very
rarely, he danced a Polish dance, in which he excelled every one of us
young men. He was exceedingly delighted when he saw us in high glee,
nay, even if we became noisy. His only anxiety was, that we might be
well entertained. Those days, those hours, will never be erased from my
memory, and every remembrance of them is grateful to my heart!”

He seems, before sending it, to have added at the close a sort of
summary of his deeds, his merits, his honours, and his obligations.
With the scrupulous care, and love of truth and justice, which always
characterized him, he reckoned up, under the latter head, the various
aids afforded him by his pupils and friends; and, conscious of his higher
obligations, he enumerated the favours he had received from the Divine
hand which he acknowledged had led and prospered him. He had permitted
him to visit His secret council chambers, and to see more of the creation
than any mortal before him, and given him greater knowledge of natural
history than any one had hitherto acquired. Even beneath the pressure of
increasing infirmities, the fondness of Linnæus for his beloved studies
continued undiminished, and his desire of adding to his knowledge was
keen as ever. Some of his letters at this period are full of vivacity,
and strikingly express the ardour of his zeal. An idea of their spirit
may be gained from a short extract taken from one, dated August 8th,
1771. “I received an hour ago,” he writes, “yours of the 16th July, nor
did I ever get a more welcome letter, as it contains the happy tidings
of my dear Solander’s safe return. Thanks and glory to God, who has
protected him through the dangers of such a voyage. If I were not bound
fast here, by sixty-four years of age and a worn-out body, I would this
very day set out for London, to see this great hero in botany. Moses was
not permitted to enter Palestine, but only to view it from a distance; so
I conceive an idea in my mind of the acquisitions and treasures of those
who have visited every part of the globe.”

In the spring of 1774, while lecturing in the Botanic Garden, he suffered
an attack of apoplexy, the debilitating effects of which obliged him to
relinquish all active professional duties, and to close his literary
occupations. In 1776 a second seizure supervened, which rendered him
paralytic on the right side, and impaired his mental powers so much that
he became a distressing spectacle. Yet, even then, with the natural
flow of cheerfulness so peculiar to him, he thus described his own
situation:—“Linnæus limps, can hardly walk, speaks unintelligibly, and
is scarce able to write.” Nature remained, to the last, his sole comfort
and relief. He used to be carried to his museum, where he gazed on the
treasures he had collected with so much care and labour, and as long
as possible he continued to manifest peculiar delight in examining the
rarities and new productions which had been latterly added to them by
some of his pupils.

It is scarcely possible to find a more striking illustration of the
“ruling passion strong in death,” than is afforded in the instance of
Linnæus. Lingering and painful were the last twelve months of his
existence; but at length, on the 10th January, 1778, he gently expired
in his sleep, in the seventy-first year of his age. The death of Linnæus
was regarded, in Sweden, as a national calamity. The whole University
went into mourning, and all the professors, doctors, and students then
at Upsala, attended his funeral. The king, in his speech to the States
in the same year, publicly lamented his death, and ordered a medal to be
struck in his honour; and in 1798 a monument was erected to him in the
cathedral at Upsala, where he was interred.

Such a life needs but little comment. It speaks for itself to the youth
leaving school and knowing not what to do, to the young man struggling
for existence and position, to the middle-aged man in his wealth and
influence, and to the old man who cares to leave a good name behind him.





    The life of De Candolle—The Natural System.

There is a name which is very familiar to young and old botanists
nowadays, and which is always mentioned with feelings of great respect.
It is that of M. de Candolle, one of the founders of the modern system of
the classification of plants which is used by everybody now in preference
to the celebrated artificial method taught by Linnæus.

Augustin Pyramus de Candolle was born at Geneva, in February, 1778,
and his father, M. Augustine de Candolle, was descended from one of
the oldest families of Provence. One of his ancestors, M. Pyramus de
Candolle, became a Protestant, and left France for the freer air of
Switzerland, and settled at Geneva in 1591. This gentleman became a
citizen of the town, a member of the legislature, and took up the
business of a printer. His presses gave forth translations of the works
of Tacitus and Xenophon.

They were stirring times, and this energetic man once, in travelling
through Grenoble into Switzerland, learned that the Duke of Savoy
intended to take Geneva by surprise, with his army. When the attempt
was made, Pyramus de Candolle fought as a citizen of his adopted town.
Subsequently he went to Yverdun and established manufactories, but the
jealousy of the Bernese ruined him, and he died broken-hearted. The
family returned to Geneva to live on small means, and the father of De
Candolle became a banker, and was much employed by the State during
troublous political times.

An industrious, simple, loving, clever man was the father, and he
married Mademoiselle Brière. De Candolle wrote of his mother: “She was
an educated woman, good, fond of fun, and clever; she was gifted with
all the graces and virtues of the mind, and she contributed by her
amiable conversations and teachings to give me a taste for science and
literature. She had only one fault, and it strangely enough influenced my
character. She was proud of her family, which she considered was superior
in station to that of my father, because her mother was a distant
relation of La Fort, the minister of Peter the Great of Russia. She took
every opportunity of making my father feel this pretended superiority, so
that when he became forty-eight years of age, he thought that he would
make himself known to his relatives and take up his nobility in Provence,
and show his wife that his descent was better than hers. But my father
took every opportunity of teaching me that ability alone was the real
distinction amongst men, and that nobility by itself was nothing, and was
a matter of accident. So that my mother’s exaggerated family notions,
and my father’s wise precepts, coming as they did to me, during times
of political change, developed in me a sincere love for freedom, and a
contempt for all success except that which was deserved.” De Candolle was
born when his father was in active office, and the earliest recollections
of the future naturalist were about his father’s military command, and
the endeavours of this good citizen to pacify the populace and the
ruling powers, who were always in opposition. The little fellow was
always ill, and lost much of the outdoor play of his companions; but
there was compensation, for he learned to read fairly soon, and at five
years of age he used to read and pretend to act plays; and his heart
was in his studies, for when M. de Florian, an author, came to see the
family, the child told him that he was going to write comedies, and had
acted them. At seven years of age he was far in advance, and then came
illness—scarlet fever, ear-ache, and threatening brain disease. He used
to say in after years that he well remembered seeing everything looking
double. His recovery was very slow, and he was taken to the country to a
brisk air, and then he began to be robust, and for fifty years after he
never spent a day in bed. But his father did not send him to the public
school; he employed a tutor, and the child learned nothing during three
years. Then came a little country life, and the friendship of a man, a
distinguished naturalist, Mr. Charles Bonnet. His first start in science
was homely enough. His mother used to collect the herbs and fruit out of
the garden, and the boy used to arrange what she gathered, keeping the
different kinds separate with an exactitude that made everybody amazed.
He said that he ought to arrange the fruit according to their natures.

When eleven years of age, De Candolle was sent to the college at Geneva,
and was placed in the fourth class, under a master of only moderate
powers of teaching. No great progress was made in study, and the boy was
rarely seen in the upper part of the class. One day his father came to
the college to inquire how the boy was getting on, and being a Government
official was, of course, well received. A little arrangement by the
master, which excited the contempt of the boy, placed him at the head
of the class, and so unfair did this seem that the little fellow told
his father that he had no right to be there. However, he was removed
to the third class, and fortunately came under a better master. Young
De Candolle played hard and got more healthy, and his studies were not
onerous. In fact, his mother did more for him than the school. She taught
him his native language, and gave him a love for poetry. But this was
almost crushed out by the foolish method of teaching in the school. If
a boy wanted a holiday he had to write to the rector of the college
for it in Latin verse, and of course children of twelve years of age
could not compose sufficiently well. So they copied, and the result
was that, year after year, the rector received a collection of Latin
letters which resembled those of the year before, and this had gone on
for several generations. However, the boy wrote to the rector in French
verse, and in original verse. This was considered something out of the
common, and the boy was praised, and his peculiar gift was fostered.
He became very intimate with a school-fellow named Gaudy, who had the
same tastes, and they used to spend much of their time in turning Latin
prose and poetry into very bad French verse. Soon after his old fondness
for acting returned, and he was successful in private theatricals. The
boy worked hard at this amusement, and learned many of the great French
tragedies and comedies, and although the time was apparently wasted, yet
De Candolle used to say that it did his memory good, gave him a good
style, and took away nervousness. Then his father gave him a good private
tutor, and the boy entered the first class. There he found a master who
insisted on regular and profitable study, besides Latin verse, and the
result was that De Candolle began to distinguish himself and took prizes.
One prize which he gained, made him think very deeply afterwards. It was
an essay relating to the existence of God. De Candolle wrote his essay in
four hours, and it consisted of from fifteen to twenty pages; it included
all he had learned of his catechism, what he remembered of many sermons,
and a host of quotations from the Bible. But although the youth got the
prize, and was much applauded, he felt that he was a complete stranger to
the spirit of the truths he had written, and that his heart had little to
do with the sentences which came from his pen. He learned religion just
as he learned Greek and Latin. In 1792 De Candolle left the college and
began to study literature, and, released from the troublesome discipline
of the class, worked as if he were a man. But things did not go on
smoothly, for the political troubles of that age soon affected Geneva.
A French army occupied Savoy and encamped near Geneva. The Government
prepared to defend the town, and the fathers of families began to send
their wives and children into the interior of Switzerland. De Candolle
was in despair when his father told him and his brother to accompany
their mother; he longed to fight for his country, but he had to leave,
and they went to Champagne, a small village near Grandison, where the
father, foreseeing the trouble, had bought an estate. There the summer
and autumn were passed peaceably, and in superintending the vines, the
gathering of the grapes, and managing the property with his mother.
Montesquieu, the French general, did not care about crushing the little
town of Geneva, and other matters called him away. So the immediate
danger passed and the family returned to Geneva.

The youth returned to his studies amidst popular discontent within
the town. A revolution occurred, and a provisional committee occupied
the position of the former Government. Strangely enough this occurred
whilst De Candolle’s father was chief magistrate, and the Government
fell whilst he was in office. Of course the man who had done so much for
the town was obliged to go into exile, and he left for his little estate
at Champagne, leaving his son behind to pursue his studies. The youth
was left under the charge of his tutor, a young married man, and much
good work was done, and in 1793 he rejoined his father. During the next
year M. Vaucher gave some lectures on botany in the very modest little
Botanical Garden of Geneva. He was a clergyman and Professor of Theology,
but his amusements led him to study plants, and especially those which
live in fresh water. His manner of teaching and the subject, attracted
De Candolle, and indeed so much so that he felt that botany would be his
special study through life. What he learned from M. Vaucher was about
the principal organs of plants, and he began to get books describing
plants and to endeavour to describe for himself. Singularly enough, the
methodical courses of study which De Candolle had undergone assisted him;
for although he obtained some botanical works of a very indifferent kind,
which would have satisfied most youths, he began to see their errors
of method. Knowing nothing of the labours of the great botanists, the
youth managed to see his way to the most reasonable plan of describing
plants, and he noticed the organs, one after the other, in the proper
manner. Teaching himself the rudiments of the study of plants, and giving
much time also to literature, young De Candolle remained much at home,
for Geneva was in a horrible state of political revolution. Robespierre
managed to send emissaries there, and most of the better class of
citizens were imprisoned. De Candolle’s father was sentenced to death,
but being away from the town the sentence had no effect. This state
of things lasted for some time, until the good sense of the majority
annulled the sentence and restored order. Many Genevese emigrated to
America, and when De Candolle returned to his studies he found the town
sad, and nearly all his old friends exiled or gone in disgust. He had no
amusements and therefore his studies were prosecuted with vigour, and he
began a course of natural philosophy. In 1796 he left his studies and
spent the summer with his father, reading good botanical works on the
natural philosophy of trees, the uses of leaves; and, what was of more
importance, he wandered far and wide over the Jura Mountains, collecting
plants to describe and study. He got Linnæus’s European Botany, and soon
began to learn many plants by their proper names. But he used Linnæus’s
book as a simple dictionary, for he saw that although the names of plants
could be easily found out by it, there were plants grouped together in
it that had no close resemblance in their most important parts. At this
time his interest in his study was intensified by a terrible instance
which he witnessed of the hidden powers of simple-looking plants. He saw
three little children die who had eaten belladonna berries.

When eighteen years of age, De Candolle went to Paris and lived in the
same house as Dolomieu, a very distinguished mineralogist, a wise and
moderate man whose simplicity charmed the young man. This wise friend did
not press his special study on De Candolle, but advised him to follow his
fondness for botany, giving him, however, some little insight into the
nature of crystals and their laws of form. De Candolle then learned that
there was a philosophy in stones, and he always stated in after life that
this instruction made him think about the philosophy which linked plants
together in the scheme of creation. He had an instructive conversation
with a well-known botanist, about the structure of the stems of palms and
grapes—which differ so much from those of the oak, plane, willow—and of
ordinary shrubs; and this distinction of two great groups of plants gave
him an insight into some of the grand distinctions between plants, and
which enabled hundreds of species or genera to be grouped and separated.
Unfortunately, at the time of his arrival at Paris, the botanical courses
at the college were not being given, so he began to attend the lectures
on chemistry, physics, and mineralogy. He often went to hear Cuvier, the
great comparative anatomist, whose great ability and dignity of manner
impressed everybody, and he made the acquaintance of the still greater
Lamarck in a very curious manner. De Candolle had seen M. de Lamarck at
the French Academy of Sciences, but he did not know anybody who could
introduce him to the great man. However, he found out that Lamarck
used to dine at the same little restaurant which he patronized. So a
little plan was adopted to draw the celebrated zoologist and botanist
into conversation. De Candolle asked his friend Pictet, who afterwards
became a professor at Geneva and a great man, to come by chance as it
were and sit beside him at the same table as Lamarck, and they began a
conversation about botany. De Candolle especially stated how useful he
had found a book called the “Description of the French Plants” in his
studies. This was overheard by Lamarck, who was the author of it, and he
joined in the conversation. Lamarck asked the young man to come and see
him, and a friendship commenced; and although they did not have at that
time much to say to one another about botany, still the distinguished
French naturalist gave good advice, and, when De Candolle left Paris,
presented him with a letter and a book to give to M. Sénebier, of Geneva,
whose friendship probably decided the future career of the rising young
botanist. Certainly the acquaintance of Lamarck stimulated De Candolle
to study the physiology of plants—how they grow, breathe, how the sap
circulates, how the colours are produced, and how the young seeds
are formed. The happy circumstances which surrounded the young man at
Paris enabled him to see the great comedies of the day and to admire
the splendid acting at the theatres. But he was a philosopher then, and
he could not but be struck with the furious gaiety of society and the
great frivolity of the day, and with that careless method of living
and thinking which followed as a kind of revulsion on the awful scenes
of the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. In the spring of 1797, De
Candolle returned to Geneva. There he studied the physiology of plants
with M. Sénebier, going to his father’s house in the holidays, which were
spent in botanical excursions. In one of these, on the Jura Mountains,
De Candolle discovered a new fungus of a beautiful red colour, and his
adventure in obtaining the specimen was very characteristic of the man.
On the sides of those hills are many very precipitous trough-like paths,
down which the wood-cutters pass the fir trees they cut high up on the
mountains, to the valleys. They are rugged at the sides, and have really
been worn out of the hills by running water and the rushing downwards of
the trees. Active people can slide down these “couloirs” by sitting on a
stick placed between one’s legs, and down went young De Candolle in that
fashion. As he rushed along, he saw a beautiful red plant on a branch of
a tree overhanging the couloir, and as he slid down he managed to cut the
branch and obtain his prize—his first new plant to describe. But it was
done at the expense of his clothes, which got torn off from him in many
parts, by the rocks, so that he had to slink home to avoid being seen.
Working hard at botany, the young enthusiast had very agreeable hours
of relaxation. He was in the midst of a charming homely society; and
there is no doubt that his purity of character and thorough honesty of
disposition were fostered and intensified, by his having the friendship
of several young married and single women of good education and position.
They made him a polished gentleman, and he used to say that that was the
happy time of his life; he had no cares or anxieties, everything smiled
on him, yet he was conscious that it must end, and that he must prepare
for work and the struggle of life.

Politics were always the trouble of the De Candolle family, and they
settled the future career of the young botanist. Geneva was about to
become a portion of the French Republic, the father of De Candolle lost
one-half of his fortune, and the young man went to Paris to learn how
to earn his bread after preliminary study. He had a sad parting from
the father who had been so good to him, and who loved him so well, and
arrived at Paris, being received by an uncle, in March, 1798. After a
few days of quietude, which he spent in calling on his former friends,
he determined to go into lodgings near the Jardin des Plantes, and to
work, leaving pleasure behind him, and to be sought for when he could
afford it. He began to study medicine, and led the odd life of a
medical student, attended to by old crones in their second childhood,
and witnessing all the sad sights of the hospitals. Whenever he could,
he made his way to the Botanical Garden, and yet he did not attend the
lectures on botany. He found them not consistent with what he knew. But
he was ever studying, describing, and observing plants, and, knowing
nobody at the gardens, sought out Lamarck, who offered him some articles
in his Encyclopædia to write. The articles were written, and mistakes
were naturally made, and in after years they were readily acknowledged
and set right. But the work did not advance the young botanist in his
studies, although it confirmed him in the necessity of examining all the
parts of a plant in classifying it, and in paying especial attention to
those organs which are the most important to the life and reproduction
of the kind. Leaving his lodgings to board with a friend, De Candolle
was robbed, as was usual in those days, by his housekeepers; but he got
into a worse scrape by being inveigled into a gambling-house, where he
lost nearly all the money he had earned. It cured him of that folly. At
work he began to make experiments on the action of different gases on the
roots of plants, and obtained some curious results; and M. Desfontaines,
the Professor of Botany, gave him hints about the correct method of
describing plants, so as to enable him to write the letterpress to the
plates of a work on those succulent plants called Crassulaceæ, of
which the houseleek and stonecrops are familiar examples. Medicine was
quite given up; and, in fact, it was hateful to De Candolle, who used
to say, “If I make a mistake in naming a plant, I can set it right, but
if I had made mistakes as a medical man, who knows how many dear little
children I might not have killed?” He became a friend of the Delessert
family, and met at their house all those rising naturalists who were
forming the great French school, and this society was of great importance
to him. Botanical excursions to Fontainebleau were made by him, with
Brongniart, Cuvier, and Dumeril, all great men in their day, and then
he went botanizing into Normandy, and nearly got drowned collecting
seaweeds. Returning to Paris, he was fortunate enough to be again kindly
looked after by some good families, and he became attached to Mdlle.
Fanny Torras, one of a bright circle of ladies who liked the brilliant
conversation and good manners of the rising young man. Going to Holland
for a trip, De Candolle was struck with the curious vegetation of the
hills or dunes of sand near the coast, and this appears to have attracted
his attention to the geographical distribution of plants. Nevertheless,
and in spite of all those attractions, he studied human anatomy and
zoology. In course of time he went home to Champagne, and his future
marriage was agreed upon. On his return to Paris, he was received as the
future husband of Mdlle. Torras.

He studied the “sleep of plants,” the classification of the Vetches,
was presented at the Institute, and elected a member of the Société
Philomathique, where he met and became the associate of his old botanical
companions at Fontainebleau.

There is no doubt that a singular political position which was thrust
upon this young man of twenty-two years of age, decided his future
career, for it brought him under the eye of Napoleon Bonaparte, the
First Consul of France. Geneva nominated him as a “notable” to whom the
consul might apply for information about the requirements of the town.
De Candolle wrote in his memoirs: “I was not much of a partisan. Born
a republican, a friend of peace, I saw with anxiety Napoleon’s evident
love of war and desire for monarchy, but I was obliged to look favourably
on him, for he had destroyed anarchy, and possessed great abilities.”
Napoleon and the young man had two interviews, one a peaceable one, which
did good to the town of Geneva, and a second and stormy one, during
which the simple student of the truth stood up, like a man, against the
angry despot, and quailed not beneath that eye which most men feared.
He was not forgotten, however, and after a while he was nominated on a
commission to investigate the teaching given in the schools of Paris,
under the charge of laymen. This commission was necessary, for the Roman
Catholic authorities were anxious to put down lay teaching. De Candolle,
a firm Protestant, took great care in making his report, and he decided
that although there was much to be desired, still the lay schools were
doing their duty.

Pursuing his studies, De Candolle began to form an herbarium, and his
time was divided between science and philanthropy—for he was a visitor
at the hospitals and prisons of Paris—and his Fanny, whom he married in
1802. Immediately afterwards he began to write his description of the
plants of France, and Cuvier asked him to lecture for him during a term.
The subject chosen was the physiology of plants; it was well managed, and
it tempted De Candolle to head his new book with some chapters on it.
Grief came in due time; De Candolle and his wife lost their firstborn,
a pretty little girl, and a long absence from Paris was necessary. On
their return, De Candolle recommenced his work on his book, and after its
completion he began a series of excursions in different parts of France,
studying the botany and geology. After a while a son was born, and De
Candolle was offered the professorship of Botany at Montpellier.

He visited the city to see how he liked it, and he took this opportunity,
also, to go to the Pyrenees for a botanical trip, collecting at the time
many interesting plants. A difficulty existed about the acceptance of
the position, for there was much teaching required, and there would not
be much time for these excursions about France, which were absolutely
necessary for the knowledge of the different local assemblages of plants
or floras. De Candolle had a salary of about £160 a year, which enabled
him to start from Paris and to botanize. If he went to Montpellier, all
his original work might cease, and he could not earn this money and teach
at the same time. So, loving real work, he determined not to accept the
position. A great endeavour was being made, however, to restore the
teaching of natural history at Montpellier, and the friends of the young
man called on the then Minister of the Interior, M. Cretet, and urged
him to see the rising botanist. At the interview Mr. Cretet, who had no
botanical tastes, was wonderfully amused at a man’s giving up a good
place for the sake of running about France picking up plants, and said,
in a good-humoured manner, “Now, young man, if you don’t take both the
situations you shan’t have either.” The professorship at Montpellier
was accepted, and the necessary journeys were to be allowed. This M.
Cretet seems to have been a man of great sense, and quite upset M. de
Laplace, the great mathematician, about De Candolle. Laplace wanted to
pay a compliment to the minister, and also to bring the young botanist
before his notice, so he said, “Sir, you have done us a doubtful service
in sending M. de Candolle to Montpellier, for we expected soon to have
him as a member of the Institute.” M. Cretet turned on him with an angry
air and said, “Your institute! Do you know what I should like to do with
your institute?” “What?” said Laplace, rather astonished at the tone of
voice. “I should like to fire a cannon well into the middle of it.” M.
de Laplace seemed as if he would sink. “Yes,” continued the minister, “I
would fire a cannon at you all, and disperse you all over France. It is
frightful to concentrate all the lights of the age in Paris, and to leave
the departments in ignorance and idleness! I have sent M. de Candolle
to Montpellier to stimulate others to activity.” Considering that the
members of the Institute of France have always considered themselves the
very cream of the cream of science, this was very shocking.

The new professor started with his wife, little boy, his library and
herbarium, and with many a regret at leaving such friends as those who
enlightened Paris as anatomists and botanists. It was a great position
for a man of thirty years of age, however, and it gave him sufficient to
live upon; and this was welcome, for hitherto he had been poor.

When he was settled in his new establishment his father, then seventy-two
years of age, came to see him, and, after a short sojourn, took his
leave, accompanied by his daughter-in-law and grandson. Whilst they all
went to Geneva, De Candolle prepared for and went on an excursion into
Italy. During the visit to Italy, in 1808, politics came in the way of
botany, and nothing was heard of De Candolle for a month, his letters
having gone astray; but he turned up at Geneva, well, and in good
spirits, for he heard that he had a chance of being made a member of the
Institute. But he found that even great scientific men have their little
foibles and favourites, and he did not get elected. In fact, he never
was elected a member, although he was the most distinguished botanist
of the age. Years afterwards, when he was in Geneva, he was made one of
the eight foreign members, and that has always been considered a great
honour. Nevertheless, politics, social position, and agreement with the
authorities of the day, on all subjects, are of very considerable moment
in these elections.

The return to Montpellier was sad, but the fine sunshine of the south,
and cheerful society, soon made De Candolle forget his disappointment.
After a botanical trip in Savoy, De Candolle wrote an important volume on
geographical botany and agriculture. The first of these subjects infers a
thorough knowledge of the names and kinds of plants, and it is of great
importance in associating certain plants with soils, rocks, and climates.

By November, 1811, De Candolle had nearly completed his botanical
tours, and he then considered that he was settled at Montpellier for
a long time, and that his work would be more that of a teacher than
investigator. He found that travelling and collecting had enlarged his
mind, and he never regretted the six years of wandering about. About
this time the young professor commenced a great work on the statistics
of French vegetation. It did not deal with descriptions of species, or
of the special localities where they could be found; but, first, with
the general distribution of wild plants in France, and then with the
relation of the plants of France to the different wants of mankind.
This last part was eminently practical, and it dealt with food plants,
medicinal plants, dye plants, and those which are used for clothing.
It was a prodigious attempt, and it never came to a conclusion; only
fragments of it were in his possession fourteen years afterwards, and he
attributed much of the difficulty thrown in his way, to the alterations
which occurred in the boundaries of France after the fall of Napoleon.
Moreover, he had to complete his description of the plants of France, and
that was not done until 1815.

De Candolle was always fond of society, and, after his labours of the
day, was glad to go into or receive company. Being a Protestant, and
a man of mark in his native town, he was well received by most of the
families of Montpellier, and his wife also. Society consisted of good
Protestant families of old, so-called nobles, and some who thought
themselves nobles. It was split up like the society of most small towns,
into cliques, but De Candolle escaped, for a long time, any discomforts
or social antagonisms. They came at last, however.

De Candolle, like many active-minded men, was not popular with the
officials who had “places” in their gift. He was intrigued against,
and lost the rectorship of the University, but he had the pleasure of
exposing the intrigue in 1813.

Napoleon had fought his last fight, and had gone to Elba, and the
Bourbons had been restored. Disgusted with the military spirit of the
Empire, De Candolle rejoiced at the restoration of the Bourbons, and even
became a volunteer to keep the town in order. He began to change his mind
soon, however, for the Count d’Artois, one of the royal family, received
the professor with great haughtiness, and, by way of making amends, paid
particular attention to a rascal of the first water who had returned from
the galleys, where he had been sent for stealing, and not for devotion
to the Bourbons, as he told the duke. Going to Geneva on a visit, to
place his eldest son at school, De Candolle found the city just being
received into the Confederation of the Swiss Republic. He returned to
Montpellier, which was full of rejoicing at Napoleon’s exile, but shortly
afterwards all was disorder during the hundred days in which Napoleon
was, for the last time, ruler of France. Beyond the reach of direct
politics, the professors of Montpellier had their little evenings, and
even got up private theatricals. In the midst of a scene in one of these
came the news that Napoleon had landed at Cannes, and was on his way to
Paris. That was the last quiet hour that De Candolle had in the town.
An unfriendly man, who was a royalist, began to set people against the
professor, who resented their interference. He began to limit his circle
of friends, left literature alone more and more, and plunged more deeply
into science. He determined to leave Montpellier and its littlenesses.
His principal care was to enlarge and utilize the botanic garden of the
place, and then he devoted much time to teaching, and with great success.
Civil war was imminent, and the defeat at Waterloo produced outbreaks
at Montpellier. De Candolle had been elected Rector of the University
during the Hundred Days, and was ordered to give up the title. This he
did, and prepared to leave the place. He had sent his family to Geneva,
and in travelling himself to join them, by way of Nimes, he saw traces
of the horrible treatment the Protestants had received. Subsequently the
family went to Paris, passing through the towns occupied by the allied
troops. Having time, De Candolle visited England, and became the guest
of Dr. Marcet, and was introduced to the best of the scientific world.
He met and enjoyed the reticent Robert Brown, and went to a sitting of
the Royal Society, which he said was dull. He was introduced to Hooker
and Sir James Smith, the proprietor of the Herbarium of Linnæus, which
he very properly said was the basis of botanical nomenclature. In 1816
De Candolle found himself settling down in his native town of Geneva,
where he was well received, and became Professor of Natural History, and
taught students of both sexes, and began to establish a botanic garden of
some importance. There he was obliged to go into local politics, and for
years was a representative of the town, doing good work for the poor, for
liberty by receiving and protecting political fugitives and by insisting
on the freedom of the press, which was considerably hated in France under
the restored Bourbons. Nevertheless, year after year he taught well,
and most of the great botanists of later years were either his students
or his visitors and friends. As age crept on, De Candolle continued his
researches, and got through the description and classification of a
considerable number of known plants. These were published in a book which
will always be his masterpiece. Honours crowded on him, the gifts of
learned societies of all nations, and he visited most of the great cities
of the Continent. In 1832 he published the second part of his work. He
had great happiness with his wife, and his parents lived to great ages,
content with the prosperity of their son, who was ever good and loving
to them, and got his reward. He had a little estate, out of Geneva, at
Saint Seine, and enjoyed it much; but, as years rolled on, the death of
a son there, affected his tender heart, and he sold the place and bought
another, called La Barrière, near Geneva. His eldest son, Alphonse,
followed well in the father’s steps. Finally, when old age troubled De
Candolle, he gave up his professorship.

Ill health succeeded, but the man worked on at his great book, and even
entered the political arena once again at a time of emergency. The winter
of 1840-41 was one of illness, and he could no longer work. His friends
were dying off, month after month, and when death came to him, he was
content. He had been a good son, an excellent father, a loving friend,
a true patriot, deserving everything that elevated mankind; and it is
admitted by all botanists that he consolidated the science, and gave it
a definite natural classification.

De Candolle early in life grasped the truth that plants grow, reproduce,
and arrive at maturity, not by accident, but according to natural law,
and he soon saw that some parts of plants were of more importance to
their well-being and multiplication than others. He was thus a follower
of Ray, and he became impressed with the belief that in arranging plants,
the resemblances of the most important parts and organs, should be
considered before those of the less important. This manner of proceeding
he called the natural method. It was founded upon the knowledge of the
anatomy of the plants and upon their physiology, and the method required
care and research. The artificial method of Linnæus enabled botanists to
distinguish plants readily, by examining the most readily examined, and
often unimportant, parts of the plant’s flower. It was not a scientific
plan, but a ready method. It did not bring one plant into relation with
another, showing the common method of growth and reproduction, but simply
enabled one plant to be separated and distinguished from another, and
this is the least part of botany.

The works of Whewell on the inductive sciences, the article on botany in
the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” Pulteney’s “Life of Linnæus,” and that
written by Miss Brightwell, of Norwich, and De Candolle’s “Mémoires et
souvenirs écrits par lui même” have been freely and largely quoted in
these chapters.




    The nature of the science of zoology—Great zoologists usually
    botanists also—Aristoteles as a zoologist—Plinius—The long age
    of no progress—The life of Conrad Gesner—The zoology of Ray and
    Willughby—Swammerdam—Réaumur—The zoology of Linnæus.

Zoology does for animals what botany does for plants. It is the science
which treats of the resemblances and differences of animals, their
shapes, and habits, and which explains their position on the earth in
different countries, and classifies them. It is inseparably linked on to
the study of comparative anatomy and to physiology which treats of the
internal structures and the influence which the outside world has upon
the living thing. Like botany, the science arose in a simple manner, and
men first of all learned to distinguish one animal from another, giving
them names. Then their habits were noticed, and some attempt was made to
arrange animals by their greater or less resemblances of external shape.
The age of the wonderful affected zoology as it did botany, and the
intellectual darkness of the Middle Ages prevented progress. The writings
of travellers, the discovery of the microscope, and civil and religious
liberty, caused the rise of zoology, and the classifications gradually
began to include the past or extinct kinds of animals with those which
are now existing in a great scheme, which indicates the succession of
living things upon the earth.

As a great branch of natural history, it was to be expected that zoology
would be studied with botany; and in fact, nearly all the great botanists
have been able zoologists, whilst nearly every great zoologist began with

Aristoteles was as great a hero in zoology as he was in botany, and he
may be said to have founded the science. Certainly, some of the principal
divisions of the animal kingdom were taught by him. He was the first
to make an attempt to explain the anatomy of animals, the functions or
duties of different parts of their bodies, and to compare them with
those of man. He discussed their resemblances and differences with great
acuteness. He was especially distinguished as a student of fishes, making
a vast number of observations of his own, and collecting those of other
writers. After much consideration, Aristoteles wrote upon the distinction
between living things and inanimate nature, and we owe him the notion
of the distinctions between the genus and the species. He wrote with
regard to the species: “An animal species is an assemblage of individual
animals, in which not only the whole form of any one resembles the whole
form of any other, but each part in any one resembles the corresponding
part in any other. Thus, every horse not only resembles every ether horse
generally, but the eye or the hoof of every horse resembles the eye or
hoof of every other horse. They are, therefore, the same in the character
of the individual parts.” “A genus is an assemblage of individuals in
which any one bears, upon the whole, an obviously perceptible resemblance
to any other. But the corresponding portion in the different species
of the same genus, usually differ in colour, form, numbers, size, and
proportion.” This is not so clear as the notion of the species, and he
extended the term genus to what is now called an assemblage of genera,
that is to say, a family, order, or class. He clearly distinguished
between white-blooded and red-blooded animals, and was aware of the
mysterious connection between the existence of a spinal column, made up
of bones, or vertebræ, and red blood. He makes vertebrated, or backboned,
animals to take the first place in his scale of classification.
Classifying man, viviparous and oviparous quadrupeds, birds, fishes,
cetaceous animals (whales), and serpents amongst the red-blooded,
Aristoteles put down as white, or no blooded animals, insects, or
creatures divided into segments, cuttlefish, with soft substance, rather
soft-shelled animals, like lobsters, and hard-shelled creatures such as
oysters. He examined, one by one, all the species he could procure, and
then classed together as a subordinate generic group all those, which
resembling each other in the more important parts of their structure,
differed only in size or colour, or in other points of little importance.

Aristoteles founded the natural history of his age, and no one came near
to him. He left nobody behind to follow his work.

In after years, Plinius wrote on beasts, fishes, birds, and insects,
and on human and comparative anatomy, but he made no great advance on
Aristoteles. Then there occurred as great a gap in the study of zoology
as happened in botany, and many hundreds of years elapsed before progress
was made.

Conrad Gesner, a Swiss, made the first great step in zoology after the
ancients, and his life was a most remarkable one. A writer says of him,
that he was a shining example of the truth of the remark, that those who
have most to do, and are willing to work, find the most time. He was
a great scholar, and a profound naturalist. He began life in extreme
poverty, soon became an orphan, laboured whilst ill, and sacrificed
himself for the sake of others. A son of a poor skinner and worker
of hides, he was born in 1516, at Zurich, and had to suffer pinching
poverty, with his numerous brothers and sisters. An uncle was kind to
the boy, and began to educate him, but death stepped in and he lost his
kind relation. When only thirteen years of age, Gesner was cast upon the
world, his father having died fighting in the battle of Zug. The lad was
seriously ill and dropsical, and his sole fortune was a little knowledge
of classics, which he had picked up. Probably one of the professors
at Zurich, Ammian by name, and who had instructed him, gave him
introductions, for we find the lad at Strasbourg when fifteen years of
age. His thoughts were to go into the Lutheran Church, and it is certain
that the Lutheran Wolfgang Fabricius Capito gave him some employment,
and enabled him to begin the study of Hebrew. Returning again to Zurich,
the university there gave him a little pension, to enable him to travel,
and he went into France to Bourges. There he taught at a school, and
occupied his spare time in learning Greek and Latin. Then he went to
Strasbourg again, hoping for employment, and finding none, was asked to
return to Zurich, and to teach in the university. At the age of twenty
he married, and, of course, much against the wishes of his friends,
who do not appear to have done anything for him, except to have given
gratuitous advice. Although the Church was to be the career of Gesner,
he took much interest in the healing art, and resigning his position at
Zurich, he went, having a small pension, to Basle as a medical student.
Anxious to know the wisdom of the Greek physicians, he paid unusual
attention to that language, and edited an edition of a dictionary of it.
This study brought strange results, for he was offered a professorship
of Greek at Lausanne, and he accepted the position. He was very young,
and yet learned men found his friendship valuable. Going, subsequently,
to Montpellier, he became acquainted with a naturalist named Rondelet,
and he gradually began to earn enough money to be independent. So he
returned to Basle, and in 1541, being twenty-five years old, took his
degree in medicine. He settled in practice at Zurich, and occupied his
spare time in studying zoology and botany, and soon became wealthy.
Occasionally he travelled, and during one of these trips he became
acquainted with the leading men at Venice and Augsburg, and at their
instance began a great work, a kind of universal catalogue of Greek,
Hebrew, and Latin works. All this time he was slowly and surely studying
animals and plants, and in 1551 the first part of his “History of
Animals” appeared, to be followed by others in 1554, 1555, and 1556. The
volumes contained descriptions of viviparous quadrupeds, that is to say,
four-footed beasts, whose young are born in active movement; of oviparous
quadrupeds, or those which lay eggs; of birds and of fishes, and other
aquatic animals. He wrote also upon insects. All agree that this book
is a miracle of industry, having for its object no less than a general
history of animated nature. It contains a careful criticism of the works
of previous authors, and, besides much valuable and solid knowledge on
zoology, many interesting remarks on the habits and medicinal uses of
animals. He followed the method of Aristoteles, and the notion of the
genus was, of course, not satisfactorily established; but the book was
the source of much of modern zoology, from which succeeding writers drew

Gesner’s botanical works were as great as those relating to animals,
and he designed and painted fifteen hundred figures of plants, which
were of great use to his successors. As if he had not enough to do, he
translated the Greek works of Aelian, on animals, in 1556. Scientific
and industrious, he had much to contend with, and was short-sighted. He
was the first person who used concaved glasses to remedy this defect in
his sight. As years rolled on, Gesner was much liked and honoured in
his native town; he was very amiable, a great peacemaker, and a liberal
citizen. He established a botanic garden, and gave employment to artists.
Whilst in the full vigour of life, and in active practice as a physician,
the plague attacked Zurich, and Gesner successfully combated the
contagious disorder in many cases. He exposed himself without fear, after
the fashion of most medical men, and unfortunately caught the disease.
When the worst symptoms came, he knew his hour was at hand, and asked to
be carried into his library and museum, where all the treasures he had
collected and described, to the delight of his students and friends, were
deposited. There he breathed his last, in the arms of his affectionate
wife, for whose love contagion had no terrors. He died with the calmness
of a Christian philosopher, on the fifth day of his attack, at the early
age of forty-nine. His remains rest, much honoured, in the cloister of
the Greek church at Zurich. Not only did Gesner consolidate the knowledge
of the animal and vegetable kingdom of his day, but he also influenced
other authors to do good work, and to avoid unkind criticism. His calm,
candid, and equable temper enabled him to soothe the angry feelings of
others, under their real and imaginary wrongs. He laid aside his own
labour to assist others, and he devoted much time to the supervision and
publication of a work which was left incomplete, by a deceased friend, so
as to provide for the family.

Gesner’s life is a very good proof that where there is a will there
is a way, and that poverty does not impede the path of a thoroughly
industrious and earnest man. The poor skinner’s son’s name is respected
at the present day, and will be so, as long as science lasts.

The interesting life of Ray has already been given amongst those of
the heroes of botany; he was, however, a zoologist of the first class,
and his devotion to that part of natural history was part of his great
friendship for Mr. Willughby. This promising young man studied under Ray,
at Cambridge, and whilst the master took plants under his care and study,
the pupil began to work at animals. They made a tour together, visiting
France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries. Ichthyology, or
the study of fishes, and ornithology, or the study of birds, occupied
the attention of Willughby. Having collected a vast number of specimens
and observations, they returned to England, and Willughby immediately
commenced working with a view to the publication of a great work on the
animal kingdom. He even contemplated a visit to America; but health
failed, and he died in the prime of life, on July 3rd, 1672. The
education of his two infant sons was confided to Mr. Ray, who was one of
his executors. Willughby thought his works too imperfect for publication,
but Ray felt otherwise, and urged it upon him for three reasons: first,
the glory of God; secondly, the assistance of others in the same
studies; thirdly, the honour of his native land. Upon these grounds he
gave his consent, and Ray became their editor. A book on birds, “The
Ornithologia,” was the result, and it contains a large amount of original
observation, and is a full and exact description of the habits and
maladies of birds, and the best means of domesticating them. Excellent
anatomical descriptions are added. Subsequently, a book on the fishes of
the Mediterranean appeared.

The merits of Willughby as a natural historian still continue to be
recognized. He was a most accomplished zoologist, and he gave Ray
and Linnæus the method of classification of animals which is usually
associated with their names. Ray acknowledged this, and he says that
he found among his friend’s manuscripts the histories of beasts and
insects, no less than of birds and fishes, “digested with a method of his
own.” He was not a simple wealthy and intelligent amateur, for he was
master to one of the greatest naturalists. Ray, in editing Willughby’s
“Book on Birds,” gives a most touching preface to the memory of his
friend. He says, “He was from childhood addicted to study, and ever since
he came to the use of reason, so great a husbander of his time, as not
willingly to lose, or let slip unoccupied, the least fragment of it;
detesting no vice more than idleness, which he looked on as the parent
and source of all others. Of his skill in natural philosophy, chiefly the
history of animals, I shall say no more at present, but that it hath not
yet been my hap to meet with any man, whether in England or beyond seas,
of so general and comprehensive knowledge therein.”

A very different career, but one which has had a greater general
influence on natural history, was that of John Swammerdam, who was born
at Amsterdam, in 1637, his father being an apothecary. His grandfather,
Jacob Dirkz, was born in the village of Swammerdam, near Leyden, and
his father, a well-to-do apothecary, lived there and took his name from
the village. He married Berendina Corvera and settled at Amsterdam. The
family lived in comfort, and the little one was destined, like many
other naturalists, to the Church. His education consisted of sound
Latin and Greek, and when he became old enough, he began to feel that
there were responsibilities about his future office as a clergyman,
which he did not think he could fulfil. Holland at that time was in a
religious ferment, and sects of all kinds existed, religion being more
talked about than practised. The lad, as he grew up, desired to follow
in his father’s footsteps, and to learn the healing art; but his genius
led him to the study of nature. Before he was fifteen years of age, he
began to make collections of natural history objects, and whenever he
could get away from home, and spare time from his medical studies, he
pursued his favourite employment, searching the woods and fields, the
sand-hills and muddy shores, the lakes, rivers, and canals, for insects,
worms, and molluscs, until he acquired, even as a youth, a more extensive
knowledge of the lower animals than all the naturalists who had preceded
him. In 1661 he went to Leyden and studied surgery and anatomy. In this
last he excelled, and became celebrated for his methods of preserving
dissections. Then he went to Saumur, in France, and to Paris, where he
gained the friendship of Thévenot the traveller, who was his patron
subsequently, and assisted him when in Amsterdam in after years, by
obtaining permission for him to dissect human bodies. His fellow-pupil
was Nicholas Steno, of whom more will be said under the title of “Heroes
of Geology.” On his return to Leyden, Swammerdam discovered the method
of injecting arteries with coloured wax, and of keeping the internal
organs in a dry condition for purposes of study, and investigated the
nature of the lymphatics. He graduated soon after, and after receiving
his diploma, returned to his old love, nature, and occupied nearly all
his time in the anatomy and physiology of insects.

Swammerdam worked so incessantly, that he got into bad health, and was
obliged to relinquish the medical profession for a time. He followed up
his researches into the minute construction of insects, and really never
ceased them until death. The Grand Duke of Tuscany visited Amsterdam
at this time, and examined Swammerdam’s collections. Greatly impressed
with their value, and with the splendid dissections, he offered a home
to the young naturalist in his palace, and twelve thousand florins for
the collection. Swammerdam, however, did not care to wear a collar; and
loving freedom of thought, which he did not think he would have in Italy,
declined the offer. He knew that he would be expected to change his
religious tenets, and said that he would not sell his soul for money. He
published a “General History of Insects,” in 1669, and soon afterwards
broke down, entirely, in health, so that he had to go into the country
to rest and do nothing. But this was impossible; and he began to study
bees, and their natural history. Probably it was this constant weak
health, and the solitude necessary for the peculiar nature of his work
and observations, that had a very remarkable influence on the mind
and emotions of this great investigator. Always religious, he longed
more and more for communion with his Maker and the author of all the
wonders he was constantly studying. When in better health he was happy
in his thoughts, and considered that it was his duty to study nature;
but when ill, from the effects of overwork, he began to think that his
labours were leading him astray, and that to seek the good opinion of his
fellow-creatures and to become famous, was a sin. Sometimes he gave up
science, to begin again with fresh zeal, and then he would neglect it,
giving up his whole time to religion. Unfortunately he was unreasonable
in his method of working. Boerhaave, the great physician, thus wrote of
Swammerdam: “He laboured so assiduously at this work as to destroy his
constitution, nor did he ever recover a shadow of his former strength.
The labour, in fact, was beyond the power of ordinary men—all day he was
employed in examining objects, and at night described and delineated what
he had seen by day. At six in the morning, in summer, he began to receive
sufficient light from the sun to enable him to trace the objects of his
examination. He continued dissecting until twelve, with his hat removed
lest it should impede the light, and in the full blaze of the sun, the
heat of which caused his head to be constantly covered with profuse
perspiration. His eyes being constantly exposed to a strong light, the
effect of which was increased by the microscope, they were so affected
by it, that after midday he could no longer trace the minute bodies which
he examined, although he had then as bright a light as in the forenoon.”

Swammerdam investigated the nature of the changes of outside form and
internal structure which accompany insect life. Some of his drawings of
the escape of the ephemera fly from its sheath of delicate skin on the
surface of the water, and out of the wingless or nymph condition, are
very beautiful. But his accuracy regarding the minute internal changes of
the tissues and organs in the larva, pupa, and perfect insect is being
more and more acknowledged. He taught that these changes were not sudden,
but that a continuous growth of organs and tissues culminated at certain
times of the life of the insect. The larva, or caterpillar, admirably
adapted for its course of life, was a stage of the life cycle of a more
perfect form, the imago or flying insect. Swammerdam stated that all the
organs of the perfect insect—a butterfly, for instance—were in a visible
yet only slightly developed condition in the caterpillar. And late
researches are leading to prove that he was right, for the wings of the
future fly are to be detected in the body of the tiny crawling thing that
escapes from the egg.

Happy in this toil when he was well, for it was all about what was
entirely new and previously unknown, he often laboured on, when he was
ill, with “sighs and tears.” Naturally sensitive, pious, and very
amiable, he at one time quite gave up his work under the influence of a
remarkable woman, Antoinette Bourignon. She was a wealthy, well-educated
person, extremely plain, and who believed that a mission had been given
her to preach according to her own fancies, and not in accordance with
the general doctrines of the age. She seems to have stimulated Swammerdam
to lead a purely religious life, and to give up his studies. It was the
age of sects and of intolerance; and possibly the disagreeable reception
which this certainly very good woman met with, made the man care more
about her peculiar tenets. He began, seriously, to try and sell his
collections, made catalogues of his possessions, and corresponded with
Antoinette. While various negotiations were pending, Swammerdam published
the results of his ten years’ labour and the “Anatomy of the Day Fly,”
a great work, and his best. Then he went on a journey into Denmark to
use his influence with the king in order to get Antoinette a home in
that kingdom, the Lutherans of Holland having ordered her to leave their
country. He was not successful; and probably this affair made a great
commotion at home. On Swammerdam’s return, his father, enraged at him for
his utter carelessness about earning money and his want of application
to business, determined to allow him only a small sum of money to live
upon. He was in utter despair, for this prevented his following his
wish to lead, for the future, a life of meditation and religion. The
father died soon afterwards, and a lawsuit was commenced by the family to
prevent Swammerdam having his share of the property. This trouble brought
on illness, and severe ague followed, and, although recovery took place,
the sensitive, able man sank soon afterwards. Swammerdam made an epoch
in zoology by showing the value of the microscope, and by his extreme
exactitude in descriptions, drawings, and dissections. His contributions
to human anatomy alone will always render his name illustrious.

Although everybody must regret that Swammerdam had not good means, and
that his work was so sadly brought to a close by poverty and trouble, yet
it must be remembered that wealth is not a great incentive to distinction
in subjects that require great self-denial, and which are not much valued
by what is called public opinion. The temptations incident to, and the
real duties of wealth, are as great antagonists of successful scientific
research, as poverty. And certainly the frivolity and vice of the
wealthier classes of Europe, during the earlier part of the eighteenth
century, were not likely to inspire any of their members with a desire
for natural science. But some very remarkable instances occurred, in
which the genius and determination of some great men prevailed over the
intolerance and habits of the age, and enabled them to become men of
great mark in zoology and other subjects.

The first to be noticed is René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur, who was
born at Rochelle, in western France, in 1683. Well born, and having
wealthy parents, he was well educated, and destined for the law. He did
not follow the propensities of the age, but began to study the arts and
manufactures of France with great care, and to spend his spare time in
natural history researches. From what is known of his career, it is
very evident that he had learned chemistry and mineralogy, and that
his education had been a most careful and liberal one. His fortune was
considerable, and it not being necessary for him to work for his bread,
he determined to follow the bent of his inclinations. When twenty years
of age, Réaumur went to Paris, and his first essay was in the form of
some geometrical work which was read before the Academy of Sciences. At
the early age of twenty-four he was admitted a member of that learned
and somewhat emotional body, and was a very constant contributor to its
publications for fifty years. At first his desire was to improve the arts
and manufactures of his native land, and in 1711 he made experiments upon
the manufacture of ropes, and he showed that the strength of a cord is
less than the sum of the strength of the threads of which it consists,
whence it follows that the less a rope is twisted after a certain point,
the stronger it is. In 1715 he began to study the process of colouring
artificial pearls, and probably it was during these researches that
his attention was attracted towards natural history. He found out the
nature of the substance which gives the pearly lustre to fish scales,
and then he investigated the growth of scales. Following up his subject,
he examined into the method of growth of the shells of molluscs. In one
of his journeys in Languedoc, he discovered some substances resembling
turquoise in colour, and they were used as gems; but he pushed the
matter further, and discovered a very remarkable fact. The extinct
animal called mastodon, from the peculiar teat-shaped projections on
its huge teeth, roamed over Europe in the last geological age, and its
teeth, covered with a very strong enamel, have been preserved in strata,
or in fissures. Under the influence of the chemical action going on in
rocks, the enamel becomes occasionally coloured, so as to resemble a
turquoise-coloured porcelain. This was evident to Réaumur, who wrote
upon the fact. Other studies took him away from natural history for a
while, but they certify to the energy and hard work of the man and his
great accuracy. Réaumur’s experiments in the manufacture of iron and
steel were of great importance, and it was an attempt to get the art of
making steel introduced into France, that urged him on. He made good
use of his knowledge, for on publishing his methods of work, the Regent
gave him a pension of 12,000 livres a year. Next he discovered the art
of tinning iron, and whilst experimenting, Réaumur first noticed that
many metallic substances in passing from the heated fluid condition
to the cold state, have a tendency to assume particular geometrical
or crystalline forms. Among his useful discoveries were plans for
the manufacture of porcelain, and they were of great use to France. A
thermometer, with a scale of temperature, still largely used in some
parts of the world, was invented by him, and he took the freezing and
boiling points of water as fixed points, and divided the interval into
eighty degrees. The present centigrade thermometer used in France is
made on the same plan, but the interval is divided into one hundred
degrees. Labouring as a physicist, still all this time Réaumur was
doing wonderful work in zoology. He described the means by which many
echinodermata—sea-urchins and sea-stars—execute their movements, and
discovered the curious manner in which many crustacea, such as crabs
and lobsters, throw off their limbs and repair them. But his real and
lasting work was on insects, which occupied all his best and later years.
Living in perfect quietude, without any great worries, sometimes at his
estate at Saurlonge, and at other times at Bercy, near Paris, he worked
on, giving all his energies to his subject. His labours, he stated,
were published with a view to assist future investigators, and most of
them were original. He kept up his pretty country house and garden, and
observed the insects and their habits, and especially their methods
of changing form. He followed Swammerdam in these investigations, and
although there are some differences of opinion between the two great
men, still they both made their mark in the investigation of that part
of natural history which deals with the progressive development of
the minute young to the full-grown creature. Réaumur was sufficiently
wealthy to form a large collection of animals, and a very able man, M.
Brisson, was employed by him as its curator, and was allowed to describe
the quadrupeds and birds. Réaumur did not care so much about classifying
insects, as describing their habits and anatomy; but his six great
volumes are still most valuable memorials of his conscientious care. He
says that the number of observations necessary for a tolerably complete
history of so many minute animals is prodigious. When one reflects on all
that an accomplished botanist ought to know, it is enough to frighten
him. His memory is loaded with the names of twelve or thirteen thousand
plants, and he is expected to recall, on occasion, the image of any
one of them. There is perhaps not one of those plants but has insects
peculiar to itself; and some trees, such as the oak, give sustenance to
several hundred different species. And after all, how many are there that
do not live on plants? How many species that devour others? How many that
live at the expense of other animals? How many species are there, some of
which pass the greater part of their time in water, while others pass it
entirely there? The immensity of nature’s works is nowhere more apparent
than in the prodigious multitudes of these little animals. This being
the case, he deems it impossible for any one man to acquire a knowledge
of all the insects of even a limited district; therefore, instead of
burthening the memory with the characteristic distinctions of these
creatures, to the neglect of matters of greater importance, he recommends
attention to particular _genera_, and especially to those which are of
most frequent occurrence, that a knowledge of their peculiarities, food,
and propagation, and the different forms they assume, may be accurately

In the first two volumes, Réaumur treats of caterpillars, their changes
of form into the chrysalis, and this into the butterfly; about their
different kinds and habits, and concerning the other insects which attack
them, and live within them, in their early stage.

The third volume includes the description of the habits of the clothes
moths, and the plant-lice, or aphides; the fourth treats of gall insects
and two-winged flies; the fifth contains the history of bees, and the
sixth of wasps and hornets. The natural history of the grasshoppers,
crickets, and beetles was to have been written in a seventh volume, but
it was never completed. The published volumes contain much very valuable
information, and their great merit consists in the wonderful care
Réaumur took, in investigating facts and in recording them carefully and
systematically. He especially studied the instincts of insects, and thus
brought their nervous system into prominent notice, and also the evident
connection between the surrounding conditions and the peculiar lives of

Years rolled on and the worthy man became old, but still persisted
in his simplicity of life and desire for study. He was so superior in
intellect to the class to which he belonged, that he lived free from
jealousy and intrigue. Probably few men have led a happier life than
Réaumur, and certainly his useful works will last as long as mankind. At
the age of seventy-four he met with an accident whilst riding, and died
October 18th, 1757. He had no personal vanity, and, being influenced by
the true scientific spirit, sought truth and not personal distinction and

Linnæus, whose life has been given under the title of a hero in botanical
science, was almost as great a zoologist as botanist and mineralogist.
His classification of animals produced as great a change in the direction
and possibility of studying zoology, as that of plants did in the case of
botany. It led the way, through an artificial system, by which animals
could be readily known, to a natural system which united animals not only
by their common general shape, but also by the nature, position, and
use of their internal organs. His system of naming animals was equal to
that of plants, and the reasonable generic and the applicable specific
names, going together, stamped the animal with a kind of individuality.
Classification, description, and proper naming were the important parts
of Linnæus’s zoology.




    The popular writings of Buffon, and his life—Pennant’s
    life—Lamarck and his life—The rise of popular natural history,
    and of exact descriptions and philosophical zoology.

If natural history had never been studied in an easy manner, and had
not the results of those studies been given to educated men desirous
of knowing something about animals in popular yet correct works, very
few men would have cared to become zoologists. It is the good, easy,
popular, but not necessarily jocular book on natural history that, as a
rule, excites the attention of the young, and stimulates the youth to
obtain further knowledge. Such books were written at a very interesting
time of the world, and just when they were wanted; and the writer was
a very remarkable man—a man born to wealth and station, but who, like
many others, preferred hard work and the study of nature to sloth and
luxurious idleness, and even to the profession of arms, so much in vogue
in the early part of the eighteenth century.

George Louis Leclerc de Buffon was born on September 7th, 1707, at
Montbard, in Burgundy. He came of good family, and his father was
councillor of the Burgundian parliament. His mother, Anne Christine
Mazlin, appears to have possessed considerable natural gifts. She was
also of good family, and was remarkable, in those days, for the elevation
of her mind and strength of character. She was a better parent than the
father who, although he was looked upon as a wonder in his province,
in consequence of his wasteful living and devotion to feasts, balls,
and concerts, was really only a person of average merit. The mother was
tenderly loved by her son, but the father gave him some trouble in after
years, on account of his follies. Nevertheless, it adds to the interest
and good example of Buffon’s character to learn that he did not care to
follow the agreeable life of his father, but that he broke away from it
and took to wisdom, although having great property, he always lived and
behaved like a nobleman of wealth and mental distinction.

Buffon was the oldest of five children, and the rest were devoted by the
parents to the priesthood, or to nunneries; so it would appear that the
father not only followed the rule of the day, to keep the property in the
hands of the eldest son, but to provide for the others in the cheapest
possible manner. The young noble was in due course sent to a school at
Dijon kept by Jesuit fathers, the best instructors in those days; and
report says that the boy was fond of arithmetic and had a character
for decision and perseverance. After a while Buffon was entered at the
academy of Angers, it being decided that the boy should follow his
father as a magistrate and public man. There his love of study became
evident, and his application was considerable. One of his associates was
a young English nobleman, Lord Kingston, and they became great friends,
and probably this friendship was caused and fostered by his lordship’s
German tutor, Hinckman, who was a man of considerable learning. When he
was nineteen years of age the three friends started for a tour in Italy.
Returning to Angers to resume his studies, Buffon became a little wild,
and got into a quarrel with a young Englishman at play. Buffon wounded
his antagonist and had to leave the town. He went to Paris, but not to
waste time; on the contrary, his former love of figures, and his later
studies in mathematics, inspired him to translate Newton’s “Fluxions”
into French, and also Hale’s “Vegetable Statics,” which subsequently he
presented to the Academy of Sciences. Still keeping up his friendship
with Lord Kingston, Buffon visited Italy again; and there is no doubt
that Hinckman instilled the love of nature into the young man’s mind.
They were all at Rome in 1732, when Buffon heard of the death of his
mother, who was greatly mourned by him. He was then twenty-five years of
age, and became very wealthy, as he was his mother’s heir. Journeying in
Switzerland he began to know other English people of distinction. All
these friendships led him at last to England, and he went to Thoresby,
the seat of Lord Kingston, and remained in the country for some months.

Buffon had a very fine person, liked a little “show,” and the rather
solemn and stilted manners of the British nobility pleased him. It was
this stay in England, and his friendships, that gave Buffon some of the
manners of the aristocracy of the day, so that Hume said of him that he
resembled a marshal of France more than a man of letters. These habits,
amongst which courtesy and true gentility—that is to say, treating other
people as we would they should treat us in society—were predominant,
clung to Buffon; and even when at home, and at his very hard and
incessant labour in natural history, he kept up his state, and was the
great French noble as well as the humble student of nature.

It is a curious fact, but one very readily explained, that Buffon, like
nearly all the great zoologists, began his scientific life as a botanist.
Plants are ever at hand, and their classification, good or bad, is
readily learned. One of his first works, presented after receiving the
honour of election to the Academy of Sciences at Paris, was on a question
of the influence of barking trees; and others were on agriculture. He
gave a proof that he was acquainted with the human frame, for he wrote on
the causes of squinting.

Scientific men of nobility were rare in France in those days, and Buffon
was appointed keeper to the Jardin du Roi and the Royal Museum. Anxious
to continue his studies about trees, he prevailed on the king to let him
experiment on a grand scale in one of the royal forests. But this was
only a part of his work, for he commenced that great book on natural
history which was always after to be associated with his name. It was
not to be a simple book on animals, but on the history of the earth as
well; and, in fact, he intended it to be an encyclopædia of all natural
knowledge except mathematics and figures. It was a great conception and
it was carried out year after year during success, domestic happiness and
trouble. The perseverance and patience of the man were wonderful; and
fortunately he had the means of collecting what was required, of buying
books and of having secretaries to do the very troublesome and mechanical
part of writing. He was short-sighted and wrote badly. It was not vanity,
nor the desire of being great, that made Buffon work; certainly it was
not amusement. But he was happy in his work, and he stated that genius is
a gift which comes not from man; and the great man is an instrument in
the Divine hand; he has a mission which may be for light or to ruin, and
neither the environment of pleasure or glory or the troubles of fortune,
ill-health, or misery should deter him from his ends. Genius, Buffon also
termed, a very great aptitude for patience.

Daubenton assisted Buffon in his first three volumes of natural history,
and they came out in 1749, and the other volumes came out year by year
until his death.

Buffon lived carefully, and kept up the curious state of the French
gentlemen of his day in his house. After he was dressed, he dictated
letters and regulated his domestic affairs, and at six o’clock he retired
to his studies in a building called the tower of St. Louis. This was
in the garden, and far away from the house, and the only furniture in
it was a wooden writing-table, with its cupboards and drawers, and an
armchair. Neither pictures nor books relieved the naked appearance of
the apartment, or distracted the thoughts of the learned professor.
The entrance was by green folding doors, the walls were painted green,
and the interior had the appearance of a chapel in consequence of the
elevation of the roof. Within this garden was another building, where
Buffon resided during the greater part of the year, as it was warmer than
the other place, and here he composed most of his works. It was a small
square building, situated on the side of a terrace, and was ornamented
with drawings of birds and beasts. At nine o’clock Buffon usually took an
hour’s rest and his breakfast, which consisted of a piece of bread and
two glasses of wine. When he had written for two hours after breakfast,
he returned to the house. At dinner he spent a considerable time in
conversation, and relaxed his mind from work entirely, enjoying the wit
and gaiety of his friends. He usually slept for an hour after dinner in
his room and took a solitary walk, and during the rest of the evening
he either conversed with his family or his guests, or sat at his desk
examining papers which were submitted to his judgment. At nine o’clock
he went to bed. In 1762, when fifty-five years of age, Buffon married
a lady who was in every way suited to him, and who, moreover, took a
deep interest in his studies. He was greatly attached to her, and her
companionship made the country life all the more pleasant. Four years
afterwards Louis XIV. ennobled Buffon and invited him to Fontainebleau to
offer him the post of Administrator of the Forests of France, but Buffon
declined the office. This great man was not above a little vanity: he
liked to read the most interesting parts of his works to his friends,
and to draw forth their admiration. He was, moreover, fond of dress and
grandeur, but that was part of the society of his day. He had a fine
countenance and figure, and it was his delight to display them to the
best advantage. He dressed in the extreme of fashion, and amidst his
studies found time to submit his head (perhaps it was only his wig) to
the hairdresser, two or three times a day. On Sundays the peasantry of
Montbard assembled to gaze at the Count after the service of the church,
when he passed through their ranks magnificently dressed, with his son
and his retainers.

The natural history was translated into English, German, Italian,
Spanish, and Dutch, and its charming pages brought a knowledge of nature
to many a home. Like most naturalists of eminence, Buffon interested
himself about the ancient history of the earth. His writings were not
original in that part of his subject, but what he did write contained
much common sense. Nevertheless, the Faculty of Theology at Paris found
fault with the geology, and informed him that no less than fourteen
propositions in his works were reprehensible and contrary to the creed of
the Church. Buffon was invited to recant, which he very foolishly did;
and it must be mentioned that the “improper statements” are now believed
in, by every educated man. It has been written of the great naturalists
of the past, that Aristoteles has shown the profound combination of the
laws of nature, Plinius her inexhaustible riches, Linnæus her wonderful
details, and Buffon her majesty and power. Certainly his great work
contains such pictures of nature as were never given before, and rarely
since, by any naturalist. Buffon therefore had the happiness of bringing
the cultivation of the science more generally into fashion than it had
been previously. He was deficient in the orderly method of science,
however; his work, supremely interesting and popular, was soon found to
be inconsistent with the severely scientific study of nature. This want
of order and classification led to the establishment of a new school of

Buffon’s social position was of great value and importance to him as a
naturalist and to the state also, for he became the object of personal
regard to many distinguished foreign princes, who did not hesitate
to make presents of specimens to the national museums, through him.
His wealth also enabled him to help the state, for he often purchased
minerals and specimens of animals for which no public money had been
granted. Frederick the Great of Prussia and his son Henry, the Emperor
Joseph II. of Austria, Catherine of Russia, and the kings of Norway and
Sweden, all knew Buffon, admired his works, and sent presents in order to
complete his museum, which was devoted and given by him to the public.
The Jardin du Roi was greatly enlarged at Buffon’s expense, and public
opinion spoke well of the amiable and benevolent owner of Montbard.

But, as with other and less happily placed men, Buffon had to suffer,
and the loss of his child, followed by the death of the wife he tenderly
loved, in the prime of her life, were great shocks to him. He never was
the same man afterwards, and sought to find forgetfulness in increased
work and literary toil. Moreover, the ingratitude of the ruling power
affected Buffon, who behaved, however, excellently, and took up the
position which every man of his social condition should have maintained.

In February, 1771, Buffon was alarmingly ill, and, unknown to him, the
king, Louis XV., nominated a Count d’Angiviller, to succeed in the
administration of the Museums and Jardin de Roi. Buffon recovered, and
found out this little job, and was naturally annoyed at the indecent
haste of putting a man in his place at such a crisis; but he was most
indignant when he knew who the man was—an ignoramus and court favourite,
a perfectly incompetent man. It is said that Louis XV. on this occasion,
to compensate Buffon for his annoyance, raised the Montbard property to
the holding of a count. Certainly he ordered the sculptor, Pajon, to
erect a full-sized statue of Buffon in the garden during his absence, and
to put the inflated inscription on it, “His genius equals the majesty of
nature.” Buffon resented this, and he wrote to the President de Ruffey:
“I thank you for the part you have taken in procuring this statue, which
I neither required nor solicited, and which would have done me greater
honour if it had been erected after my death. I have always thought that
a wise man should rather fear envy then value glory; all this has been
done without consulting me.”

Some years afterwards an architect, who was employed in embellishing
some of the buildings in the Jardin du Roi, wished to compliment Buffon,
but this simple-minded, scientific man stated, “I cannot agree to any
expenditure which will contribute to my personal glory, and I had nothing
to do with the statue they erected to me.” In writing to Madame Necker,
he showed how exactly he understood the French court, and appreciated its
praises: “I passed the whole of yesterday and the day before in making
observations and notes on a most important project presented to the king,
relating to the planting of 100,000 fir trees for the masts of the navy.
I would not grudge the time if my advice were likely to be useful and
valued and taken; but in the high circle where you have not cared about
remaining, they do sometimes consult competent men, and end, invariably,
by following the advice of the ignorant.”

Buffon lived for many years after these troubles, and gained fresh
laurels. Those which will last the longest were the results of his
charming descriptions of the habits of animals. At last, at the age of
eighty-one years, he died, full of honours, his last words addressed to
his son being, “My son, never leave the path of virtue and honour; it is
the true road to happiness.”

About a year before the death of George I., a son was born to a family
of good old name and renown at Downing, in Flintshire. The child was
christened Thomas, and his other name was Pennant, and these names are
constantly coming before naturalists who particularly study zoology at
the present time. Little is known about the early years of this ardent
student, except that he was educated at Wrexham school. Like most boys
he took notice of birds and their habits, and if one may judge from the
results, he must have really begun to study the different kinds of birds,
carefully, when he was about twelve years of age. He owed his opening
career as a zoologist to Ray and Willughby, for it was a present made to
him of the book of birds of this last author, that drew his attention to
the study of nature which he never subsequently neglected.

After leaving school, Pennant was sent to Oxford, where his studies do
not appear to have been of any importance, so far as the subjects which
were taught were concerned. He did not take his degree, and yet it is
evident that he studied the nature of things visible to him, and that he
was well read in the science of the day. His mind was rather influenced
by the writings of Linnæus, and in consequence he took an interest in
mineralogy as well as about natural history. Immediately after leaving
Oxford, Pennant began to travel about his own country, and visited
Cornwall. He examined many of the mines, and studied the natural history
of the districts, but he did not publish anything, being apparently an
earnest student of what was already known. When twenty-four years of
age an earthquake occurred at Downing, and Pennant wrote a description
of it, which was read before the Royal Society and published in the
“Philosophical Transactions.” This was a great honour for so young a man.
Animals, however, and their shapes, habits, and similarities were his
special study, and he laboured hard, year after year, in describing them.
He got much practical knowledge of those of our own country, and finally,
at the age of thirty-five, in 1761, he commenced the publication of his
first great work, the “British Zoology,” which was printed in large
folio, and when complete contained one hundred and thirty-two plates. He
was well known before this magnificent work appeared, and Linnæus had
urged the University of Upsala to elect him a member of their Royal
Society. His great book appeared afterwards in smaller editions, and one
in quarto is often used.

The “British Zoology” included the description of the species of animals
at that time known to inhabit Great Britain, except the insects. So
good was the work and so accurate were the descriptions, that it was
translated into Latin and German, and had a large circulation abroad.
Anxious to compare his work with those of foreign naturalists, and to
see the specimens of similar animals in the great continental museums,
Pennant travelled abroad in 1765, and made the acquaintance of the most
important zoologists of the day. He visited Buffon at Montbard, and their
friendship led to a correspondence, which lasted for years. Then he went
on to Switzerland, and met Haller at Berne. Coming home by way of Germany
and Holland, he met a distinguished traveller and naturalist, Pallas
by name. Pennant wrote about him: “Our conversation related chiefly to
natural history, and as we were both enthusiastic admirers of our great
Ray, I proposed his undertaking a history of quadrupeds on the system
of our countryman, a little reformed. He assented to my plan, and wrote
me a long letter in which he sent me an outline of his design, and his
resolution to pursue it with all the expedition consistent with his
other engagements.” Pallas went to Russia, and never accomplished his
object, but Pennant followed out the idea himself, and in 1771 published
a work with the title of “A Synopsis of Quadrupeds,” illustrated with
about thirty plates. This was intended as a kind of index to the species
of animals described by Buffon in his great work on natural history.
He gradually, however, extended its limits, and included in it the
description of many animals which he had observed in collections or which
had been discovered by travellers, and which had been unknown to Buffon.
Years afterwards the great Cuvier said of this work, “that it is still
indispensable to those who wish to study the history of quadrupeds.”

Struck with the interesting nature of the animals of India, which were
then beginning to be studied, Pennant commenced a work about them, and
twelve plates were completed. But it was a work far beyond the powers
and pocket of a naturalist of that date, and it was not completed. A
more congenial work was undertaken by him when he rambled about Scotland
noticing the habits of the people and the birds. He seems to have
observed much that was interesting, and to have published his remarks.
Then he began a work on the genera of birds, on the plan of his books
on quadrupeds, and this was not completed. He wrote a book on “Arctic
Zoology,” which was of course a compilation from the works of travellers
and foreign zoologists who had visited the countries within the arctic
circle. He also received stuffed specimens from different foreign
museums. It was a capital book, and it acquired a considerable reputation
amongst naturalists, from its containing figures and descriptions of
animals hitherto but little known. It is read at the present day, and is
a proof of Pennant’s exactitude. Ever anxious to go on working, he even
in his sixty-seventh year planned an extensive work which was to consider
the natural history and antiquities of every country in the world. He
absolutely did produce two great volumes of this work, taking Hindostan
as his subject.

The great merit of Pennant was that he observed so much and was a capital
practical zoologist. Moreover, his great knowledge of other things and
his general accomplishments enabled him to sift the good from the bad
zoology of his day. He appears to have lived the life of a student and
naturalist when the kingdom was always in a whirlwind of politics, and
when foreign troubles prevailed. Unlike most of his class, for he was a
little country squire, living on his own estate at Downing, he devoted
himself to nature, and for many years his books gave great enjoyment
to thousands of his countrymen. They are most readable books, full of
anecdotes, and it is evident that he was a master of his mother tongue,
a great antiquary, besides a naturalist of the first order. He was one
of the few men who followed the science of zoology without having the
previous education of a medical man, and, like all good zoologists, he
was an excellent botanist.

Some of Pennant’s tours through England, Wales, and Scotland are
exceedingly instructive in the antiquities of places, but the most
interesting remarks are upon natural history subjects, some of which are
scientific and others not at all so. When in Lincolnshire he noticed the
fens near Revesby Abbey, eight miles beyond Horncastle, which he says
are of vast extent, but serve for little other purpose than the rearing
of great numbers of geese, which are the wealth of the fenmen. “During
the breeding season these birds are lodged in the same houses with the
inhabitants and even in their very bed-chambers. In every apartment
there are three rows of coarse wicker pens, placed one above another;
each bird has its separate lodge divided from the other, which it keeps
possession of during its time of setting. A person called a gozzard
attends the flock, and twice a day drives the whole to water; then brings
them back to their habitations, helping those that live in the upper
stories to their nests, without even misplacing a single bird. The geese
are plucked five times in the year. The first plucking is at Lady Day,
for feathers and quills, and the same is renewed, for feathers only, four
times between this and Michaelmas. The old geese submit very quietly to
the operation, but the young ones are very noisy and unruly. I once saw
this performed, and observed that the goslings of six weeks old were not
spared, for their tails were plucked, as I was told to habituate them
early to what they were to come to. If the season proves cold, numbers of
geese die from this barbarous custom. Vast numbers are driven annually
to London to supply the markets; among them all the superannuated geese
and ganders (here called cagmags) which serve to fatigue the jaws of the
good citizens who are so unfortunate as to meet with them.” He proceeds,
“It is observable that once in seven or eight years, immense shoals of
sticklebacks appear in the Welland below Spalding, and attempt coming
up the river in a vast column. They are supposed to be the collected
multitudes washed out of the fens by the floods of several years, and
carried into some deep hole. When, overcharged with numbers, they are
obliged to attempt a change of place, they move up the river in such
quantities as to enable a man who was employed in taking them, to earn,
for a considerable time, four shillings a day by selling them at a
halfpenny per bushel. They were used to manure land, and attempts have
been made to get oil from them.” “The birds which inhabit the different
fens are very numerous; I never met with a finer field for the zoologist
to range in. Besides the common wild duck, wild geese, gorganies,
pochards, shovellers, and teals breed here. I have seen in the east fen
a small flock of the tufted ducks; but they seemed only to make it a
baiting place. The pewits, gulls, and black terns abound; the last in
vast flocks almost deafen one with their clamour, and a few of the great
terns are seen amongst them. I saw several of the great crested grebes
on the east fen, called there gaunts, and met with one of their floating
nests with eggs in it. The lesser crested grebe, the black and dusky
grebe, and the little grebe are also inhabitants of the fens, together
with the coots, water-hens, spotted water-hens, water-rails, ruffs,
redshanks, lapwings or wipes, red crested godwits and whimbrels.” “But
the greatest curiosity in those parts is the vast heronry at Cressi Hall,
six miles from Spalding. The herons resort there in February to repair
their nests, settle there in the spring to breed, and quit the place
during the winter. They are as numerous as rooks, and their nests are so
crowded together that myself and the company that was with me, counted
not less than eighty on one spreading oak. I found that the crested heron
was only the male of the other, and it made a most beautiful appearance
with its snowy neck and long crest streaming with the wind.” Visiting
Scarborough, and giving much information about the different kinds of
fish caught, he states: “At a distance of four or five leagues from
shore, during the months of July and August, it is remarked that at the
depth of six or seven fathoms from the surface, the water appears to be
saturated like a thick jelly, filled with the ova of fish, which reaches
ten or twelve fathoms deeper; this is known by its adhering to the ropes,
the cables, and anchor when they are fishing.” “Landing at a small island
further north, we found the female eider ducks at that time sitting; the
lower part of their nests was made of sea plants, the upper part was
formed of the down which they pulled off their own breasts, in which the
eggs were surrounded and warmly bedded. In some nests were three and
in others five eggs of large size and pale olive colour, as smooth and
glossy as if varnished over. The nests are built on the beach among the
loose pebbles, not far from the water. The ducks sit very close, nor will
they rise until you almost tread upon them. We robbed the nests of some
down, and found that the down of one only weighs three quarters of an
ounce, but was so elastic as to fill the crown of a hat.”

Pennant deserved good health and had it, for, except when old age came
on, he was a singularly healthy man. He died in 1798, at the age of
seventy-two years.

Jean Baptiste Antoine de Monet, also called the Chevalier de Lamarck,
was born at Bazantin, a village of Picardy, on April 1st, 1744. He was
the eleventh child of Pierre de Monet, the principal person of the
neighbourhood, whose small estate was disproportionate to his huge
family. But the Church was a resource for such families, and occasionally
its great prizes were taken by the younger members of noble houses. So
M. de Monet determined to prepare his son, at an early age, for this
hopeful future, and sent him to the Jesuit College at Amiens. However,
the inclinations of the child were not those which made it probable that
he would succeed in the direction which his father had chosen for him.
Everything around the boy, at home, was quite opposed to a clerical
career. For centuries his ancestors had carried arms, and his eldest
brother was killed at the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom. Two brothers were in
the army, and at that time France was in dire trouble, and required every
man who could fight, it was therefore not probable that young Lamarck
would stay at home. Nevertheless, his father resisted his desire to enter
the army, and the young man had to study year after year, until he was
sixteen years of age. Then in 1760 the father died, and the youth was
left to his own resources. He set forth for the army, mounted on a sorry
horse, and accompanied by a poor boy out of the village, to journey
across France into Germany to join the French army. He had a letter of
introduction from one of his neighbours, Madame Lameth, to M. de Lartié,
colonel of the regiment of Beaujolais, who did not receive him very
gladly, for the wretchedness of the boy made him look more helpless than
he really was. Nevertheless, he sent Lamarck to his barracks and had him
to do duty. It was at a most critical moment that the brave, self-reliant
boy joined the army. It was about July 14th, 1761, and M. de Broglie had
just united his force with that of the Prince du Sorbise, preparatory to
attacking, on the next day, the allied army, commanded by Frederick of
Brunswick. At break of day M. de Lartié inspected his regiment, and the
first person he saw was the newly-arrived volunteer, who, without orders,
had placed himself in the first rank of the grenadier company. The
battle, which was fought at Fissingshausen, between Ham and Leppstadt,
was lost by the French, and during the fight, the company, in which was
M. de Lamarck, was placed in a locality on which the whole of the allied
artillery was concentrated, and it was forgotten to be moved during the
confusion of the retreat. All the officers and sub-officers were killed,
and only sixteen men remained, when the oldest grenadier, seeing that
they were left behind by their army, proposed to the young volunteer
that they should retreat. Lamarck said, “They have posted us here, and
we ought not to move until we are relieved,” and insisted on remaining.
By-and-by the colonel, missing the company, sent them an order to retreat
by safe ways, and under the shelter of what they could get. This act of
great courage was told to the Marshal de Broglie, and he made Lamarck an
officer on the spot. Then he was made lieutenant. But such a brilliant
commencement was not to have a military termination, and a miserable
accident gave a new direction to his life. When Lamarck, after the war,
was in garrison at Monaco, one of his fellow-officers lifted him up by
the head, and the result was to injure his neck. He nearly died from
the effects of this folly, and was saved by a distinguished surgeon at
Paris, M. Tenon, whose operation left Lamarck with life, and a fearfully
scarred neck, and unable to follow his profession. The treatment occupied
a whole year, and he was so poor, that one of his biographers states,
rather cruelly, that his necessary solitude gave him plenty of time for
meditation. It is remarkable that although Lamarck cared more for the
army than for his studies at college he really worked there, and what
he learned was of great use to him in his future career. His hours of
weary suffering were sometimes employed in studying the clouds, and in
noticing their different shapes and appearances. He got by this means
some vague ideas of meteorology. He had already been attracted, during
his stay at Monaco, by the curious vegetation of that rocky country, and
lad taken a fancy for botany from reading a treatise on common plants,
which happened to fall in his way. He therefore began to see that the
profession of arms was not the only one worth living for, or in which
distinction might be earned; and he took the bold resolution of applying
himself to the study of medicine. This, considering the smallness of
his resources, was hardly less hazardous than his former determination
to join the army. Unable to defray the expense attending the studies
to which he now applied himself, he was forced to seek employment as a
banker’s clerk, and thus to work for the means of pursuing his purpose.
He studied medicine four years, and at the end of that time, not finding
it accord with his taste, he relinquished it, in order to attach
himself the more closely to botany. In this science he laboured most
perseveringly, and after a preparation of ten years he suddenly revealed
himself and his views to the learned world in a work as remarkable for
the novelty of the plan, as for the mode of execution. “For a long time,”
says Cuvier, “while collecting plants, and visiting the Jardin du Roi,
Lamarck gave way to discussions with other botanists on the imperfections
of all the systems of classification then known, and on the ease with
which a new system might be created, capable of determining plants with
greater quickness and certainty. Wishing to prove what he had so often
affirmed he set to work, and after six months of incessant labour he
produced his “Flore Française.” This work was merely an epitome of plants
indigenous to France, to which Lamarck had not ventured to add one new
species; but it was a convenient and sure guide to the name of every
plant, and was peculiarly acceptable at a time when the writings of
Rousseau had rendered botany popular. By Lamarck’s arrangement, the most
easily reconciled portions of the systems then in vogue, namely, those
of Tournefort, Linnæus, and Jussieu, were selected to form a new method
of classification. This method was admired by the Academy of Sciences,
and was also recommended by Buffon, who had sufficient interest to get it
published at the expense of the government, for the benefit of the author
who much needed such aid. Lamarck was promoted to a vacant place in the
Académie des Sciences, and during 1781-82 he went as tutor and botanist
to Buffon’s son through Holland, Germany, and Hungary, visiting public
establishments and learned men. On his return to France, he applied
himself zealously to his former studies, and produced the botanical
portion of the “Encyclopédie Methodique.” Lamarck laboured diligently at
his work, and even with too much precipitation, for haste was injurious
to correctness. He also drew a series of plates to illustrate the
different genera of plants. These appeared, arranged according to the
Linnæan system, though contrary to the wish of the author. Lamarck went
on with the work until the breaking out of the Revolution arrested the
publication of the Encyclopédie.

In 1788 Lamarck was associated with Daubenton as botanist of the Cabinet
du Jardin du Roi, and charged with the preservation and arrangement
of the herbariums. Here, amidst his peaceful occupations and studies,
he remained unmolested amidst all the troubles of the Revolution. But
Lamarck was miserably poor; his pension for his services in the army,
was less than one shilling a day, and he wrote for bad pay. Buffon
could not give him a position worth anything; and it was not until the
successor of that great man came in office that Lamarck had a little
salary given to him as one of the assistants in the herbarium. Even
this miserable appointment was not assured to him, for the National
Assembly was desirous of suppressing the establishment, and finally did
so. Lamarck had married, and had a family, and weary indeed must have
been his life had he not been devoted to science. He took no part in the
French revolution, and whilst poverty at home and danger out of doors
were constant, he persisted in studying nature. Years passed away, and
the best part of a life was spent, and still Lamarck was not a zoologist.
The eternal fame which he attained began to be earned after the fiftieth
year of his age, when circumstances over which he had no control gave him
the opportunity of distinguishing himself, and of adding materially to
the truths of science as well as to its theories. The Jardin et Cabinet
du Roi were rearranged in their purpose and name in 1793, and were called
the Museum of Natural History; and all the old officials were made
professors, and had to teach the subjects best known or chosen by them.
Lamarck, as the last comer, had to take what the others left and would
not undertake to teach. It was the professorship which related to the
class of animals, called by Linnæus, worms and insects, and which had
hitherto been almost overlooked, on account of the supposed unimportance
of the subject.

Until that time Lamarck had never studied animals, and of course knew
nothing of the branch of zoology which was now entrusted to him. He
had taken an interest in shells, and had made a small collection, but
this was all. But he did not shrink from the task before him. He set to
work with inexhaustible courage, availing himself of the advice of his
friends, and applying to the new study all that sagacity and perseverance
which had already been so invaluable to him in his botanical works. By
his indefatigable zeal in this new sphere of inquiry Lamarck was soon
enabled to discover and to demonstrate that the animals whose history
had been left to him through contempt, were quite as interesting as
others, if not more so, on account of their vast numbers, the important
part they perform in nature, the infinite variety of their forms, and
the wonders of their organization. His extraordinary labours in this
department have contributed much more to his fame than his botanical
writings, and are certainly more valuable. He seems to have exercised his
abilities to the utmost in these researches; and if, since that time, it
has been necessary in some instances to alter, to amend, or to extend
the limits of his work, yet it remains a lasting memento of his talents,
and it will be long ere any one will be found sufficiently profound in
knowledge to undertake a general revision and alteration of his works.

At the present day, when any student begins to learn the zoology of
the lower animals, he will find a very great number of genera with the
name of Lamarck placed after them, indicating that he first of all
described and published them. As the student becomes accomplished he
will appreciate Lamarck more and more, and will come to the conclusion
that no one has done such good and solid work as that distinguished
Frenchman, amongst the vast assemblage of animals which he first of all
called invertebrata, or animals without backbones. This term he used
in preference to the old one of white or colourless-blooded animals,
as he soon saw that some had red blood. Lamarck worked very hard in
describing and grouping the genera, and gradually modified the zoology
of those lower forms of life. First of all he classified them by their
anatomy, and then, after about fifteen years’ labour, remodelled his
classification, and published a system of invertebrata, containing
the classes, orders, and genera of the animals, mentioning their most
important anatomical characters. In this book he, for the first time
amongst zoologists, began with the most simple and least highly organized
animals, the converse having been the method previously. There was a
reason in this that will be noticed further on. Out of the confusion
of old he made the great groups appear clear and well defined. Thus
from amongst the insects he separated the crustacea or crab tribe, and
he introduced that of the arachnida or spiders. Then he described and
limited a class of worms called by him annelida; moreover, he placed the
microscopic infusoria in a class by themselves, and removed them from the
jumble of the polypes. His work extended into the mollusca, both bivalve
and univalve; he named many genera and species of corals, and in every
group showed a master mind. The fossil shells found in such abundance at
this time, in the neighbourhood of Paris, attracted his attention, and
he laboured on their description and explanation. In fact, the enormous
labours of Lamarck consolidated the zoology of the lower animals, and
his writings became the text-books of all his successors, and will be
referred to, as long as science lasts. He had a most singular capacity
for distinguishing animals into kinds or species, and a more important
one of observing the alliances or common characters of different species.
All his descriptive work was of a standard and solid nature. His great
work appeared from 1815 to 1822, and it was founded on that just
mentioned; some of it was edited by his daughter, and M. Latreille wrote
the parts on insects, and much of those of the mollusca was due to M.
Valenciennes. Five volumes were by Lamarck himself.

It is a very unusual occurrence for a man to take up a new subject after
he is fifty years of age, and to become a master in it. But Lamarck did
this. It is true that his previous training as a botanist had prepared
him, and it is also true that his years of solitude and poverty had given
him a singularly placid and meditative mind, and this was strengthened
by his natural courage. Had Lamarck been a descriptive zoologist only,
he would have been great; but the very method which made him great
originated in some remarkable speculations which had hardly been
expressed, seriously, by any man before. Not only did he place the animal
kingdom with the lowest first, but he considered the will, instinct, and
apparent reason of animals, and classified them accordingly with those
which are apathetic, sensible, and intelligent. The idea of lowness of
organization or of structure and lowness of nervous power amongst the
simplest animals struck him to be of primary importance. Hitherto, quite
as many people believed that the highest and most intelligent animals
were created first, and that the lower ones had degenerated from them.
Lamarck conceived that nature, acting by law, commenced with the simplest
things, and that one species formed others, so that the present animals
and plants are the outcome of those of the past history of the earth. He
believed in incessant change in nature, and that when our knowledge is
complete the apparently well separated and defined species will be found
to be united by intermediate forms, and cease to be species.

Hitherto naturalists had considered kinds of animals and plants, or
species as they are more properly called, to have been specially created
as they are seen by us, and that they were unalterable and invariable. No
one with any great knowledge of animals and plants had speculated about
the origin of species, and the causes of the differences of kinds, or
had endeavoured to place all the great classes of the animal kingdom in
a series, maintaining that they were related by descent. Right or wrong
in his speculations, Lamarck made an epoch in zoology, by writing on
the philosophy of zoology, and dealing with the possible causes of the
different kinds of animals. He considered that during all the geological
ages, down to the present time, animals and plants had been exposed to
great changes in their external conditions; changes of climate, and of
physical geography had happened, and that whilst some species had become
extinct many had been changed, little by little, into others. Lamarck,
and M. Geoffrey St. Hilaire declared it to be their opinion that there
had been an uninterrupted succession in the animal kingdom, effected by
means of birth and offspring from parents, from the earliest ages of the
world to the present day, and that the ancient animals, whose remains
have been preserved in strata, however different, may nevertheless have
been the ancestors of those now in being.

If the reader will turn to the short notice of Aristoteles, he will
find the ordinary idea of what a species means given. But Lamarck added
something: “A species consists of a collection of individuals resembling
each other, and reproducing their like by generation, so long as the
surrounding conditions do not alter to such an extent as to cause their
habits, characters, and forms to vary.” He stated what is only known to
those naturalists who have had experience; the more we advance in the
knowledge of the different organized bodies which cover the surface of
the globe, the more our embarrassment increases to determine what ought
to be regarded as a species, and still more how to limit and distinguish
genera. In proportion as our collections are enriched, we see almost
every void filled up, and all our lines of separation effaced; we are
reduced to arbitrary determinations, and are sometimes fain to seize upon
the slight differences of mere varieties in order to form characters
for what we choose to call a species, and sometimes we are induced
to pronounce individuals, but slightly differing, and which others
regard as true species, to be varieties. The greater the abundance of
natural objects assembled together, the more do we discover proofs that
everything passes by invariable shades into something else; that even the
more remarkable differences are evanescent, and that nature has, for the
most part, left us nothing at our disposal for establishing distinctions
save trifling, and in some instances puerile, peculiarities. We find
that many genera amongst animals and plants are of such an extent, in
consequence of the number of species referred to them, that the study
and determination of these last has become almost impracticable. From
a great number of facts we learn, wrote Lamarck, that in proportion as
the individuals of one of our known species change their situation,
climate, and manner of living, they change also little by little, the
consistence and proportions of their parts, their form, their faculties,
and even their organization, in such a manner that everything in them
comes at last to participate in the mutations to which they have been
exposed. Even in the same climate, a great difference of situation and
exposure causes individuals to vary; but if these individuals continue to
live, and to be reproduced under the same difference of circumstances,
distinctions are brought about in them which become in some degree
essential to their existence; and, in a word, at the end of many
successive generations, these individuals which originally belonged to
another species are transformed into a new and distinct species.

All this came from the study of a man who had an enormous experience, and
if he had not gone on any further it would have been better. Lamarck’s
views already stated may be accepted by everybody, and the grand changes
in living forms under law are doubtless true. But he introduced the
notion that “wants” exercised an influence and produced new organs,
and wrote about effects of internal sentiment, and the influence of
subtle fluids. Thus he argued that otters, beavers, waterfowl, turtles,
and frogs, were not made web-footed in order that they might swim; but
their wants having attracted them to the water in search of prey, they
stretched out the toes of their feet to strike the water and move more
rapidly along its surface. By the repeated stretching of their toes,
the skin that united them at the base acquired the habit of extension,
until, in the course of time, the broad membranes which now connect their
extremities were formed.

Lamarck taught that the first animals and plants which appeared on the
globe were the simplest, and that the more complex are of comparatively
late date. He insisted that nature was an order of things constituted by
the Supreme Being, and subject to laws which are the expressions of His
will. There is no doubt that these views of Lamarck were the result of
many a pleasant hour of thought when things were dark enough around him.
He was always poor, he married four times, had a large family, and a very
small income. His genius led him to investigate other branches of natural
science for which his education had not very well prepared him, and he
got into disgrace with Napoleon for paying attention to meteorology.
His patrimony and savings were lost in some wild speculation, and his
thorough independence of thought and behaviour did not make him friends
with the great and wealthy. His sight failed, and age grew apace, and
he may be said to have simply existed for some years. Strangers and
scientific men saw his state and poverty with surprise and regret;
and their sympathy with Lamarck was redoubled when they observed the
fortitude with which the illustrious old man supported the vicissitudes
of fortune, and the failing of his natural powers. They also admired the
devotion with which he had been able to inspire those of his children
who remained under his roof. His eldest daughter consecrated her time to
the duties of filial love for many years, never quitting her father for
an instant, lending herself to every study which could in any way supply
the defect of his vision, writing under his dictation part of his last
works, accompanying him, and supporting him when he was able to take any
exercise, and enduring sacrifices greater than could be expressed for his
sake. When the father could no longer leave his chamber, the daughter
no longer quitted the house. So long was she deprived of fresh air,
that when she again faced the open breeze it was more than she could
bear. If such conduct as this is rare, so is the power of inspiring such
devoted affection; therefore we add to the renown of Lamarck, when it is
told what his children endured for his sake. Lamarck died on the 18th
December, 1829, aged eighty-five, and left two sons and two daughters
behind him. Full of ability and perseverance, he has left such monuments
of industry and solid learning behind him, that his favourite theory,
containing indeed the germs of truth, may be well pardoned. People who
know nothing of his good work, laugh at his memory; but every true
student of nature constantly recognizes his obligations to the founder of
philosophical zoology.





    The union of zoology and comparative anatomy, and the
    examination and study of fossil remains.

George Léopold Chretien Fréderic Dagobert Cuvier was born at Montbéliard,
in the Department du Doubs, a town which was subsequently united to
France, although at the time of Cuvier’s birth it belonged to the kingdom
of Wurtemberg. He was born on August 23rd, 1769. His family originally
came from a village in the Jura mountains, which still bears the name
of Cuvier; but, becoming the victims of religious persecution, they
were obliged to leave and to go to reside at Montbéliard at the time
of the Reformation. Cuvier’s grandfather had two sons, one celebrated
for his learning, and the other belonging to a Swiss regiment in the
French service. The soldier, after forty years’ service, retired on a
small pension to Montbéliard, where he was appointed commandant of
the artillery of the town. He was made Chevalier de l’Ordre Merite
Militaire, which, among Protestants, was equal to the Catholic order of
the Croix de St. Louis. The old soldier married, late in life, a young
and highly accomplished lady, by whom he had three sons. The eldest
died a short time before the birth of the second, who is the subject of
this biography, and who was extremely delicate. The mother, sad at the
death of her firstborn, took the curious fancy of calling her little
weak second child by the name of George, which was that of her firstborn
also. Cuvier was not baptized with that name, although he ever used it
in deference to his mother; but in after years, when legal difficulties
presented themselves, he took the necessary measures to have a right
to use the name. Feeble in constitution, the child required all the
attention of his mother, and he never forgot her loving care. She taught
him carefully and well during his early years, and the child grew strong
and able. He could read fluently at the age of four years, and when
the time came for him to be placed at school, the mother went over his
exercises at night, and by her good knowledge of Latin enabled him to be
better prepared than any other boy in the school, for his daily tasks.
She taught him drawing, and this necessary art was subsequently taught
Cuvier by an architect in the town. At the age of ten years he was placed
at a school of a higher description of teaching, called the Gymnase,
where he remained until he was fourteen. Cuvier made rapid progress
at this school, and he was constantly at the head of his classes, and
he became a fair classic. It was at that time that the future great
zoologist began to like natural history, and he began by studying
animals. One of his relations had a complete copy of Buffon’s works,
and the boy’s study of it was constant. He copied the plates of animals
and birds, and coloured them according to the printed descriptions, and
when he could not use water-colours, employed pieces of coloured silk
to denote the tints of the wings. When he was able to borrow the book,
a volume was his constant attendant, and he read the work over and
over again. About this time, Cuvier, being the leading spirit in the
school, began to collect his schoolfellows and to get them to discuss
the merits of books on natural history, philosophy, and travels, etc.,
taking the chair as president. The assembly must have been amusing in the
extreme, and these little “prigs” doubtless expressed their opinions very
decidedly. Cuvier managed to teach himself to speak in public, however,
and was not a bad hand at declamation. So, on the anniversary fête of the
Duke of Wurtemberg, he composed an oration in verse on the prosperous
state of the principality, and delivered it, fresh from his pen, in
a manly tone which astonished the audience. Nevertheless, Cuvier was
snubbed by his master, who put him down to the third place, giving the
palm to two other boys. It is said that there was some favouritism in
this affair; but it was a blow to the boy, whose future career depended
on the place he might take at the school on the occasion. Nevertheless,
as things turned out, Cuvier had every reason to be very thankful. The
fame of the young student, and his disappointment, reached the ears of
Duke Charles by means of the princess, his sister-in-law, and when he
visited Montbéliard he saw Cuvier, and asked him questions and looked
at his drawings. The duke, satisfied that he had a good subject before
him, agreed to send him to Stuttgart to the university, where the youth
would be well educated, free of expense, in the duke’s own academy. At
this academy the pupils were instructed in every branch of knowledge that
was actually useful to men destined to govern and direct the affairs
of communities, and many who were educated there, became members of
the various courts of Germany and Russia. The school had a military
character, the scholars wearing uniforms and being under the orders of a
colonel and major; but the education was not military, and such men as
Schiller were taught there.

At the age of fourteen Cuvier quitted his home to go to this school, and
under circumstances enough to frighten any schoolboy. He travelled with
the chamberlain and secretary of the duke, sitting between them without
understanding a word they said, as they spoke German the whole time.
He always remembered this journey and its miseries. The youth quickly
made himself comfortable at the academy, and his really good training
soon placed him high amongst his fellows. For four years he studied all
that was taught in the higher classes, mathematics, law, administration,
tactics, and commerce, and obtaining various prizes, was made, with five
or six others out of the four hundred, to belong to a class bearing the
order of “Chevalerie.” These youths were under the immediate patronage
of the duke, and had privileges besides that of dining at a separate
table. Nine months after his arrival at Stuttgart, Cuvier gained the
prize in German. But all this time Cuvier led a second life. Out in the
fields and in the museum he was supremely happy. Collecting, observing,
drawing, and describing were his occupations in his leisure hours, and
his drawings of birds, insects, and plants were very excellent and
correct. All the books he could get on natural history he read, and the
works of Linnæus were especially learned with zeal. At the end of his
academical career Cuvier was promised a place in the administration of
the country, and if he had got it probably he would have become a kind
of civil service clerk, and have never been heard of. But trouble came,
and that of the bitterest kind for a rising young man. Circumstances
against which he could not bear up necessitated his seeking a totally
different kind of employment. The unsettled state of money and finance
in France caused Cuvier’s father’s pension to be withheld, and the young
man, very properly desiring to be no burthen to his parents, gave up
all hopes of political distinction, and accepted the modest position of
tutor to a French family, that of M. d’Hericy, at Caen, in Normandy. He
was to educate the only son; and so, without bewailing his lot, which was
thought a very sad one by his companions and admirers, Cuvier settled
down to work and found that he was in the very position for using those
remarkable powers as a naturalist, which determined his future career.
The sea was close by, and Cuvier began to study the marine animals. After
some time some fossils were discovered at Fécamp, and Cuvier began to
compare them with the living things which most resembled them. Then the
accidental discovery of a calamary led him to study the higher mollusca,
or shell-fish. Cuvier also began to study the huge class of vermes, or
worms, in which Linnæus had included a vast number of lower animals, and
which Lamarck subsequently investigated. Cuvier examined the anatomy
of the groups, and arranged them according to their resemblances in
structure. This was an excellent piece of work, and it was done for
the purposes of self-instruction, and not for fame. Nevertheless, the
manuscript was full of good observations and of new truths. Whilst
Cuvier was thus employed, and the time was that of the reign of
terror, a society was formed at Valmont, in his neighbourhood, for the
encouragement of agriculture. L’Abbé Teissier had sought at the place a
refuge from the persecutions of the revolutionists of Paris, and under
the disguise of a surgeon attended the meetings. On one occasion Cuvier
was struck with the manner of speaking of the worthy old man, and thought
that it resembled the writings of the well-known Abbé. Inadvertently
Cuvier addressed him as L’Abbé, and this gave at first great alarm. He
found in Cuvier, however, a great admirer and a generous friend, and was
so pleased with his talents and industry, that he afterwards wrote to the
celebrated botanist, Jussieu, as follows: “At the sight of this young
man, I experienced the delight of the philosopher who was thrown on an
unknown shore, and saw traced there the figures of geometry. M. Cuvier
is a violet which was concealed among common herbs. He knows much, and
draws figures for your work. I doubt your finding a more able person for
comparative anatomy, for he demonstrates with much method and clearness.
It is a pearl worthy of being gathered by you. I contributed to draw M.
Delarbre from his retreat, help me to draw M. Cuvier from his; he is made
for science and the world.”

Cuvier was, in consequence, asked to read some of his essays to the
Society of Natural History at Paris, and these gave such satisfaction
that he was invited to take a position at the Jardin des Plantes. This
occurred in 1795, and Cuvier was then twenty-six years of age. He was
thus settled for life in the very position he desired, for although
called the garden of plants, a grand museum of the comparative anatomy
of animals was to rise there under the superintendence of the young man.
He was soon made professor at the central school of the Pantheon, and
began to write capital manuals of his subject for the students. The next
year the National Institute was formed, and Cuvier was one of its first
members. At this time his knowledge of zoology was very great, and he had
more than the usual amount of information about the internal anatomy of
the different great groups of animals. He published an elementary title
or scheme of the natural history of animals, and gradually the collection
of skeletons began to be great in his establishment. Cuvier paid great
attention to the relative shapes, and different developments of the same
kind of bones in various animals, and especially to the nature of their
teeth. So great did his experience and correct knowledge become, that he
rarely failed in naming an animal from part of its skeleton. This power
impressed Cuvier with the idea of a philosophy in nature, and with the
evidence of creative design and purpose, of means for ends. But this kind
of study led to some very remarkable results. Had it influenced Cuvier
as it previously had zoologists, he would have still become the most
accomplished and important naturalist of this century. It would have been
said, as it may well be, that he established the study of animals on a
firm basis, and that his natural classification has lasted, because he
considered not only the outsides of animals, but also the importance of
their most peculiar organs, in arranging them into groups, or separating
them from others. But Cuvier had seen and studied the bones and skulls of
animals which had been dug out of the earth in a mineralized condition.
The strata at Montmartre, near Paris, had yielded a great number of
bones, which presented some resemblances to those of animals still living
but which were clearly not the bones of any existing genera or species.
Comparative anatomy was made to connect the past and present animals,
and to indicate the possibility of all the past and present creation
being placed in one great classification. As Cuvier progressed in this
study, he endeavoured to restore, and with considerable success, the
extinct animal’s shape, to discover its habits and method of life, and to
find out its nearest modern ally. Palæontology, or the study of extinct
animals, is under the greatest obligations to this great Frenchman, and
it may be called the zoology of the past ages of the earth. He did not,
however, forget his one great desire, which was to form a perfect book
on comparative anatomy, and one in which all animals would find a place,
called “La Règne Animal.” (The animal kingdom.)

As soon as Cuvier found himself well established as assistant to M.
Mertrud, the professor of comparative anatomy to the Jardin des Plantes,
he sent for his old father, then eighty years of age, and for his
brother, M. F. Cuvier, to live with him. The first thing he did was
to collect all the available specimens of bones and preparations of
animals, and he found many hidden away in vaults and which had been
collected by Daubenton and Buffon. Other specimens were obtained, and
thus the great collection was commenced. In 1796, Cuvier discovered
the curious fact that there is naturally red blood in leeches, and in
the following year he read a famous paper on the nutrition of insects.
Refusing to go to Egypt, as he had his proper work to do at home, for
his pupils Dumeril and Duvernoy were working hard for and with him,
dissecting and describing, the result was the publication of the first
volume of the lessons on comparative anatomy already alluded to. This
led to Cuvier being made professor of natural history to the College
of France. Of the young professor’s ability there could be no doubt,
and everybody was struck with the excellent method of his lectures and
books. His mind was essentially an orderly and very contemplative and
reasoning one, and his fame soon reached the ears of Napoleon, then first
consul. He made Cuvier one of the six inspectors general of education
who were to found public schools in some thirty towns in France and what
are now called Royal Colleges. Cuvier founded those of Bordeaux, Nice,
and Marseilles. In this last-mentioned place he continued his work on
marine animals. Whilst Cuvier was performing these very important duties
for the state, with great benefit to the towns and credit to himself,
he was chosen to be one of the perpetual secretaries to the National
Institute, and had a salary given to him for it of two hundred guineas
a year. Although this sum was to be well earned, and the secretary had
to receive distinguished foreigners at table, a fuss was made about it.
Cuvier, however, knew his own value, and insisted on retaining it. The
labourer is worthy of his hire, and the sum was less than the salary
of a first-class clerk. A great Italian politician once said keep the
professors poor. Why? Because he knew that the diffusion of liberal
knowledge would be fatal to civil and military tyranny. However, Cuvier
gave up his school inspectorship and laboured on at his favourite
studies. He lost his father and his brother’s wife died leaving a child,
so that Cuvier and his brother were alone. Marriage became a necessity
for the rising man, and he was attracted by a lady of great merit, who
had suffered both poverty and misfortune. Madame Duvancel was the widow
of an official who perished on the scaffold in 1794, and she had some
children of her own. Cuvier had a great affection for her and she made
him happy, was a great companion, and when he rose to his greatness,
she was an admirable helpmate. In 1808, as secretary to the National
Institute, Cuvier had to write a report on the progress of the natural
sciences from the year 1789. A mere report was required, but Cuvier was
too thorough, and his essay was an admirable and most lucid treatise.
Napoleon, then emperor, was greatly struck with it, and presented
the paper to the council of state. Some of the sentences should be
written in letters of gold in every senate and learned by heart by all
politicians. “The true object of science is to lead the mind of man
towards its noble destination—a knowledge of truth—to spread sound and
useful ideas among the lowest classes of the people, to draw human
beings from the effects of prejudices and passions, to make reason the
arbitrator and supreme guide of public opinion.” Napoleon, who nearly
always chose the best men for a place, made Cuvier a counsellor of the
new Imperial University, and the two men thus came frequently in contact.
Repeated personal interviews preceded Cuvier’s appointment to organize
new universities in the foreign states more or less under the sway of
France. He undertook the reorganization of the old Italian universities
of Piedmont, Genoa, and Tuscany. His reports of these missions speak of
the enlightenment of his mind and his truly reasonable and very liberal
spirit. Speaking of the universities of Tuscany, he deprecates a too
hasty and rash interference with institutions which had been founded and
maintained by so many distinguished men of old and in which he found so
much to praise and to retain. He made good use of his time in Tuscany by
taking drawings of and collecting fossil bones, and in 1811 his great
work on the fossil remains of animals appeared. He examined into the
condition of the universities of Holland, and finally those of lower
Germany. These journeys were doubly useful, for they established his
health and gave him plenty of opportunity of visiting museums. While at
Hamburg, Napoleon gave him the title of chevalier, which was confirmed
to him and his heirs. But such honours were not destined to descend,
for Cuvier lost his son in his seventh year. It was a great grief, and
it saddened and subdued the man. This trial happened when Cuvier was at
Rome, trying to arrange the universities there. Being a Protestant, the
mission was one requiring peculiar forbearance and firmness. Yet the
enlightened tolerance of Cuvier, and his mild and benignant manners,
gained for him the esteem and respect of all parties. Risen from the
ranks, having been poor and often anxious to know how to learn, Cuvier
was a capital man for his position. He paid particular attention not only
to the higher branches of education, but also to popular or elementary
education. His principle was that instruction would lead to civilization,
and civilization to morality, and therefore that primary or elementary
instruction should give to the people every means of fully exercising
their industry, without disgusting them with their condition. That
secondary instruction should expand the mind, without rendering it false
or presumptuous; and that special or scientific instruction should give
to France magistrates, advocates, generals, clergy, professors and other
men of learning. He taught—“give schools before political rights; make
citizens comprehend the duties that the state of society imposes on
them; teach them what are political rights before you offer them for
their enjoyment, and then all amelioration will be made without causing
a shock. Imitate nature, which in the development of beings acts by
gradation, and gives time to every member to arrive at perfection.”

Napoleon had great confidence in Cuvier, and wished to make him tutor
to his son, and ordered him to draw up a list of books as a preliminary
step. In 1814 he made him a councillor of state, and Louis XVIII.
confirmed him in the appointment subsequently.

Cuvier wrote in early life, on living and fossil elephants, the different
species of rhinoceros, the structure of ascidians, and the anatomy of
bivalve molluscs. Later on he described the crocodilians of the old and
new world and the fossil tapirs of France. Subsequently to 1801 he read
memoirs on the teeth of fish, on the worms, the anatomy of the mollusca,
the comparative anatomy and classification of fishes, the fossil mammals
and reptiles, and the bony structures of these last two groups. Most of
these works were the joint productions of other very distinguished men
and himself. Thus the work on fishes, which contained descriptions of no
less than five thousand kinds, was by Cuvier and Valenciennes. Year after
year Cuvier added to the store of knowledge he was so anxious to give to
the history of the earth, and his descriptions, monuments of exactitude,
of the fossil kinds of rhinoceros, hyænæ, and of some of the great
sloths, were the result of his careful examination of the living species
of the genera or families which were found fossil. We owe to Cuvier the
truth that ancient forms of life, the bones and teeth of which alone
remain, and which were buried by nature formerly, can be “restored.” That
is to say, by taking the existing or modern example, and by reasoning
upon the nature of the teeth, claws, hoofs, and horns present or absent,
the nature, shape and destiny of the ancient animal can be given to the
world at the present time.

After the abdication of Napoleon and the defeat at Waterloo, it became
necessary, in the ideas of Louis XVIII., that the universities should be
remodelled, and a committee of public instruction was created to exercise
the powers formerly belonging to the grand master, the council, and the
treasurer of the University. Cuvier was one of the committee, and was
made chancellor of the University, a position which he retained until
his death under most trying circumstances. No man did greater or better
and more lasting work for state education than Cuvier. His heart was in
the work of education; he had nothing but mental progress to desire; and
it was a much more satisfactory thing for France to have a renowned,
scientific man at the head of a great university, who, moreover, really
controlled the education of the country, than to have had such important
offices held by mere politicians and soldiers.

In 1817 Cuvier published a second edition of his “Fossil Bones,” and the
great book, the “Règne Animal” (the “Animal Kingdom”), was re-issued.
In this last work Cuvier immortalized himself; and his classification
has been of the greatest possible value to his successors. He reduced
the six classes of animals which had been suggested by the ancients and
Linnæus, namely, quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and worms,
to four, or vertebrated animals (animals with backbones), molluscous
animals (such as snails and oysters), articulated animals (insects and
crabs), and radiated animals (such as corals and sea anemones). Although
this classification has become modified, still Cuvier gave the method of
true classification in animals. One or two points or peculiarities were
not to be considered at the expense of others which belonged to organs
of great importance to the animal. He asserted that all the structures
of the animal must be studied, and physiology as well as anatomy must be
considered. The most important structures must be considered first of
all, and the grand divisions of classification must rest upon them. In
the “Règne Animal” Cuvier commences with man, whom he places in a genus
by himself, and recognizes only one species diversified by varieties or
races. In 1818 Cuvier visited London, and remained there for about six
weeks, receiving every scientific and social honour. He mixed freely in
scientific society, and was received by George IV. On being consulted
by his Majesty about our national collections, he said that if all the
British private collections could be collected into one, they would
form a great national museum which would surpass every other. Cuvier
was greatly interested in the freedom of English politics; and on the
election for Westminster taking place he went on to the hustings. He
was intensely amused at the speeches and the violence of the mob, who
pelted their political opponents after the fashion of the day with bad
eggs, dead cats, cabbages, and mud. He went to Oxford, and then all the
party were invited to Windsor. Sir Joseph Banks asked everybody in the
scientific world to meet Cuvier, and Sir Everard Home also. The great
naturalist, once a half-starved student and a tutor, became the guest
of the most honoured amongst men, and was very sensible of the kindness
shown him. He could not, however, reconcile himself to the long dinners
and long sittings at table, which were then, as now, fashionable in
England. Not only did Cuvier study the national and private natural
history collections in this country, but he also paid much attention to
the system of education and to the nature of our political constitution.

Returning to Paris, Cuvier was elected a member of the Académie
Française, and in the following year was made president of the Comité
de l’Interieur, and created a baron. He resigned his temporary grand
mastership of the University, so as to accept without salary the grand
mastership of the Faculties of Protestant Theology, and vice-president of
the Bible Society.

In 1824, as president of the Comité, or one of the councils of state,
Cuvier took part in the coronation of Charles X., on which occasion he
was made grand master of the Legion of Honour. In 1827 he was appointed
censor of the press, an office which his love of liberty of thought soon
made him resign. Sacrificing all his leisure to the greater educational
matters, and ever labouring at science, Cuvier also formed a great
library, which was always open to naturalists who desired to visit
and use it. Cuvier’s orderly and critical mind enabled him to fulfil
the office of secretary to the institute with great success; and he
especially shone in writing the interesting lives of the distinguished
men who died during each year. Moreover, he reported on each memoir
which was submitted to the institute for reading and publication. Cuvier
was great as a public lecturer, and had a flexible and sonorous voice,
which resounded far and wide in the room. His audiences were always
enthusiastic; and many a student waited long to get a good seat before
the professor began. He taught, chalk in hand, and drew well on the black
board, his artistic power remaining to the last.

Cuvier came to England a second time, and it is tolerably clear that it
was to escape the inevitable revolution which was caused by the tyranny
of Charles X. and his advisers. His carriage passed out of Paris, and
five hours afterwards firing began, which led to the dethronement of the
king and the restoration of liberty. In London Cuvier used to enjoy the
political and other caricatures in the shops, and loved to go down to
such places as Richmond to see the scenery.

After a six weeks’ visit, Cuvier returned to Paris, and occupied his
former positions and dignities.

Cuvier was slightly built in his young days, and moderately tall; but
the sedentary nature of his work and his carelessness about taking
proper exercise, produced corpulence in his later years, and his extreme
near-sightedness brought on a slight stoop in his shoulders. His hair
had been light in colour, and to the last it flowed in fine curls over
one of the noblest heads ever seen. He was handsome and had regular
features, with an aquiline nose, a broad forehead, and keen eyes. The
love of order, which was his very peculiarity in his work, was seen in
little things, for Cuvier was almost feminine in his attention to dress.
He even took in hand the costume of the University, and designed the
embroidery of his court suits. Cuvier’s manners were dignified and yet
not ceremonious; for accustomed to mingle with the highest of all classes
and countries, and naturally desirous of paying a just tribute of respect
and good will to everybody, he was likely to be generally polished
and courteous. He was stately enough sometimes, and his reserve with
strangers who were not open with him was mainly—as is usually the case
with others—from mere shyness and timidity. To the young he was always
kind and sympathizing. When at the Institute Cuvier’s manner was always
stately, for he was with his peers there, and perhaps he might have
occasionally felt it necessary to retain an appearance of reserve during
the sometimes not very scientific discussions of that mixed assemblage.

Cuvier, notwithstanding his great patience when he was at work, and his
singular placidity when on the face of a difficult point in natural
history or anatomy, was what is called a “Turk” at home, and with others.
Accustomed to most minute exactitude, and to regulate his hands by his
rapidly working brain, he was singularly impatient with other people who
had to serve under him. He used to hasten his workmen, so that his orders
were often performed with difficulty. He was hard to bear with, and any
waste of time the result of carelessness, put him in a rage. Anything
wrong at table in his house, to be kept waiting, or some trifling
disobedience, would rouse an absurd amount of anger. His irritability was
excessive, and he frequently forgot himself in his scoldings, and had
to make reparation afterwards. But he was always ready to testify that
he had been wrong, and to do his best to make amends; nevertheless, he
did not improve in this particular, and he never had great control over
his feelings. No labour, however minute and prolonged, irritated him
when he believed that it was requisite for the attainment of an object;
still he could not listen to a few pages of a book which taught nothing,
without expressing himself very decidedly. From what has been written of
Cuvier’s domestic life, it could not have been very enjoyable by those
around him, and yet it was the kind of life which has to be led by most
prominent men in science, art, and literature. Work, everlasting work,
with but little relaxation. He certainly wasted no time. Before and after
breakfast he saw anybody who wished to have an audience of him. By seven
in the morning he was dressed, and began preparing his day’s work and
that of his assistants, so that by ten o’clock, when he breakfasted, he
had time to look at the newspapers, to read correspondence, and look over
any particular works. After breakfast he dressed for the day and began
work. His carriage was punctual to a moment, and no one was allowed to
keep him waiting. When the ladies were to accompany him, they made a
point of being as exact to time as was possible; and he seems to have
enjoyed the sight of his womankind rushing downstairs with their shawls
streaming after them and their gloves half on their hands. The instant
he had given his orders he would thrust himself into a corner of the
carriage and set to work reading, but suffered the ladies to talk as much
as they pleased. The family dinner hour was half-past six; and if Cuvier
had a few moments to spare before that time, he would occasionally join
his friends in Madame Cuvier’s room, but more frequently he seems to have
given even this short time to study. One or two intimate friends joined
the circle at dinner, and then Cuvier’s conversation was delightful. On
proceeding to the drawing-room Cuvier sometimes gratified his friends by
an hour’s stay amongst them before he retired to his occupation or his
visits, but so untiring was his industry, that he often set the whole
party to work aiding him in his researches. If he had any foreign works
he would often amuse his friends by verifying the figures in them, one
after the other. It must be said that this everlasting work was trying
to people who were with Cuvier, for no sooner did friends come to stay
with him than he began to use them in tracing drawings on paper. He
kept them at work, for when he returned from his labours he generally
asked for the tasks he had thus set. Nevertheless, many found it a real
pleasure to work for him, for he was very grateful for such assistance.
Cuvier’s hours of relaxation were few. Change of employment afforded
him relief, and conversation still greater. At the close of the day’s
labour, when he found it impossible to work any longer, he was accustomed
to throw himself on a sofa, hide his eyes from the light, and listen to
the reading of his wife or daughter, and sometimes of his secretary, M.
Laurillard. These nightly readings lasted two hours, and thus Cuvier
became more or less acquainted with the current literature and good works
of the day. Very likely he did not listen, and went to sleep, but that is
not stated of him by those who wrote his domestic habits.

Cuvier was so downright that he did not like any one who indulged in
satire, or who ridiculed the conduct of others. He never did this sort
of thing, and he carefully discouraged it in those about him, even when
embellished with sallies of wit and drollery, and his rebukes to those
who indulged in sarcasm were accompanied by a sharpness of expression
generally very unusual to him. He bore but little malice, and it is said
that the annoyances and disappointments of his public career left no
trace of bitterness of spirit; and he was always willing to lay the fault
on the ignorance rather than on the bad feeling of the offenders.

When in the full swing of his career, Cuvier gave very interesting
_soirées_ on Saturday evenings, and it is said that they were the most
brilliant and interesting meetings of their kind in Paris. They were
much frequented by the scientific world of the time, and the rooms were
as much open to the prince as to the last young student who had just
begun to study natural history. In this society Cuvier was an amusing
conversationalist, a great asker of questions; and as he could talk
well on a variety of subjects, he made his guests at home, and gave
the meetings a character for freedom of expression of opinion. A light
repast concluded the evening, and a select few remained to partake of
it. The chat was amusing, curiosities were shown about, and the last
anecdotes about nature and the newest ideas were shown and considered,
and, reserving himself to the last, Cuvier would relate something that
crowned the whole; and all around were struck by the occasional complete
change given to the train of thought, or were forced to join in a general
shout of laughter. The period of these brilliant _soirées_ was that of
the prime of the lovely daughter who was so fondly loved by Cuvier. A
perfect lady, of great grace and goodness, was Clementine Cuvier. She was
a highly-gifted girl, and her resemblance to her father was remarkable.
She had a delicate constitution, and gradually faded away, dying of rapid
consumption at last amidst the joyful preparations for her marriage. A
great change then took place in Cuvier, who mourned his daughter greatly.
Society was given up for a long time, and when the evening meetings
were resumed, the life of them seemed to be gone, and the dejection of
Madame Cuvier added to the feeling. After the death of his own daughter,
Cuvier became more than ever attached to his step-daughter, and his
care and anxiety on her account manifested itself on all occasions.
If she were ill he would be up and down stairs over and over again,
and worried himself about even the most trivial symptoms. Although
so greatly occupied and so often absorbed in scientific pursuits, he
never neglected the opportunity of doing good in his way. His private
charities were large and well bestowed. His purse was ever open to the
needy and unfortunate of all countries and stations, and the miserable
inhabitants of the dens of Paris and the modest student struggling under
adversity were alike the recipients of his bounty. Many hotels in the
neighbourhood of the colleges and institutions had students in them,
living in the top stories, who were so poor that they had to subscribe
to get a book or two between them. They would occasionally be surprised
by a visit from their great teacher. He came to offer, with the greatest
courtesy, the assistance he knew they required; and if they were ill he
did not rest satisfied until he had obtained advice and nourishment for
them. Himself keenly alive to the slightest rudeness or neglect, and
grateful for the smallest proof of affection, he knew how to give, not
only with a liberal hand, but with a delicacy which never wounded the
most sensitive temper. The year 1832 was a melancholy one for Paris; for
political disturbances and cholera prevailed. The disease raged around
Cuvier’s neighbourhood, and he saw many cut off from it in the midst of
their youth and strength. At this time he gave up his evening visits and
the few relaxations he permitted himself to enjoy. Secluding himself
from society, except that of his own family, he had no sooner performed
his daily routine of public duties than he returned to his studies with
a zeal and closeness of application that was doubtless injurious to
his health, though he himself said that he had never worked with such
enjoyment. On Tuesday, May 8th, he opened the third and concluding part
of his course of lectures at the College of France on the history of
science, and it was his last discourse. Strangely enough, it was as if
it were to be his last, so impressive, so grandly comprehensive, was
the diction; and he treated the subject in a manner which proved that he
had been thinking much about the mysterious and supernatural environment
which most men of great experience can recognize in nature. Cuvier in
this lecture dealt with the meaning of the changes which had occurred on
the surface of the earth in relation to the succession of animals and
plants on the globe and the present creation. He stated the manner in
which he proposed to view the present in relation to the past, a task
which was to lead his hearers, independently of narrow systems, back to
that supreme intelligence which rules, enlightens, and vivifies, and
which gives to every creature the especial conditions of its existence.
He noticed how each being contains in itself an infinite variety, an
admirable arrangement for the purposes for which it was intended: that
each being is good, perfect, and capable of life, according to its order
and species, and in its individuality. He concluded by saying, “These
will be the objects of our future investigations, if time, health, and
strength are given to me to continue and to finish them with you.” The
lecture hall was slowly left by Cuvier’s hearers and students, and an
undefined sadness seemed to weigh upon his late hearers, who seemed to
linger with the impression that his days were numbered. On the evening of
the same day, Cuvier felt some pain in his right arm, which was supposed
to proceed from rheumatism. The next morning he presided over the
Committee of the Interior with his usual ability and activity; but at
dinner that day he felt some difficulty in swallowing, and the numbness
in the arm increased. When he felt himself thus ill, in order to take
away the attention of Madame Cuvier, he said, “I must eat more soup,”
swallowing bread even being impossible. Advice was sought, but during
the next day both arms became paralyzed, and the swallowing was worse.
He made his will with perfect calmness, and it evinced the tenderest
solicitude for those whose cares and affections had comforted his life,
and for those who had aided him most in his scientific labours. He could
not sign the will, but it was attested by four witnesses. Convinced that
all human skill was in vain, he nevertheless submitted to treatment by
his medical men. Paralysis crept on, and the legs were attacked, his
speech was affected, and he muttered, “It is the nerves of volition
that are affected.” He spoke of his last lecture, and said to a friend
who called, “Behold a very different person to the man of Tuesday;
nevertheless I had great things still to do. All was ready in my head,
after thirty years of labour and research; there remained but to write,
and now the hands fail and carry with them the head.” Cuvier gradually
sank, but kept his intelligence nearly to the last. It was his wish to
be buried privately, interred in the cemetery of Père le Chaise, under
the tombstone which covered his beloved child; but it was not possible to
avoid the public demonstration of respect. The funeral procession was
followed by the representatives of all the great learned bodies of France.

Cuvier was too generous, and too desirous for the advancement of his
branch of natural history knowledge, to die very rich. He had several
important sources of income, and there is no doubt that, had he chosen
so to do, he could have saved much money. He spent largely when it was
necessary to procure specimens from abroad, and to dig out fossils at
home, and his private charities were numerous. He only left about the
sum of four thousand pounds sterling, a library worth about the same
sum, and a house for his family. There is no doubt that Cuvier was, in
his private life, a very estimable man, and that in his public life he
upheld the teachings of his conscience to his disadvantage. It was to be
expected that a man whose work proved the great antiquity of the kinds
of animals now living on the surface of the earth, and the existence of
a great philosophy in nature which linked the past and present animals
in a scheme which showed that life had been continuous for ages, would
be abused and called an atheist by some ignorant people or other. His
true character has been written as follows:—“He promoted the cause of
true religion by every means in his power, both public and private; he
was a warm supporter of the Bible Society, and caused the Old and New
Testaments to be widely disseminated in every part of Protestant France.
In his letters to the heads of colleges and masters of schools, he
strongly recommended them to teach for the love of God, himself pointing
out their duties according to that great rule. He adhered consistently
and persistently to the Protestant faith, when it was well known that
a change to the Roman Catholic would have been the surest step to the
attainment of the highest honours in the state. He caused a number of
chapels to be established, in order to give facility for attending
divine worship; and he never would receive a salary for attending and
administering to the interests of the Protestant religion. He discharged
faithfully all the duties of his office, with a zeal which showed that
he had a much higher motive than that of gain or reputation. Humility
and forgiveness marked his character; he was thankful for the correction
of errors; he gloried as much in the discoveries of another as his own;
and in the triumph of joint labours, unhesitatingly gave the preference
to his colleague. He suffered his servants to expostulate with him,
and the very nature of his amusements was social and cheerful. He felt
ingratitude keenly, and also unkindness and injustice, but they made
him sad rather than angry. His antagonists openly indulged in the most
irritating and violent taunts, or secretly intrigued against him; the
former never excited him beyond a clear, firm, and dignified reply, wrung
from him only when reply was absolutely necessary; and the latter nothing
but candid remonstrances. To these high attributes we may add charity.
The failings of others were never trumpeted forth by Cuvier; he did not
even tolerate playful satire, however disguised by wit; his earnest
desire was to make all happy around him, even by a sacrifice of his
own convenience; and his resignation was great, under calamities which
bereaved him of the dearest objects of his affection; all these things
appear to establish his character as a Christian.”

The character of Cuvier was hardly equal to this panegyric, for he held
his own boldly enough, and faced his enemies with no feeble humility;
moreover, the details of his everyday life prove that he was sufficiently
exacting, and that everything had to give way to his will. Nevertheless,
it is true that that will was to advance knowledge in the right
direction, and that it was stimulated by an earnest desire for truth.
Men like Cuvier are very apt to be misunderstood by their most intimate
friends. When studying the collections of animals, and when comparing the
forms of ancient and modern life, Cuvier mentally recognized a divine
wisdom and the work of the God he worshipped. That was his worship, and
he probably cared all the less for the oratory of the pulpit, which he
was expected to listen to. He was not a constant attendant at his church,
and this seems even to have afflicted his daughter when on her death-bed,
according to some reports. But in all probability she knew her father’s
worth and real religion, better than outside friends and detractors, and
prayed that he might receive that support which alone could enable him to
bear the heaviest of sorrows with resignation.

Judging the man by his fruit and life, it must be admitted that Cuvier
was one of the greatest students and teachers of nature that have lived,
his work, being true, lasts; moreover, there is no doubt that he had but
few failings, and a great amount of wisdom and virtue. Certainly he was
a staunch friend to religious education, and if one could have known
his heart, it is very possible that his apparent ambition and desire of
social greatness and position may have been influenced by the knowledge
that influence and dignity would further his work both as an anatomist
and zoologist, and as a responsible promoter of education.

The lives of these heroes have been mainly taken from the life of John
Ray in the Ray Society’s publications, and from an excellent little
book, by an anonymous author, called “Cuvier and Zoology,” and from the
“Mémoires de L’Académie des Sciences.”





    The rise of the science which treats of the ancient history
    of the earth—Students of the present changes, which are
    the examples by which the past may be comprehended—The
    Greeks—The life of Pythagoras; a notice of the geology of
    Aristoteles—Strabo’s life—The nature of fossils and the life of

As was the case in the other branches of natural history already noticed,
the Greeks knew much more about geology than did the nations of the rest
of Europe, subsequently, for nearly seventeen hundred years. The first
recorded teacher of the ancient history of the earth was Pythagoras, who
was born on the island of Samos, about the year 570 B.C. By his mother’s
side he was connected with the principal families of the island, and
his father appears to have been a Phœnician or a Tyrrhenian of Lemnos.
There is nothing known about his childhood, and it is evident that he
studied under the great philosophers of his age in Greece. But he wanted
further information, and therefore travelled into Egypt, and thence into
Chaldæa. Polycrates, the ruler of the island in which Pythagoras was
born, appears to have assisted him with the Egyptians by introductions.
The traveller noticed not only the habits and customs of the people he
visited, but also the aspect of the countries, and the method by which
nature wore the earth, and produced changes on the surface of the ground.
He appears to have been much struck with the periodical nature of many
natural events, such as the succession of the seasons, the time of rain
and inundation, and of great heat, and of all the common examples with
which everyone is familiar at the present day. Returning home he soon
became aware that he could not teach, unreservedly, what he had learned
and discovered during his travels, for fear of Polycrates, and he left
the island. Finally he settled at Croton, in southern Italy, and he
appears to have chosen the locality, in order to propagate his moral and
political, as well as scientific opinions. Unfortunately, this ardent
scholar and teacher did not write any books, but left that task to
his pupils and successors, so that much good sense is mixed with much
nonsense in the so-called doctrines of Pythagoras which came from them.
Some of his opinions are very remarkable and striking, and he introduced
into his own country the statements of the Eastern nations, that there
has been a gradual deterioration of the human race from an original state
of virtue and happiness. But his principal work regarding the earth
has descended to us through the poet Ovid, and it is most interesting.
Pythagoras insisted that there was a perpetual and gradual system of
change, inherent in the earth. This idea, which came into his mind from
the results of observation, he did not apply to very remote ages, or to
what is now called the ancient history of the globe. He simply insisted
on modern changes. Really this limiting of his thought was in the true
scientific spirit, and he dealt with what was true and proveable so far
as he was concerned. It might be supposed that the present changes cannot
come within the studies of the geologist, but they really do so, because,
as will be noticed further on in considering the life of Hutton, the past
history of the earth can only be comprehended by studying the present
state of things. Pythagoras cleared the way, and made a path for the
geologist. He is said by Ovid to have taught as follows:—

“Nothing perishes in this world, but things simply vary and change
their form. To be born means simply that a thing begins to be something
different from what it was before; and dying is ceasing from being the
same thing. Solid land has been converted into sea. Sea has been changed
into land; marine shells lie far distant from the deep, and the anchor
has been found on the summit of the hills. Valleys have been excavated by
running water, and floods have washed down hills into the sea. Marshes
have become dry ground. Dry lands have changed into stagnant pools.
During earthquakes some springs have been closed up, and new ones have
broken out. Rivers have deserted their channels, and have been reborn
elsewhere; as the Erasinus, in Greece, and Mysius, in Asia. The waters of
some rivers, formerly sweet, have become bitter, as those of Anigrus, in
Greece. Islands have become connected with the main land, by the growth
of deltas and new deposits. Peninsulas have been divided from the main
land, and have become islands, as Leucadia; and according to tradition,
Sicily, the sea having carried away the isthmus. Land has been submerged
by earthquakes. The Grecian cities of Helice and Burris, for example, are
to be seen under the sea, with their walls inclined. Plains have been
upheaved into hills by the confined air seeking vent, as at Trœzene, in
the Peloponnesus. There are streams which have a petrifying power, and
convert the substances which they touch into marble. Volcano vents shift
their positions. There was a time when Etna was not a burning mountain,
and the time will come when it will cease to burn; whether it be that
some caverns be closed up by the movements of the earth and others
opened, or whether the fuel is finally exhausted.”

Of course there are several errors in these statements, and especially
those which relate to the causes of volcanic vents are absurd.
Pythagoras also noticed the changes in the animal kingdoms, such as the
metamorphoses of insects. Besides being a naturalist this great man
taught some most extraordinary doctrines for his time of the world and
nation. He stated that virtue was with him and his followers, a harmony,
unity, and an endeavour to resemble the Deity. The whole life of man
should be an attempt to represent, on earth, the beauty and harmony
displayed in the order of the universe. The mind should have the body
and the passions under perfect control; the gods should be worshipped by
simple purifications and offerings, and above all by sincerity and purity
of heart. Pythagoras, by his good teaching and example, established a
great school of philosophy, which influenced the world subsequently in
a marked manner. A political riot dispersed his followers, and he died
about 504 B.C.

A notice of the life of Aristoteles as botanist and zoologist has
already been given, and now a few words must be said about the opinions
held by this very remarkable man regarding changes in the earth. He
progressed beyond Pythagoras, for he refers to many examples of changes
now constantly going on, and insists, emphatically, on the great results
which they must produce _in the lapse of ages_. The changes of the
earth, he says, are so slow in comparison to the duration of our lives,
that they are overlooked, and the migrations of people after great
catastrophes, and their removal to other regions, cause the event to be
forgotten. In one work Aristoteles wrote: “The distribution of land and
sea, in particular regions, does not endure throughout all time, but it
becomes sea in those parts where it was land, and again it becomes land
where it was sea; and there is reason for thinking that these changes
take place according to a certain system and within a certain period.
Everything changes in the course of time.”

There was a great geographer called Strabo, about whose life little is
known, except that he travelled far and wide in Europe and North Africa,
and wrote largely on the earth. He did not content himself with simple
geography, however, for he entered into a discussion, which was a very
common one in those days, as it has been since, concerning the nature of
the fossil shells which are found in strata or layers of the earth remote
from the sea. He attributed the collecting of the shells where they
are found to the former subsidence of the land, and not to the rising
of the sea. It is not, he said, because the lands covered by seas were
originally at different altitudes, that the waters have risen or subsided
or receded from some parts and inundated others, but the reason is, that
the same land is sometimes raised up and sometimes depressed, so that it
either overflows or returns to its own place again. We must therefore
ascribe the cause to the ground, either to that ground which is under
the sea or to that which becomes flooded by it, but rather to that which
lies beneath the sea, for this is more moveable, and on account of its
humidity can be altered with greater celerity. This philosopher clearly
laid down the law that the general level of the sea has remained the
same, but that it has been and is the land which has been or is upheaved
or subsided. It is a fundamental truth on which much of the science of
geology depends. He moreover asserted that volcanoes were safety-valves,
and were the result of subterranean convulsions.

These were the principal writers which influenced geology in the days
before the Christian era, and it is to be noticed that they did not treat
of the construction of the rocks, of the succession of the layers or
strata, or of much concerning the ancient history of the globe. But they
taught, wisely and admirably, the nature of modern changes, and believed
that these and the older ones they could comprehend, were part of a
scheme, and were produced by natural causes, in the course of events.

Aristoteles, Strabo, and Plinius wrote about the changes which were
progressing on the surface of the earth, and compared them, in their
reasoning, with changes they presumed had been, but still no great
advance was made.

In the early part of the sixteenth century a remarkable discussion sprang
up about the nature of shells and bones, which were found in layers of
earth remote from the sea. The celebrated painter Leonardo da Vinci had
seen some of these fossils during his youth, when he planned and carried
out some important canals in the north of Italy. He laughed at the
fancies of the day about the shells, for some people said that they were
made by the stars, and others that they were brought forth naturally, in
the layers of earth in which they were found. He wanted to know where the
things were being made in the hills, by the stars, at the present time,
and stated that, like the rounded stones of gravel, the shells had been
in the sea, and that they were of different ages and kinds, and were once
alive. But the former living condition of fossils, and the possibility of
their being understood, by comparing them with recent or living things,
was, perhaps, most strongly put by Steno, a Dane.

In 1638, a goldsmith, Steno by name, living at Copenhagen, who was a
tradesman of the King Christian IV. of Denmark, had a son. The young
Nicholas was brought up carefully, evidently was well educated, and was
destined for the medical profession. A strict Lutheran, he naturally
went to Holland for a part of his education, and studied at Leyden under
the very distinguished anatomists there, after he had taken his degree.
Nothing is known about his person or habits, but the results of his
constant labour prove him to have been a most industrious student, and
also an investigator of the human frame in his early days of manhood.
At first the medical profession was everything to him, and he studied
human anatomy and physiology with great success, making some important
and interesting discoveries. He discovered the duct or channel by which
the saliva runs into the mouth from the salivary gland beneath the skin
on the cheek, and in 1664 he published some researches on the manner
in which the chick is nourished in the egg. Moreover, he examined the
structures of the eye of the calf, the nature of the mucous secretion,
and wrote on the heart. While engaged in these researches at Amsterdam,
he heard of the death of his mother, and returned to Copenhagen. After a
short stay there, he set out for Italy, taking France on his way; and he
began a series of researches on the structure of the brain at Paris in
1664. Here a great change occurred, which influenced his future life in a
remarkable degree. Steno, well known then as a successful investigator,
came under the notice of a great French geographer, Thévenot, and, what
was more important, became the friend of Bossuet, one of the greatest
preachers and teachers the Roman Catholic Church has ever produced.
Steno was so influenced by Bossuet, that he became converted to the
Roman Catholic faith, and left the Lutheran Church. Going subsequently
into Italy, Steno pursued his studies, and settled in Florence, in
1667, being well received by the Grand Duke Ferdinand II. de Medici. In
spite of the somewhat natural jealousy of the medical men of the city,
Steno was appointed physician to the Grand Duke, and prosecuted his
anatomical studies under his influence. Then he came across a subject
which directed his attention to geology, or rather to that part of the
science which relates to extinct animals. In a letter to Thévenot, Steno
describes the dissection of a shark which had been captured off Leghorn
in 1666, and especially discussed the mode of growth of the teeth of the
animal. At this time many fossils were picked up and gathered out of
layers or strata, which were called by many curious names, and believed
to be anything but what they really were. They were distinguished by
Steno at once as shark’s teeth, and he insisted that sharks lived during
the former ages of the globe, and that they had become entombed in the
deposits which were then forming a stratum or layer of earth, the result
of deposition in water, being the burial-ground of the time of its
collection or formation.

Fossils were thus shown by Steno to be mineralized or petrified organic
remains, and he gave the hint or method to future investigators, that
the example of the existing animals must be taken, in order to learn
the nature of those creatures whose remains are more or less perfectly
preserved in the fossil condition.

Following out this subject, Steno wrote on the manner in which deposits
accumulate, and accumulated in past ages; and he concluded that if we
found a deposit containing sea-salt and the remains of marine animals,
planks of ships etc., we should believe that the sea had once been there,
whether the bed was exposed in consequence of the sea having retired,
or because the land had been raised. He showed that although the lowest
beds deposited over any area, must conform to the shape of the underlying
rock, the tendency of all sediment must be to occupy the horizontal
position; and so when we find them highly inclined, as in mountains, for
instance, we must refer this to subsequent movement. He noticed that
mountains are made up both of horizontal and inclined strata, as may
be seen along their flanks. He infers that mountains were once not in
existence, and that they do not grow, but that their regions are raised
and depressed and subject to rending and fissuring. Steno clearly showed
that the land had sunk and had been again elevated in the geological
ages, and in considering the causes he seems to have grasped the idea
that the internal heat of the earth becoming less, the mass cools, and
that the movements on the surface have had to do with the cooling. His
most important work was removing fossils out of the category of marvels,
sports of nature, and as things which grew in the earth, to the proper
truth that they are preserved parts of animals and plants which were
formerly alive. In 1688, Steno was appointed to the chair of anatomy
at Copenhagen; but he had to suffer from jealousy, and doubtless some
religious persecution influenced his desire to leave his native country
and to return to Florence again. This he did, and Cosmo III. entrusted
him with the education of his son. Steno then began to give up science
and to study theology, and wrote several works on the subject by which he
hoped to convert his old natural history friends. One of these involved
him in a controversy with the reformed clergy of Jena. The Pope, Innocent
XI., rewarded Steno in 1677, by making him a bishop and apostolic vicar
of Northern Europe. Steno went to reside at Hanover; but he had to leave,
and returning to Schwerin, he died there. His body was, at the request of
the Grand Duke Cosmo, carried back to Tuscany in 1687.





    The rise of the modern school of geology—The continuity of
    the operations of nature and their sameness—The necessity of
    studying the existing state of things in order to comprehend
    the past—The denial of catastrophes—Hutton’s theory of the
    earth the foundation of scientific geology.

Many facts had been recorded regarding the ancient history of the earth,
and a host of ideas, more or less absurd, had been given forth on
geology, during the years which preceded and followed the reformation.
Several Italian geologists had examined into the truths discovered by
Pythagoras, and, as stated in the preceding pages, the nature of fossils
had become understood by a few liberal minded men. The age of Newton,
and the years which followed his time, were consumed, however, so far
as the history of the earth was concerned, by vain attempts to form
cosmogonies, to account for the origin of the globe and visible universe.
There was also a fierce struggle between two great geological factions,
one asserting that all rocks were the product of heat, and the other
denying this _in toto_ and deciding that water was the originator. Many,
and indeed nearly all, geologists taught that nature had acted during
the past, by fits and starts, and that great convulsions had occurred,
bringing the earth at last to its present condition. The common sense
of mankind was opposed to many of these beliefs, and there was moreover
a very great indisposition, on the part of many educated men, to credit
that the earth was more than six thousand years old. Not a few believed
that the hills and dales, mountains and plains, cliffs and valleys, were
first formed as they are now.

A Scottish gentleman, a quiet retiring man, having some means of his own,
studied the structure of the rocks and taught himself physical geography.
He mastered a great number of undoubted facts, and reasoned upon them,
and produced a theory which made geology a science, instead of a jumble
of guesses flavoured with the love of the marvellous.

James Hutton was the son of William Hutton, a merchant living in
Edinburgh, and was born in that city on the 3rd of June, 1726. His
father, a man highly respected for his good sense and integrity, and who
had held the important office of city treasurer, died whilst the boy was
young. The mother was a woman of considerable ability, and she determined
that her child should have a good education. He went, consequently, to
the High School, and subsequently was entered at the University at the
early age of fourteen. James was a thorough student, and loved work, and
his tastes were directed rather to natural science than to classics and
the higher mathematics. He studied mathematics under Maclaurin, and used
to say in after years that although he enjoyed Professor Stevenson’s
teaching of logic, still he thought more of him because a hint that was
given in a lecture led him to take a passionate interest in chemistry.
The fact that gold is dissolved in aqua regia (a mixture of nitric and
hydrochloric acids), and that two acids, which can each of them dissolve
any of the baser metals, must unite their strength before they can attack
the most precious, was mentioned by the professor, in illustration of
some general doctrine. Hutton was much impressed with this fact, and
was led to study it further, and he got all the books on the subject.
This led to his love of chemistry, which never forsook him, and which
really decided the course of his career. But Hutton was destined for a
profession, and his mother did not intend him to occupy himself solely
with science. Consequently he was articled to a writer to the signet,
with a view of becoming a lawyer. He had hard work to do, and plenty
of it; it was mere routine work, that of a clerk, and there was a
possibility that he would forget his scientific pleasures. His desire for
knowledge persisted, in spite of his monotonous work, and occasionally
he endeavoured to teach his fellow clerks a little, and he was found
amusing himself and them with chemical experiments, when he should
have been copying papers or studying the forms of legal proceedings.
His master soon saw that the young man’s mind was not that which would
suit a lawyer, so, with much kindness and good sense, he released his
young friend from his obligations. Young Hutton at once began to study
medicine, as that science which was the most closely allied to chemistry.
He attended lectures, and studied well from 1744 to 1747. Then, as the
teaching at Edinburgh was not sufficient in all the parts of medical
studies, he went, as was usual, to Paris, where he studied chemistry
and anatomy with great ardour. He was there for nearly two years, and
then went to Leyden, in Holland, where he took his degree in September,
1749. On his return to London at the end of that year, he began to think
seriously about settling in the world. Edinburgh afforded no flattering
prospect for his establishment as a physician. The business there was in
the hands of a few eminent practitioners, who had been long established;
so that no opening was left for a young man whose merit was yet unknown,
who had no powerful connections to assist him on his first outset, and
very little of that patient and circumspect activity by which a medical
man pushes himself forward in the world.

Full of anxiety about the future, Hutton wrote to a friend of his own
age on the subject. This was Mr. James Davie, with whom Hutton had
been on most intimate terms before leaving Scotland. They had both
a great love of chemistry, and had experimented together, especially
on the nature and production of ammonia. Their experiments had led to
some valuable discoveries, and had been pursued by Mr. Davie during
his friend’s absence. They had afforded a reasonable expectation of
establishing a profitable manufacture of some salt of ammonia from
coal-soot. The project of this establishment was communicated by Mr.
Davie to his friend, who was still in London, and it appears to have
lessened his anxiety about settling as a physician, and, probably,
was one of the main causes of his laying aside all thoughts of that
profession. Perhaps, too, on a nearer view, he did not find that the
practice of medicine would afford him that leisure for pursuing chemical
and other scientific objects which he fancied it would do, when he saw
things at a greater distance. In fact, Hutton found himself in the same
position as many other men of genius who have pursued as successfully
the peculiar studies requisite for an accomplished medical man. Anatomy,
physiology, chemistry, and botany have often been much more attractive
to the aspirant for medical fame than surgery, practical medicine, and
the study of drugs and their uses. Many a good doctor has been spoiled
by over-education, and science has gained an enthusiastic student. It
would appear, however, that there was another cause which was influencing
Hutton. He had inherited a little property in land in Berwickshire from
his father; it was possible to live on it, and farm and work at chemistry
without risk, whilst if he sold it, or used the rent in advancing his
position as a medical man, he might fail after all.

Certain it is that he returned to Edinburgh, and in the summer of 1750
he abandoned his intention of practising, and resolved to apply himself
to agriculture. He had as a friend Sir John Hall, of Dunglass, a man
of ingenuity and taste for science, and also an agriculturist. As he
was never destined to do anything by halves, Hutton determined to study
farming in the school which was then reckoned the best, and the manner
which is undoubtedly the most effectual. He went into Norfolk, and fixed
his residence for some time in that county, living in the house of a
farmer, who served both for his landlord and his instructor. This he did
in 1752. He always spoke well of John Dybold, who made him comfortable,
and whose practical lessons in husbandry he much valued. He appears,
indeed, to have enjoyed this situation very much: the simple and plain
character of the society with which he mingled, suited well with his own,
and the peasants of Norfolk could find nothing in the stranger to set
them at a distance from him, or to make them treat him with reserve. It
was always true of Dr. Hutton that to an ordinary man he appeared to be
an ordinary man; possessing a little more spirit and liveliness, perhaps,
than it is usual to meet with. He enjoyed Norfolk life very much, and
doubtless it was the very different soil of that county which made the
young Scotchman think, for the first time, about the construction of the
surface of the earth which he hoped to till and profit by. While his head
quarters were thus established in Norfolk, he made journeys, on foot,
into different parts of England; and though the main object of them was
to obtain information in agriculture, yet he never passed a pit, or a
cliff, or a river-side, without studying the structure of the soil, so
that in 1753, Hutton was incontinently making himself a geologist, a
pursuit which his knowledge of chemistry and mineralogy rendered easy to
him. What agriculture he learned in Norfolk was of the greatest use to
him, and he visited Flanders to learn more. He travelled from Rotterdam
through Holland, Brabant, Flanders, and Picardy, and was highly delighted
with the cultivation of the small holdings of those countries. Though
his principal object in this excursion was to acquire information in the
practice of husbandry, he appears to have paid much attention to the
mineralogy of the countries through which he passed. Then he returned
and took up his own farm in Berwickshire, bringing with him a Norfolk
ploughman. He set to work and farmed, using every known improvement, and
he has the credit of being one of those who introduced the new husbandry
into a country where it has since made more rapid advances than in
any other part of Great Britain. From 1754 to 1768 he resided on his
farm, visiting Edinburgh occasionally. He seems to have led a tranquil
country life, succeeding as a farmer; and yet there was, during all this
time, a slow yet progressive growth of a science in his mind. Cautious,
persevering, observant, and truly logical in his method of thought,
Hutton was accumulating facts upon which to reason in geology, whilst
the so-called geologists of the day were forming theories without facts.
He took a tour to the north of Scotland, through Ross and Caithness, and
returned by way of Aberdeen to Edinburgh, and he studied the mineralogy
and geology of the districts. Returning home, he still went on farming,
and at the same time he became a partner with his friend Davie in a
manufactory of ammonia. By the year 1768, being forty-two years of age,
Hutton had matured his plans; he let his farm at a very advantageous
rent, and, untroubled about his affairs, having his three sisters as his
companions, he went to Edinburgh, and entered the singularly interesting
scientific society of that time. His biographer, Playfair, writes
that Hutton, “employed in maturing his views and studying nature with
unwearied application, now passed his time most usefully and agreeably
to himself, but in silence and obscurity with respect to the world.”
“Free from the interruption of professional avocations, he enjoyed the
entire command of his own time, and had sufficient energy of mind to
afford himself continual occupation.” A good deal of his leisure was now
employed in the prosecution of chemical experiments. In one of these he
made an interesting discovery which relates to the changes that go on in
apparently most unchangeable rocks, and which are due to the action of
percolating water on them. He noticed that in the midst of dense masses
of hard, cold, volcanic rock, called basalt, crystals of great beauty are
found in cavities. They can be fused under the blowpipe easily, and that
is not the case with the surrounding rock. On adding hydrochloric acid
to one of these zeolites, as they are called, a gelatinous substance is
formed out of the crystal, and on evaporation, sea salt or chloride of
sodium is found. “This was the first instance,” writes his biographer,
Playfair, “of an alkali being found in a stony body.” He went to Cheshire
to see the salt mines, went to Birmingham, and then set out for Wales.
His desire was to trace the hard gravel of granular quartz which is found
in such abundance in the soil about Birmingham and elsewhere, to its
origin, and to find out whence it came and how it was distributed. He
found none of the rock in Wales; but on returning he found it in places,
in a body of old rocks which stand out of the country between Bromsgrove
and Birmingham.

Then Hutton wrote a little book on the “Nature, Quality, and Distinction
of Culm and Coal.” The result was more economical than scientific, for
it led to the abolition of a duty on the small coal of Scotland. He read
hard, and every book on travels which referred to physical geography
was carefully studied, so that at last no man of the age was so fit to
deal with the great problem he had been revolving in his mind for thirty
years. All his studies of nature, all his examinations of the surface
of the earth, were with a view of ascertaining the changes that have
taken place on its surface, and of discovering the causes by which they
have been produced. He was impressed with the belief that the former
changes in the earth’s surface have been of the same kind as those now
in progress; that the ancient history of the earth could only be studied
by taking the example of modern changes, and that the past could be
studied from the present, because there was uniformity and constancy and
law in nature. The same energies and forces have always been and have
acted by law in much the same manner as at the present time. With his
true scientific spirit Hutton would have nothing to do with convulsions
or with the origin of the globe; he did not want to guess or speculate,
but to argue logically on facts which anybody could observe. He took
geology out of the age of the marvellous and laid the foundations of
the present aspect of the science. He was in no hurry to publish his
views, possibly because his temperament was cautious, and possibly he
was aware what a furious fuss there would be made about it; how he would
be abused, scolded, and anathematized. There is no doubt that the lights
of the age and public opinion were perfectly incompetent to judge the
merits of such a theory; they were sunken in prejudices, and resisted any
change of opinion. He was aware that a great outcry would be made by men
whose religious opinions were his own, and whom he respected greatly.
In fact, the world, just before the appearance of Hutton’s “Theory of
the Earth,” was less prepared for it than ordinary opinion was for the
doctrines of Charles Darwin one hundred years afterwards. The appearance
of the work of this last great naturalist made, and is still making, a
great stir, but that of Hutton’s work was received, as he anticipated,
with incredible opposition, by the teachers of the day; and its slow
acceptation by the scientific world was remarkable. No abuse could efface
its effects; it was true, and the true alone lasts; it was reasonable,
and it was to the glory of God.

In this book, geology was, for the first time, declared to be in no
way concerned about the origin of things. It was the first in which an
attempt was made to dispense entirely with all hypothetical causes,
and to explain the former changes of the earth’s crust by reference
exclusively to such natural agents as still exist. Hutton laboured to
give fixed principles to geology, as Newton had succeeded in doing to
astronomy. He wrote: “The ruins of an older world are visible in the
present structure of our planet, and the strata which now compose our
continents, have been once beneath the sea, and were formed out of the
waste of pre-existing continents. The same forces are still destroying,
by chemical decomposition or mechanical violence, even the hardest
rocks, transporting the materials to the sea, where they are spread
out and form strata analogous to those of more ancient date. Although
loosely deposited along the bottom of the ocean, they become afterwards
altered and consolidated by volcanic heat, and then turned up, fractured,
and contorted.” He showed that many hard crystalline rocks, such as
basalt, were of igneous origin, and that some of them had been injected
in a melted state through fissures in the older strata. He proved, by
examining Glen Tilt, that granite was once in a state of fusion, and
had cooled. He wrote: “In the economy of the world I can find no traces
of a beginning, no prospect of an end,” a declaration all the more
startling when coupled with the doctrine that all changes on the globe
had been brought about by the slow agency of existing causes. Sir Charles
Lyell, writing on this, stated, “The imagination was first fatigued and
overpowered by endeavouring to conceive the immensity of time required
for the annihilation of whole continents by so insensible a process; and
when the thoughts had wandered through these intermediate periods, no
resting place was assigned in the remotest distance. The oldest rocks
were represented to be of a derivative nature, the last of an antecedent
series, and that, perhaps, of one of many pre-existing worlds.”

Most unfairly was Hutton attacked, and he was thus defended by his friend
Playfair: “In the planetary motions, where geometry has carried the eye
so far, both into the future and the past, we discover no mark either of
the commencement or termination of the present order. It is unreasonable,
indeed, to suppose that such marks should anywhere exist. The Author of
nature has not given laws to the universe, which, like the constitutions
of men, carry in themselves the elements of their own destruction. He has
not permitted in his works any symptom of infancy or of old age, or any
sign by which we may estimate either their future or their past duration.
He may put an end, as He no doubt gave a beginning, to the present system
at some determinate period of time; but we may rest assured that this
great catastrophe will not be brought about by the laws now existing, and
that it will not be indicated by anything which we perceive.”

Hutton studied meteorology, and gave to the world the first reasonable
theory of the cause of rain. He described the formation of invisible
vapour by evaporation, the production of visible mist and cloud, and
finally rain. And he investigated the reasons of the cause of rainfalls
differing in amount in the tropics and temperate zones of the earth.
In 1793 serious illness attacked Hutton after he had been writing his
speculations regarding matter. On his recovery he republished his work
on the “Theory of the Earth,” and replied to many of the attacks upon
it, and later on wrote a work which was not published in the “Elements of
Agriculture.” Illness again seized him, and he died in 1797.

Hutton was such an observer of facts that he rarely read any books
of a theoretical nature, and he never would concede anything to mere
authority. He was indefatigable in study, and wrote largely, expressing
his thoughts constantly with his pen. He rose late, and began to study at
once, and until early dinner. He rarely dined from home, and was a most
sparing eater, and he drank no wine. After dinner he resumed his studies,
or, if the weather was fine, walked for two or three hours, when he could
not be said to give up study, though he might, perhaps, change the object
of it. He rarely departed from this kind of life, except when he was
travelling. To his friends his conversation was inestimable; as great
talents, the most perfect candour, and the utmost simplicity of character
and manners, all united to stamp a value upon it. His slender, active
figure, thin countenance, high forehead, and somewhat aquiline nose, gave
him the appearance of being acute and vigorous in body and mind. He was
full of ardour and enthusiasm, gay and humorous, and most forcible in
argument. The man’s simplicity, determination, and desire for truth, his
carelessness of the opinion of men, and his great regard for his fellow
labourers who were not led away by prejudice and authority, were his
great characteristics. Hutton founded geology as a logical science; and
although he was ignorant of the succession of the forms of life on the
globe, yet his method of studying the past from the present has been,
and still is used as the way in which the extinct animals and plants can
be comprehended in the scheme of nature. Hutton’s works were carefully
studied by, and in after years they were the mainspring of the toil of

There is a very interesting notice of the life of this great man in
the “Encyclopædia Britannica,” by Professor Geikie, and in an essay by
Playfair in the “Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh” to which
the author of this memoir is indebted.





    The succession of the strata recognized—Strata known by their
    fossils, position, and mineral contents—England surveyed by
    Smith and made the type of the results of the succession of
    changes studied by geology.

The ancestors of William Smith were a race of farmers who owned small
tracts of land, and had been settled in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire
for many generations.

William Smith was born at Churchill, a village in Oxfordshire, on
the 23rd of March, 1769, the year which gave birth to Cuvier. Of his
parents he always spoke with great regard, but there is little in the
recollections which he has preserved of them, to show in what degree
they contributed to form his remarkable character. His father he
described as “a very ingenious mechanic,” and mentions as the cause of
his death a severe cold caught while engaged in the erection of some
machinery. Deprived of this parent before he was eight years old, it was
fortunate for him that his mother was a woman of ability, of gentle and
charitable disposition, and attentive to the education of her children.
An expressive pencil sketch and a characteristic description, both from
memory, record his devotion to his mother.

According to his own account, however, not only were the means of his
instruction at the village school very limited, but they were in some
degree interfered with by his own wandering and musing habits. The
rural games in those “merrie daies” of England might sometimes attract
the wayward and comparatively unrestrained scholar from his books; but
he was more frequently learning of another mistress, and forming, for
after-life, a habit of close and curious contemplation of nature.

After his father’s death and his mother’s second marriage, the person to
whom he was principally to look up to for protection, was his father’s
eldest brother, to a portion of whose property he was heir. From this
kinsman, who was but little pleased with his nephew’s love of collecting
the “pundibs”[2] and “poundstones,” or “quoitstones,”[3] and had no
sympathies with his fancies of carving sun-dials on the soft brown
“oven-stone”[4] of the neighbourhood, he with great difficulty wrung, by
repeated entreaty, money for the purchase of a few books fit to instruct
a boy in the rudiments of geometry and surveying. But the practical
farmer was better satisfied when the youth manifested an intelligent
interest in the processes of draining and improving land; and there is no
doubt that young William profited in after-life by the experience, if it
may be so called, which he gathered in his boyhood while accompanying his
relative (“old William”) over his lands at Over Norton.

Whatever he saw, was remembered for ever. To the latest hours of life
he retained a clear and complete recollection of almost every event of
his boyhood and often interested young and old by his vivid pictures
of what he had seen when a child. These notices would be swelled to an
unreasonable degree by introducing the pleasant stories of “the narrative
old man;” but the following recollections, written in his seventieth
year, of events which had passed fifty-six years before, are worth
preserving as evidence of this peculiar circumstantiality of memory.

“I was early a tall and strong-grown boy, and in my way to London,
between twelve and thirteen years of age, I particularly noticed the
great work of cutting down the chalk hill at Henley-upon-Thames, and how
the loaded carriages on an inclined plane were made to bring up the empty

“I was in London shortly after the riots of Lord George Gordon; and at
the time when news of Rodney’s defeat of the French fleet arrived.

“There was then a halfpenny toll for foot-persons passing over
Blackfriars Bridge; the Albion Mills (worked by steam power) had just
before been burnt down.

“Criminals were hanged at Tyburn, where there were cow-houses with wood
seats on top for persons to see the executions.

“From Manchester Square to the Edgeware Road and Paddington, there were
footpaths entirely across open fields. The buildings on the side of the
square were unfinished; but, as more connected with what relates to the
earth, I saw how the ground was made in Manchester Square, for a poor
fellow, in turning his cartload of slush, had let his horse and cart slip
down, so that he was up to his middle in mud, endeavouring to extricate
his horse just as I passed by. This was on the east side of the square.”

In 1783, and from this time to 1787, the young man, without instruction
or sympathy, prosecuted irregularly, but with ardour and success, the
studies to which his mind was awakened. He began to draw, attempted
to colour, became tolerably versed in the geometry and calculations
then thought sufficient for engineers and surveyors, and by these
acquirements, at the age of eighteen, so strongly recommended himself
to Mr. Edward Webb, of Stow-on-the-Wold, who had been invited to make a
complete survey of the parish of Churchill, for the purpose of enclosure,
that he became assistant to that most able and excellent man, and was
taken into his family.

This was the critical moment; from this event flowed all the current
of his useful life, and to the same origin may be ascribed many of the
peculiar habits and feelings, the contrasted lights and shades, which
diversified his character.

Edward Webb was, like his pupil, self-taught, and very slightly
acquainted with languages and general literature, but possessed of great
ingenuity and skill in mechanics, mensuration, logarithms, algebra and
fluxions. His practice as a surveyor included many things now conceded
to the engineer, such as the determination of the forces of water, and
planning machinery. His instruments were commonly invented, often made
and divided by himself; peculiar pentagraphs, theodolites, scales, and
even compasses and field books, of new construction enriched the office
at Stow, and stimulated the young men who were fortunate enough to be
placed in it, to thought and exertion. “I admired,” says the subject of
this memoir, “the talent of my master, his placid and ever unruffled
temper, and his willingness to let me get on, for I required no teaching.”

Speedily entrusted with the management of all the ordinary business of
a surveyor, Mr. Smith traversed, in continual activity, the oolitic
lands of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, the lias clays and red marls
of Warwickshire; visited (1788) the Salperton tunnel on the Thames
and Severn Canal, and (1790) examined the soils and circumstances
connected with a boring for coal in the New Forest, opposite the Shoe
alehouse at Plaitford. All the varieties of soil, in so many surveys in
different districts, were particularly noticed, and compared with the
general aspect and character of the country, and the agricultural and
commercial appropriations. The arrangement of the lias limestone beds in
Warwickshire contrasted with the neighbouring red marls at Inkborough,
the boring for coal in some dark lias clays on the road to Warwick, the
absence of arenaceous beds from the limestones of Churchill—these were
some of the points treasured in a mind capable of combining them at a
future time.

In 1793 we find him engaged in executing surveys and complete systems
of levelling, for the line of a proposed canal. In the course of the
operations which he performed in the summer and autumn, a speculation
which had come into his mind regarding a general law affecting the strata
of the district, was submitted to proof and confirmed. He had _supposed_
that the strata lying above the coal were not laid horizontally, but
inclined; that they were all inclined in one direction, viz., the
eastward, so as to successively terminate at the surface, and thus to
“resemble, on a large scale, the ordinary appearance of superposed slices
of bread and butter.” This supposition was now proved to be correct by
the levelling processes executed in two parallel valleys, for in each of
the levelled lines the strata of “red ground,” “lias,” and “freestone”
(afterwards called “oolite”), came down in an eastern direction and sunk
below the level, and yielded place to the next in succession.

But at the same time it was known to Mr. Smith that the position of
the strata of coal in Somersetshire was not generally conformed to
that of the “red earth” “lias,” and other beds above; the same thing
was proved to him by an inspection of the colliery at Bucklechurch, in
Gloucestershire; he knew besides that the great faults which divide _all_
the coal strata underground, were in general found not to divide _any_ of
the superincumbent rocks which formed the surface.

Geologists who, at the present time, notwithstanding the devoted
attention which has been paid to the phenomena of local displacement,
find a difficulty in understanding the causes, may imagine the perplexity
in the mind of a _discoverer_. Mr. Smith felt this perplexity severely,
but not long. The Canal Bill, on which he was engaged, received the
sanction of Parliament in 1794; and one of the first steps taken by the
judicious committee of management was to depute two members of their
body to accompany Mr. Smith, “their engineer,” on a tour of inquiry and
observation regarding the construction, management, and trade of other
navigations in England and Wales.

The tour extended altogether nine hundred miles, and occupied between
one and two months; by one route the party reached Newcastle, and by
another returned, through Shropshire and Wales to Bath. Mr. Palmer and
Mr. Perkins were gentlemen well acquainted with coal-working, and
they willingly stayed to inspect every new invention applied to canals
and collieries; but Mr. Smith’s treasured object of consideration on
the road, that which occupied all his thoughts in the intervals of
professional inquiries, was the aspect and structure of the country
passed through, in order to determine if his preconceived generalizations
of a settled order of succession, continuity of range at the surface, and
general declination eastward, were true on a large scale.

It is needless now to say that his general views were justified; he
found the strata from the vicinity of Bath and Bristol prolonged into
the north of England, in the same general order of succession with the
general eastward dip. There is, however, one part of the conclusions
adopted in this rapid survey from a postchaise, which merits particular
attention. He passed through York on the high road to Newcastle, and saw
at a distance of from five to fifteen miles to the east the hills of
chalk and oolite. He was satisfied of their nature by their _contours_
and _relative position_, and by their position on the surface in relation
to the lias and “red ground” occasionally seen on the road. This is, in
fact, the only authority he could rely upon for drawing, in 1800, the
continuations of the chalk of Wiltshire, and the oolite of Somersetshire,
through the eastern parts of Yorkshire, but he drew them with a
considerable approximation to accuracy.

Engaged for six years in setting out and superintending the works on the
Somersetshire Coal Canal, Mr. Smith found but few opportunities of making
known to scientific persons, the peculiar generalizations which had
taken possession of his mind. But in the execution of these works he was
putting his thoughts into practice, informing the contractors what would
be the nature of the ground to be cut through, what parts of the canal
would require unusual care to be kept water-tight, what was the most
advantageous system of work. Another singular advantage attended this
engagement. The notions which up to this time he had obtained regarding
the distribution of organic remains were comparatively vague. He found
peculiar plants in the “clift” above the coal, particular shells in the
lias and oolites, but none in the red ground, and he had combined these
simple facts so far as to see that “each stratum had been successively
the bed of the sea, and contained in it the mineralized monuments of the
races of organic beings then in existence.” But it was the necessity of
possessing an accurate knowledge of the different sorts of rock, sand,
and clay, which were to be cut through on the line of the canal, which
led him to examine minutely and scrupulously into the distribution of the
“fossils” which he had been in the habit of collecting. The result was a
proposition which he proved to be locally true, and of practical value,
and which has now a world-wide application, “that each stratum contained
organized fossils peculiar to itself, and might, in cases otherwise
doubtful, be recognized and discriminated from others like it, but in a
different part of the series, by examination of them.” In other words,
he discovered that strata are to be recognized by their fossils. He now
remarked also the contrast between the rounded state and mixed condition
of the fossils which lay in gravel deposits and the sharply preserved
specimens lying in natural associations in the strata, and thus acquired
a notion of the distinction between what were afterwards named diluvial
and stratified deposits.

The possessor of all these generalizations, now (1795) twenty-six years
of age, was still shrouded in the obscure village of High Littleton, but
in this year he removed to Bath, and took up his abode in the central
house of a short range of buildings called the Cottage Crescent, which
occupied a picturesque and elevated site south of that city. “From this
point,” says he, “the eye roved anxiously over the interesting expanse
which extended before me to the Sugar-loaf mountain in Monmouthshire, and
embraced all in the vicinities of Bath and Bristol. Then did a thousand
thoughts occur to me, respecting the geology of that and adjacent
districts continually under my eye, which have never been reduced to
writing.” He continued to direct all the operations on the Somerset Coal
Canal, and very copious note-books attest the constancy and exactitude of
his attention to that occupation. To this cause, indeed, may be ascribed
the extreme rarity of any essays, or even memoranda, from which the
progress of his geological studies can be gathered.

That in January, 1796, he had begun to commit his thoughts to paper, in
a lucid arrangement for publication, the written proofs remain. In 1797
he drew a larger general plan for such a work; but not till 1799, after
his engagement ceased with the Coal Canal Company, did he make public his
intention to compose a general work on the stratification of Britain, or
enter on the prosecution of an actual survey of the geological structure
of the whole of England and Wales.

In the execution of the canal, Mr. Smith had found the means of applying
his newly acquired knowledge to useful practical problems, such as how
to draw the line through a country full of porous rocks, so as best to
retain the limited supplies of water which frequent mills left to the
navigation, where to place bridges on a good foundation, how to intercept
and conduct the springs, and where to open quarries of proper stone. We
find him also engaged, as early as 1796, in the short intervals which
could be snatched from the main business before him, in putting to
practical proof his theoretical views of the earth’s structure and the
properties of the mixed calcareous and argillaceous strata in the hills
near Bath, by a new and successful process of land-draining.

The earliest connected remarks which have been found, bear the date of
January, 1796, and relate to organic remains and their distribution in
the different strata. The vicinity of Bath is rich in fossils, and fine
collections were formed there previous to Mr. Smith’s researches. It
might be after inspecting some of these treasures, whose full value was
so entirely unknown to their owners, that the following reflections,
which strikingly illustrate the enlarged state of his own views at that
period, were penned:—

                                     “Dunkerton, Swan, Jan. 5, 1796.

    “Fossils have been long studied as great curiosities,
    collected with great pains, treasured with great and at a
    great expense, and shown and admired with as much pleasure
    as a child’s hobby-horse is shown and admired by himself and
    his playfellows, because it is pretty; and this has been done
    by _thousands who have never paid the least regard to that
    wonderful order and regularity with which nature has disposed
    of these singular productions, and assigned to each class its
    peculiar stratum_.”

Gifted in a very uncommon degree with that philosophical faith in the
generality and harmony of natural laws which is a characteristic of
discoveries in natural science, Mr. Smith was at the same time remarkably
disinclined to indulge in himself, or even to tolerate in others, mere
speculations in geology. Whatever of this nature he found in the circle
of his reading, was severely judged by a close collocation of the
hypothesis which had been advanced with the phenomena of stratification
which he had entirely established. These judgments might be erroneous
in cases which required the knowledge of other data, not then collected,
for a true and general solution; but the very unreasonableness of raising
the standard of his own discoveries in a limited region, for condemning
a speculation perhaps founded on other truths occurring elsewhere, shows
how firmly these discoveries, and the influences belonging to them, were
established and fortified in his mind. The following passage, written in
January, 1796, might have been acknowledged by the author to contain his
real opinions forty years later:—

“Therefore every man of prudence and observation who has paid the
strictest attention to mineralogy, the structure of the earth, and the
changes it has undergone, will be very cautious how he sets about to
invent a system which nature cannot conform to without having recourse
to subterraneous fires, volcanic eruptions, or uncommon convulsions, by
which every hill and dale must have been formed and every rock must have
been rent to form those chasms, which, in comparison to the strata they
are found in, are no more than sun-cracks in a clod of clay; yet such has
been the language of ingenious men, who have set their theoretical worlds
a-going without either tooth or pinion of nature’s mechanism belonging to

In October and November of this year (1796), we find him returning to the
contemplation of organic remains; discussing the circumstances which
attend the sparry substance occupying the place of the shell, which has
been removed, in the lias, and the empty cavity, where the shell was,
surrounding a loose stony cast of the interior, in the freestone (oolite).

That his mind was now actively employed in tracing out the bearings of
the extensive subject before him, will be evident from the following
extract, dated August, 1797:—

    “_Locality of plants, insects, birds, etc., arises from the
    nature of the strata._

    “Where art has not diverted the order of things and nature is
    left to herself, a considerable locality may be observed in
    many animals and vegetables as well as mineral productions, by
    which they evidently attached to particular soils to such a
    degree that, if this subject were studied with attention, it
    would form one of the principal external characteristics of the
    strata underneath. Though it may seem mysterious to some, that
    birds, beasts, insects, etc., which have the liberty of roving
    at pleasure, should feel any particular attachment for this or
    that soil, yet the wonder ceases when we consider how the chain
    of natural things is linked together, and how these creatures
    are taught to cull their food from insects that are lodged in,
    or seeds that are produced from, particular plants that grow
    upon particular soils.”

Smith had seen layers of limestone crowded with shells succeeded by
others containing corals. He found ammonites and oysters in some, and
insect remains in others, and his speculations assumed the curious phase
of the sentences just noticed. But he soon became aware that accident had
much to do with the presence of certain organic remains in strata, and
that, whilst some fossils, like corals, once lived where they are now
preserved in strata, others were carried there as the deposit collected.

A manuscript, dated December 2, 1796, Dunkerton, Swan Inn, headed “Strata
in general, and their position,” and evidently intended for publication,
commences thus:—

“The strata being found as regular on one side of a rivulet, river, deep
valley or channel as on the other, over an extent of many miles, when
proper allowance is made for the inclination, and for the variation of
the surface, is it not reasonable to suppose that the same strata may be
found as regular on one side of the sea or ocean as on opposite sides of
a deep valley upon land, and if so, and the continuation of the strata
is general, what is their general direction or drift? Is it in straight
lines from pole to pole, or in curved lines surrounding the globe
regularly inclined to the east?”

After hinting at a general cause for such an assumed regularity, he adds,
“But all theories are best built on practical rules, which will enable
any one to make such observations for himself as must carry conviction
along with them; for a work so novel as this must expect to find some
who will hardly believe what is plain to be seen; for all men do not
see alike, nor can patiently trudge through the dirt to search for truth
among the stubborn rocks where nature has best displayed her.... Shall,
therefore, describe a number of quarries, cliffs, etc., at a great
distance, etc. See Book——”

In what seems to be the continuation of this paper, we see the
predominant desire of the author to establish the certainty and
generality of the inclination of strata, which he had proved on a limited
scale near Bath.

“If the strata lay horizontal, every part of the sea-shore would present
the same beds at the water edge instead of that wonderful variety
which is found on the coast and banks of every river and rivulet in
the kingdom, especially those that run in an east and west direction,
or nearly so. In such situations the young mineralogist may soon be
convinced of that wonderful regularity which nature has adopted,
especially if the shores are rocky; he will there find that, independent
of partial and local dips which appear in different quarries of the same
stone, the outlines, or top and bottom layers of each complete stratum or
class of stones or earth, considered as a mass, have a general tendency
towards the eastern horizon.”

By the term “dip” is meant the inclination that strata make with the
horizon. Mr. W. Smith constantly brought forward his well worked out fact
that the strata of England dip from west to east more or less. The oldest
strata come to the surface in Wales and the lake districts, and because
they were upheaved the newer strata were tilted and curved, and the slope
is to the east.

In February, 1798, we find as part of the introduction to this
contemplated work, an interesting notice of some of the steps by which
the author was conducted to his general conclusions.

“It will be readily admitted by all classes of men, from the most
accurate observers of nature to the simplest peasant, that there is some
degree of regularity in the strata from whence our building materials
are generally collected. Masons, miners, and quarrymen can identify
particular beds of stone dug many miles apart; indeed, every cliff and
quarry presents a true section of a great many beds of stone, which may
be found of the same quality and in the same position in all or most of
the neighbouring cliffs and quarries. And this regularity is nowhere more
conspicuous than in the lias quarries of Somersetshire, from whence these
observations first took their rise, about seven years since.

“For the stratification of stone struck me, who had not been accustomed
to such appearances, as something very uncommon, and till I had learned
the technical terms of the strata, and made a subterraneous journey or
two, I could not conceive a clear idea of what seemed so familiar to the
colliers; but when these difficulties were surmounted, and an intelligent
bailiff accompanied me, I was much pleased with my peregrinations below,
and soon learnt enough of the order of the strata to describe on a plan
the manner of working the coal in the lands I was then surveying.

“Being engaged soon after to survey the lands and take the levels of
a canal that was proposed to be made from the collieries to Bath, I
observed a variation of the strata on the same line of level, and soon
found that the lias rock, which about three miles back was full three
hundred feet above this line, was now thirty feet below it, and became
the bed of the river, and in that direction did not appear any more at
the surface. This induced me to note the inclination of the same rock,
which I knew was to be found at the head of two other valleys lying each
about a mile distant from, and in a parallel direction to, the one just
described, and accordingly found it to dip the same to the south-east,
and sink under the rivers in a similar manner.

“From this I began to consider that other strata might also have some
general inclination as well as this (though I had been frequently
told by the colliers that there was no regularity in the strata above
ground), yet, by tracing them through the country some miles, I found the
inclination of every bed to be nearly the same as [that of] the lias;
and notwithstanding the partial and local dips of many quarries which
varied from this rule, I was thoroughly satisfied by these observations
that everything had a general tendency to the south-east, and thence
concluded there could be none of these beds to the north-west, the truth
of which conjecture was soon verified by a tour of observation through
the northern parts of this kingdom.”

In March, 1798, Mr. Smith purchased a small but beautiful estate, in
a deep valley, within three miles of Bath, almost overgrown with wild
wood, hiding in its bosom a sheet of water and a small mill. Through
this retired possession the canal was cut, without greatly injuring its
remarkable beauty; and, under Mr. Smith’s fond and tasteful attention the
scene was partly cleared, the pond expanded to a lake, the cottage became
a comfortable home, in which he passed many happy and thoughtful hours.
He did not, however, at any time reside long in this favourite retreat,
but took up his station for about a year at the village of Mitford, near
Bath, and engaged in the last duties which he performed as resident
engineer to the Coal Canal.

Owing to a misunderstanding with the Company, this occupation ceased
in June, 1799, and Mr. Smith felt and acknowledged that a new era in
his life had arrived. He was not only at liberty, but placed under the
necessity to consider the best means of making known his geological
system, and of founding upon it a professional practice, which might
provide the expense of travelling to verify and extend his knowledge, and
fill up the outline of a geological map of England and Wales.

In these objects, which were ever closely associated in his own mind,
he was successful; the most valuable portions of his discoveries soon
became public property, and he quickly acquired extensive employment in
the practical applications of these discoveries to mineral surveying
and draining of land on a large scale. The extensive diffusion of
his fame and opinions, which now began, was owing to no actual and
authorized publication, but to continual discussions and explorations
with several active friends, oral communications and exhibitions of maps
at agricultural meetings (then frequent), and circulation of manuscript
copies of tabular expositions of the series of strata at that time

His views at this epoch appear by the following notice:—

“During my five years’ close confinement to practical engineering on the
Coal Canal, my much-wished-for opportunity of collecting observations
enough from the ranges of the different strata to make an accurate
delineation of the stratification throughout England were suspended.

“I had seen enough by my tour of August, 1794, to satisfy myself of the
practicability of doing it, and often wasted much time in poring over
maps, in contriving how the ranging edges and planes of different strata
could best be rendered intelligible: models were thought of, and one
small map was cut along the edges of some of the strata with a view of
defining their extent, and of showing how one stratum was successively
covered by another.

“I drew in colours, on a map of the vicinity of Bath, and on ‘Day and
Masters’ county survey,’ all [that had been observed] very accurately to
a certain extent, which embraced an interesting but intricate variety of
strata in hills around Bath; and some small maps of England were spoiled
by speculating on the ranges of stratification without sufficient data.
The intricacies in their marginal edges were such that I found, to mark
point by point, as the facts were ascertained, was the only way in which
I could safely proceed.

“My experience in what I had done upon the Somersetshire map was
sufficient to convince me that to make a map of the strata on a scale
as large as Cary’s England (five miles to an inch), with sufficient
accuracy, much of it should first be drawn on a larger scale.”

It was fortunate for Mr. Smith, and for the progress of his views, that
he gained at this time the friendship of a man singularly competent to
estimate the truth and value of these views, and both able and willing
to advocate the merit of their author. The Rev. Benjamin Richardson was
at this time living in Bath, and possessed a choice collection of local
fossils, mostly gathered by his own diligent hands. Extensively versed
in natural history, and generally well acquainted with the progress of
science, he was perfectly enthusiastic in following out, and liberal in
enabling others to prosecute, new and ingenious researches, especially
if they tended to practical and public good. He knew accurately the
country in which Mr. Smith had principally worked, and was acquainted
with the views entertained on the subject of fossils, which had been
recorded in books, or were adopted by the collectors, who were even then
celebrated in the vicinity of Bath. He had no knowledge of the laws of
stratification and the connection between the forms of organic life and
the order of superposition of the strata; while, on the other hand, his
new friend had very little knowledge of the true nature of these organic
forms, and their exact relation to analogous living types. The result of
a meeting between two such reciprocally adjusted minds was an electric
combination; the fossils which the one possessed were marshalled in the
order of strata by the other, until they all found their appropriate
places, and the arrangement of the cabinet became a true copy of nature.

That such fossils had been found, in such rocks, was immediately
acknowledged by Mr. Richardson to be true, though the connection had
not before presented itself to his mind; but when Mr. Smith added the
assurance, that everywhere throughout this district, and to considerable
distances around, it was a general law that the “_same strata were found
always in the same order of superposition and contained the same peculiar
fossils_,” his friend was both astonished and incredulous. He immediately
acceded to Mr. Smith’s proposal for undertaking some field examinations
to determine the truth of these assertions, and having interested in the
object a new and learned associate, the Rev. Joseph Townsend (author
of “Travels in Spain”), they at once executed the project. Among other
places visited with this view was the detached hill on which Dundry
Church is conspicuously elevated. From its form and position in respect
of the lias of Keynsham, Mr. Smith had inferred that this hill was capped
by the lowest of the Bath “freestones” (inferior oolite); and, from his
general views, he expected to find in that rock the fossils which the
freestones contained near Bath; that is to say, on the westward rise,
which he believed to affect all the strata near Bath above the coal. It
is needless now to say, that examination confirmed both the inference of
the character of the rock and the conformity of its organic contents.
The effect of this and other illustrations of the reality of Mr. Smith’s
speculations was decisive. In general literature, and especially in
natural history, Mr. Smith was immeasurably surpassed by his friends,
but they acknowledged that, from his labours in a different quarter, a
new light had begun to manifest itself in the previously dark horizon of
geology, and they set themselves earnestly to make way for its auspicious

What a step was made from the old ideas that fossils were sports of
nature to the proof that during the long ages of the earth’s history
every deposit of river mud, sea-shore sand, and marine collection
contained relics of its age of accumulation; and that there has been a
succession of animals and plants on the earth foreshadowing those that
now exist.

One day, after dining together at the house of the Rev. Joseph Townsend,
it was proposed by one of this triumvirate, that a tabular view of the
main features of the subject, as it had been expounded by Mr. Smith,
and verified and enriched by their joint labours, should be drawn up
in writing. Richardson held the pen, and wrote down, from Smith’s
dictation, the different strata according to their order of succession in
descending order, commencing with the chalk, and numbered, in continuous
series, down to the coal, below which the strata were not sufficiently
determined, according to the scheme already noticed.

To this description of the strata was added, in the proper places, a list
of the most remarkable fossils which had been gathered in the several
layers of rock. The names of these fossils were principally supplied
by Mr. Richardson, and are such as were then, and for a long time
afterwards, familiarly employed in the many collections near Bath. Of the
document thus jointly arranged each person present took a copy, under no
stipulation as to the use which should be made of it, and accordingly it
was extensively distributed, and remained for a long period the type and
authority for the descriptions and order of superposition of the strata
near Bath.

Years rolled on, and Smith’s wanderings over England and their results
were laid down by him on a map, which was to be published. With regard
to this map of the strata, it may be said that it was very trying work
for the publisher as well as the author. The basis of the map, as
already explained, was in many respects peculiar; the colouring of it
was more so. Instead of the _flat colouring_ ending in narrow defined
edges usually employed for maps, Mr. Smith introduced a peculiar style
of _full tints_ for the edges of the strata, _softened_ into the paler
tint employed for the remainder of the area which they occupied on the
surface. This new style of colouring gave a picturesque effect to the
map, but required more than usual skill and patience to be correctly
executed, and occasioned great trouble in examining the copies. The
colouring of the map was thus rendered more expensive than had been
anticipated, and notwithstanding the labour was well paid for, it was not
always at first properly performed.

At length the difficulties inseparable from such a task were so far
overcome, and this enormous labour was so far completed, that a coloured
map of the strata of England and Wales was submitted to the consideration
of the Society of Arts, supported by various testimonials of its general
accuracy and value, in April and May, 1815. The result was the award of
the premium of £50, which had been in vain offered for very many years
for a work of this description—a reward which Mr. Smith might have
claimed long ago, had not an honest desire to produce his work complete
withheld the attempt. The map was published on the 1st of August, 1815,
dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks, and from that hour the fame of its author
as a great original discoverer in English geology was secured. Would
that this epoch of his revived and enlarged reputation had also been the
dawn of more prosperous fortunes, or that, satisfied with the degree
in which he had accomplished his gigantic task, he had left to others
the completion of his work, and devoted himself for a time to even the
humblest of those professional labours by which he had been at least
supported through oppressive difficulties, and by which he must have
already grown comparatively rich but for the incessant drain of money in
following up discoveries which no living man could reasonably hope to

Science, indeed, is a mistress whose golden smiles are not often lavished
on poor and enthusiastic suitors. The time for a strenuous exertion was
indeed come. Geology had kept him poor by consuming all his professional
gains; the neglect of his employers too often left these unpaid; in
such a condition one unfortunate step was ruin, and that step was
made. On the property which he had purchased near Bath, and which he
had greatly improved, he was tempted to lay a railway for bringing the
freestone of Comb down to the Coal Canal, to open new quarries of this
stone, and to establish new machinery for cutting and shaping it for
buildings. The project, which looked well at first, failed utterly by
the unexpected deficiency of the stone, on whose good quality the whole
success depended. The abandonment of this cherished scheme was followed
by the compulsory sale of the still more cherished property, a load of
debt remained to be discharged, and the miserable effects fell heavily on
others besides himself. But there were not wanting persons of station,
knowledge, and humanity, who, esteeming Mr. Smith and admiring his
solitary and ceaseless industry, exerted themselves to save him from the
sad fate which seemed to await him.

Such things are common in the lives of men, but they are not often
encountered by so resolved and patient a spirit as that of Mr. Smith. One
who saw the struggle may boldly say this, because there can be no other
motive for mentioning private and personal griefs but to show forth the
character of the mind which could firmly bear and overcome them. As a
mean of reducing his difficulties he proposed to sell that geological
collection which had been so much prized, and through the assistance of
some friends a communication was opened with the Treasury. Two gentlemen
being deputed to examine the collection, reported favourably, and their
lordships were pleased to authorize the purchase, in order that the
specimens might be fitted up in the British Museum. There was also some
defined notion of engaging Mr. Smith’s services at the museum to take
charge of and explain the geological principles which this collection
was intended to illustrate; but this project came to nothing.

In the winter of 1818-19, Mr. Smith revisited, after an absence of ten
years, his native village, re-examined the unforgotten localities where
in childhood his “pundibs” and “poundstones” were gathered, and collected
“marlstone” fossils from an excavation at Churchill Mill, nearly at the
same points where he had noticed them in 1787. In one whose life had been
one long wandering, and who had earned for himself an immortal name,
this return to the haunts of his childhood and the simplicity of village
occupations, must have excited many interesting reflections. He had sold
his patrimony, and what had been the modest dwelling of his ancestors
for two hundred years; he had disbursed in travelling for what he deemed
a public object all that he had earned; while one of his two brothers,
quietly prosecuting trade in his native village, had grown a rich and
prosperous man.

In the autumn of 1819 Mr. Smith gave up his house in London, after
fifteen years’ occupation, and was compelled to submit to the sale of
his furniture, collections, and books, preserving in fact, only his
papers, maps, sections and other drawings, through the kindness of a most
faithful friend. While this happened, he was in Yorkshire busily engaged,
apparently oblivious, perhaps sternly regardless, of what seemed to
others an insupportable misfortune. He deemed it an inevitable corollary
to his irretrievable losses in the unlucky speculation already mentioned
near Bath, and armed himself with what seemed more than fortitude to meet

One more used to monetary arrangements would have foreseen and averted
this occurrence; but on the practical geologist the blow fell with
stunning effect. He surrendered with deep regret his interest in the
much-loved and really valuable little property near Bath, quitted London,
and consented to have no home. From this time for seven years he became
a wanderer in the north of England, rarely visiting London, except when
drawn thither by the professional engagements which still, even in
his loneliest retirements, were pressed upon him, and yielded him an
irregular, contracted, and fluctuating income.

In the winter of 1819-20, Mr. Smith, having perhaps more than usual
leisure, undertook to walk from Lincolnshire into Oxfordshire. The object
proposed was to pass along a particular line through the counties of
Rutland, Northampton, Bedford, and Oxford, but the ultimate destination
was Swindon, in Wiltshire.

“Leaving the great road at Colsterworth, with some reflections on the
birthplace of Newton,[5] we crossed in a day’s easy walk, the little
county of Rutland, its hills of oolite and sand, its slopes of upper
lias, and its valleys often showing marlstone, and reached the obscure
village of Gretton, on the edge of Rockingham Forest. Whatever may now
be the accommodations at this village, they were very wretched in 1819
(December), but the odd stories of supernatural beings and incredible
frights which were narrated by the villagers assembled at the little inn,
greatly amused Mr. Smith, and reminded him of exactly parallel tales
which circulated around Whichwood Forest in his boyhood.

“The next morning we walked to Kettering, noticing on the road the
peculiar characters of the Northamptonshire oolite. In this walk Mr.
Smith had somehow sprained or over-fatigued himself, and he chose to
proceed to Wellingborough in a chaise. From this point, situated on sand
of the oolite series, we resumed our geological proceedings on foot,
and passing by Irchester, Woolaston, and Boziate, traversed in the next
hills the oolite, the forest marble, the cornbrash, and an outlier of
Kelloway’s rock. The road up Boziate Hill was mantled with fossiliferous
stone, some of which, obtained from the hill-top, was believed to be
Kelloway’s rock, and was found to contain _Ammonites sublævis_ and other
fossils. A fine specimen of this ammonite was here laid by a particular
tree on the road side, as it was large and inconvenient for the pocket,
according to a custom often observed by Mr. Smith, whose memory for
localities was so exact, that he has often, after many years, gone direct
to some hoard of this nature, to recover his fossils. This road, however,
over Boziate Hill, he was not to travel again.

“From Olney to Buckingham the route was performed in chaise. The stone
dug here in clay attracted much attention, and Mr. Smith doubted whether
to rank it as forest marble or cornbrash. We now crossed the oolitic
country to Aynhoe, celebrated for its fossils, on foot; next day
continued the walk to Deddington, Chapelhouse, and Churchill, and after
a few days walked to Burford, and then travelled in the ordinary way
to Swindon, Oxford, and London. In passing through Oxford, Mr. Smith,
for the first time in his life, had the pleasure of seeing Professor
Buckland, at the house of Mr. Bliss, the bookseller, with whom he walked
over Shotover Hill, on his way toward London.”

This little tour is thus briefly narrated, because it appears in all
respects a fair example of the usual way in which Mr. Smith explored
the country, walking when the object he had in view required this mode
of examination, travelling as fast as possible in all other cases, but
always recording in note-books or on maps, the observations he made.

Up in the north of England on the east coast Smith loved to wander
beneath the cliffs, noting the minutest variations in the stratification,
detecting the slightest marks of dislocation, watching the peculiarities
of the sea’s action on materials of unlike qualities, and inferring the
causes which had anciently modified the outline of the land, and covered
the low cliffs of the oolitic series with fragments of the lias from
Whitby, of the coal and limestone from Teesdale or Swaledale, and of the
granite and syenite from the Shap Fells and Carrock Pike. In numerous
papers dedicated to the local geology of Scarborough, his reflections
on these subjects are recorded; his exertions in examining one curious
case of dislocation on the north side of the Castle Hill, brought on
rheumatic, or rather a paralytic affection of the muscles of the lower
extremities, which bound him a prisoner in bed in the early part of 1825.

Previous to this accident, he had taken part in a course of lectures to
the Literary and Philosophical Society of Hull; after it had occurred,
and before its effects were removed, while yet he was incapable of
walking, and was actually lifted into the carriage which took him away,
he accepted and executed a similar engagement proposed by the Literary
and Philosophical Society of Sheffield. It was a singular spectacle,
to witness the delivery of lectures which required continual reference
to large maps and numerous diagrams, by a man who could not stand, but
was forced to read his address from a chair, to an audience of several
hundred persons in a room not very well adapted for the voice. But it
was far more extraordinary to witness during all the severity of the
disorder, the unpretending patience and fortitude of the sufferer, who,
had he then permitted his mind to dwell too curiously on the state of
his health and the state of his finances, might have added the bitter
foretaste of want and privation to the actual difficulty of the moment.
Such reflections and such anticipations might sadden the hearts of those
who surrounded him, but Mr. Smith would have thought it unworthy of his
resolved mind and firm trust in Providence, to have abated one jot of his
accustomed cheerfulness, shortened one of the innumerable playful stories
which were always springing to his lips from the rich treasure-house of
his memory, or turned his meditations from his favourite subjects.

At Sheffield, while slowly recovering the use of his limbs, he busied
himself in arranging a body of information which he had gathered
concerning the neighbouring coal districts; and on removing soon
afterwards to his old quarters at Doncaster, he worked much on the large
“Old Survey of Yorkshire,” thinking to complete the colouring of it. By
degrees he recovered entirely from his painful disorder, and from this
year (1825) to 1839, nothing of the kind ever affected him again.

But these years were fruitful of events interesting to the friends of
William Smith. In February, 1831, the Council of the Geological Society
of London honoured him by awarding to him the first Wollaston medal; and
the terms with which the gift was accompanied render this act on the part
of the society and the president extremely memorable. Dr. Wollaston’s
services to physical science were well known and duly honoured in his
lifetime; geology has felt, and will long feel the benefit of his dying
bequest. He invested one thousand pounds in the three per cent. Reduced
Bank Annuities, in the joint names of himself and the Geological Society,
and directed that after his decease, “the society should apply the
dividends in promoting researches concerning the mineral structure of the
earth, or in rewarding those by whom such researches should hereafter
be made; or in such manner as should appear to the Council of the said
society for the time being, conducive to the interests of the society
in particular, or the science of geology in general.” He afterwards
enjoined the society “not to hoard the dividends parsimoniously, but to
expend them liberally, and, as far as might be, annually, in furthering
the objects of the trust.” The first year’s income from this fund was
appropriated to the acquisition of a die for a medal bearing the head of
Dr. Wollaston, and this having been undertaken by Mr. Wyon, the society
was prepared in 1831 to fulfil the trust with which they were charged.
The council accordingly passed unanimously the following resolutions,
Jan. 11, 1831:—

“1. That a medal of fine gold, bearing the impress of the head of Dr.
Wollaston, and not exceeding the value of ten guineas, be procured with
the least possible delay.

“2. That the first Wollaston medal be given to Mr. William Smith, in
consideration of his being a great original discoverer in English
geology; and especially for his having been the first, in this country,
to discover and to teach the identification of strata, and to determine
their succession by means of their imbedded fossils.”

The announcement of this award was made by a congenial spirit. The chair
of the Geological Society was then filled by one of its most honoured
members, an original thinker and faithful observer, well qualified
to appreciate the originality of Mr. Smith’s discoveries, and well
acquainted by actual research with their extent and their value. In his
address on this occasion, Professor Sedgwick, speaking in the name of
the Geological Society, sketched a brief but satisfactory history of
Mr. Smith’s career, demonstrated the entire justice of the award of the
Council of the Geological Society, and added his personal testimony in
favour of Mr. Smith’s claims in terms of no ordinary value.

“I for one can speak with gratitude of the practical lessons I have
received from Mr. Smith. It was by tracking his footsteps, with his maps
in my hand, through Wiltshire and the neighbouring counties, where he had
trodden nearly thirty years before, that I first learned the subdivisions
of our oolitic series, and apprehended the meaning of those arbitrary and
somewhat uncouth terms, which we derive from him as our master, which
have long become engrafted into the conventional language of English
geologists, and through their influence have been, in part, also adopted
by the naturalists of the continent.

“After such a statement, gentlemen, I have a right to speak boldly, and
to demand your approbation of the council’s award. I could almost dare
to wish that stern lover of truth, to whose bounty we owe the “Donation
Fund,” that dark eye, before the glance of which all false pretensions
withered, were once more amongst us. And if it be denied us to hope that
a spirit like that of Wollaston should often be embodied on the earth, I
would appeal to those intelligent men who form the strength and ornament
of this society, whether there was any place for doubt or hesitation?
whether we were not compelled, by every motive which the judgment can
approve and the heart can sanction, to perform this act of filial duty,
before we thought of the claims of any other man, and to place our first
honour on the brow of the father of English geology?

“If, in the pride of our present strength, we were disposed to forget
our origin, our very speech bewrays us: for we use the language which he
taught us in the infancy of our science. If we, by our united efforts,
are chiselling the ornaments and slowly raising up the pinnacles of one
of the temples of nature, it was he who gave the plan, and laid the
foundations, and erected a portion of the solid walls by the unassisted
labour of his hands.

“The men who have led the way in useful discoveries, have ever held the
first place of honour in the estimation of all who in after times have
understood their works or trodden in their steps. It is upon this abiding
principle that we have acted; and in awarding our first prize to Mr.
Smith, we believe that we have done honour to our own body, and are
sanctioned by the highest feelings which bind societies together.

“I think it a high privilege to fill this chair on an occasion when we
met, not coldly to deliberate on the balance of conflicting claims, in
which, after all, we might go wrong, and give the prize to one man by
injustice to another; but to perform a sacred duty, where there is no
room for doubt or error, and to perform an act of public gratitude, in
which the judgment and the feelings are united.”[6]

On this occasion Mr. Smith presented to the society the original Table of
Stratification drawn in 1799, and a circle-map of the vicinity of Bath,
which had been geologically coloured about the same period.

The British Association, founded at York in 1831, held its second meeting
at Oxford in June, 1832; and on this occasion the Wollaston Medal,
awarded in the previous year, was put in Mr. Smith’s possession; and he
was further gratified by the announcement that a pension of one hundred
pounds, solicited by the united voice of English geologists, had been
assigned him by the Government of His Majesty William the Fourth.

The meeting of the British Association was this year (1839) appointed to
be held at Birmingham, on the 26th of August, and Mr. Smith received
from Mr. Joseph Hodgson (one of the secretaries of the meeting) a special
and very cordial invitation to be present. He stopped on his journey to
Birmingham, at the house of friends at Northampton. Here the kindest
welcome awaited him; and in addition to the pleasure of contemplating the
beautiful series of Northamptonshire fossils which had been collected, he
was gratified by several excursions into the neighbouring country, which
had always been interesting to him since, in earlier days, he had opened
the curious volume of Morton’s “Northamptonshire.” While thus tracing the
boundaries of the minor divisions of the oolitic rocks which he had been
the first to distinguish, a slight cold by which he was affected seemed
to the eyes of his friends, to deserve more attention than he bestowed on
it; medical assistance became immediately advisable. William Smith had
for many years been successful in guarding his own usually robust health,
and he was slow and reluctant to admit of advice better suited to the
disorder which now attacked him, and which on a former occasion had so
prostrated his strength that he recovered with difficulty. He began to
feel the attack serious, and to perceive the alarm in the faces of his

It was difficult to believe, that under that calm, thoughtful, and
pleased expression of countenance, those animated descriptions of the
country which he had visited a few days previously, those plans of
further and strenuous exertion, which asked years of active life for
completion, lurked pain and fatal disease. At first it seemed as if the
remedies applied were producing beneficial effects, but this hope failed;
the uncomplaining sufferer sank continually in each succeeding hour, till
his eyes lost their bright and kindly light and the ever-varying features
became fixed in serene and awful tranquility (Aug. 28, 1839).

His life, written by his distinguished relation the late Professor John
Phillips, F.R.S. of Oxford, has been the source of these pages. William
Smith’s portrait hangs in the most distinguished position, over the
president’s chair at the Geological Society of London. He was a great
genius, and suffered much toil and poverty, in order to produce the
truth; but he led a very happy life on the whole for his thoughts about
nature were his great and good riches. He proved that there is a regular
succession of strata which are characterized by their fossils, each
stratum being the burial ground of its time of collection.




    The older rocks of the globe studied accurately and
    surveyed—The general similarity of the succession of strata
    in many parts of the world decided—The geology of Wales and
    Scotland described—The commencement of accurate geological

Roderick Impey Murchison was the descendant of a very old Rossshire
family, who were great supporters of the Stuarts in the wild western
country of the north of Scotland. His great-grandfather fell at
Sheriffmuir, and his grandfather, a tenant farmer, had to struggle with
slender means during a long life. But long before this fine old man died,
at the age of ninety-nine, he saw the fortunes of his family retrieved by
his eldest son, whom he outlived.

This son, Roderick Impey Murchison’s father, was born in 1751, and,
thanks to the cheap and good education which was to be got at Edinburgh
and Glasgow, he became a surgeon. Passing the examination at the Royal
College of Surgeons in England, the young man was sent out to India, and
living at Lucknow for seventeen years, made a fortune. He came home to
the old country, and bought the estate of Tarradale, in the eastern part
of Ross, kept up the old Highland customs, and made himself useful as
a medical man when aid was required. He married, in 1791, the daughter
of Mackenzie, of Fairburn, lineal representative of the Rory More, or
Big Roderick Mackenzie, to whom the estates had been granted by James
V. Their younger son, Roderick Impey was born in February, 1792, and
was reared by the “sonsie” miller’s wife of Tarradale, who hushed him
to sleep with gaelic lullabies, and gave him an occasional taste of
the famous whiskey distilled on the adjacent lands of Ferrintosh. But
the father got delicate and moved to the south, carrying with him his
household. On the way an end nearly came to the future geologist, for
his father, wishing to make the boy “stand fire,” presented what was
thought an empty pistol at him. The mother snatched the child away, and
instantly a charge of shot rattled through the window. The father died
when Murchison was only four years of age, and the boy wrote in after
years his sad memory of the last of his father: “The opening of the red
damask curtains of the lofty old-fashioned bed, the last kiss of my dying
parent, and the form of the old-fashioned edifice to which the invalid
had been removed, have been stereotyped in my mind.” The father was
an accomplished gentleman, and the mother a young and attractive lady.
A second marriage gave Murchison a good step-father in Colonel Robert
Macgregor Murray, a friend of the deceased; but home life was broken up
when the colonel was ordered off to Ireland during the rebellion. So
Murchison was sent to the Durham Grammar School in 1799. He had a bitter
parting from his mother and from Sally, the Devonshire lass, who gave him
his English accent, which he retained through life. Six years were passed
at school, and he was as full of mischief as most boys; picking up at the
same time some of the so-called rudiments of learning.

He was ringleader in most of the exploits of the school, and during the
holidays led a very active life with the assistance of his pony and
terrier. One day his uncle told him that in due time he would make a good
soldier, and from that day Murchison read of nothing but military heroes.

At the early age of thirteen he was sent to the military college at Great
Marlow, and, after one pluck, was admitted as cadet. There he became
conspicuous as a daring leader of fun and frolic, and as a moderate
student; nevertheless he was great at drill. A gift which decided in
after years much of his success was fostered at Great Marlow. His
exercises in military drawing led to the future rapidity and correctness
of his “eye” for “country” in geological surveying.

At fifteen years of age Murchison was gazetted as an ensign in the 36th
regiment, and at Edinburgh he took lessons in French, Italian, German,
and mathematics. He learned to ride and fence, and went in for debating.
So having, as he said, done so much in the way of having a good opinion
of himself, he was ordered to join his regiment at Cork in the winter
of 1807-8. He was wonderfully surprised to find the officers anything
but dandies, and, in fact, true old soldiers, quiet, well disciplined
and associated with a first-rate fighting regiment. His chief, Colonel
Burne, was a cool and gallant officer, and a favourite of Sir Arthur
Wellesley’s. In 1808 the regiment was prepared for service in South
America, and was suddenly ordered to Portugal, and on August 1st he
landed, and saw the future Wellington put his foot on Portuguese soil,
followed by his aide-de-camp, the future Lord Raglan.

A battle was soon to be fought, and at Vimiera.

Professor Geikie’s charming “Life of Murchison,” from which this
little history is compiled, gives the following graphic description of
Murchison’s first fight, at Vimiera:—

“To return to our own part of the battle, _i.e._, to our left wing,
the fire of the enemy soon became very hot, and even though the 36th
were lying on their breasts under the brow, our men were getting pretty
much hit, whilst the regiment in our rear, the 82nd, which at that time
could not fire a shot, suffered more than we did. General Spencer, who
commanded the division, when moving about to regulate the general
movements, was hit by a ball in the hand, and I saw him wrap his
handkerchief round it, and heard him say, ‘It is only a scratch!’ Soon
after the light infantry in our front closed files and fell in; our guns
we pulled back, and then came the struggle. General Ferguson waving his
hat, up we rose, old Burne (our colonel) crying out, as he shook his
yellow cane, that he would knock down any man who fired a shot.

“This made some merriment among the men, as tumbling over was the fashion
without the application of their colonel’s cane. “Charge,” was the word,
and at once we went over the brow with a steady line of glittering steel,
and with a hearty hurrah, against six regiments in close column, with six
pieces of artillery, just in front of the 36th. But not an instant did
the enemy stand against this most unexpected sally within pistol shot.
Off they went, and all their guns were instantly taken, horses and all,
and then left in our rear, whilst we went on chasing the runaways for
a mile and a half, as hard as we could go, over the moor of Tourinhâo.
They rallied, it is true, once or twice, particularly behind some thick
prickly-pear hedges and a hut or two on the flat table-land; but although
their brave General Solignac was always cantering to their front, and
animating them against us, they at last fled precipitately, until they
reached a small hamlet, where, however, they did make a tolerable stand.

“Here it was that Sir Arthur Wellesley overtook us after a smart gallop.
He had witnessed from a distance our steady and successful charge, and
our capture of the guns, and he now saw how we were thrusting the French
out of this hamlet. Through the sound of the musketry, and in the midst
of much confusion, I heard a shrill voice calling out, ‘Where are the
colours of the 36th?’ and I turned round (my brother ensign, poor Peter
Bone, having just been knocked down), and looking up into Sir Arthur’s
bright and confident face said, ‘Here they are, sir.’ Then he shouted,
‘Very well done, my boys! Halt, halt—quite enough.’

“The French were now at their last run, in spite of every effort of
Solignac to rally them. Several of our bloody-minded old soldiers said in
levelling, ‘they would bring down the —— on the white horse,’ and sure
enough the gallant fellow fell, just as the 71st Highlanders, who were
on our left, being moved round _en potence_, charged down the hill, with
their wounded piper playing, sitting on the ground, and completed the
rout of the enemy, taking General Solignac of course prisoner.”

Subsequently Murchison’s regiment joined the expedition of Sir John
Moore, and participated in the disastrous retreat upon Corunna.
“Murchison (writes Professor Geikie) suffered much, although he was
strong and in good health, from the excessive fatigue. On one occasion,
after a fruitless midnight march against the enemy, who was supposed to
be advancing to the attack, Murchison, commanding that night an outlying
picquet, threw himself into a corner of a farmer’s yard, and soon fell
asleep. Day had scarcely broken when the cry of ‘Picquet, turn out!’
roused him from his rest, but not in time to escape the notice of the
vigilant Colonel Packe, who, however, allowed him to escape with a severe
reprimand. But after the halt at Tugo, when having vainly offered battle
to the French, the British army retreated by a forced march to Corunna,
the young lieutenant fairly broke down. The mule, which had hitherto
carried himself or his kit, was lost; his old soldier servant had gone
back to seek among the snow for his wife and child.” Of this sad time
he has preserved the following recollections:—“Never shall I forget the
night which followed the abandoning of our position in front of Tugo.
We marched through that city at dusk, and then blew up the bridge,
which was to check for awhile our foe. In darkness, with no food, and
after sleepless nights, with worn-out shoes, and thoroughly disgusted
with always running off and not fighting, this army now fell into utter
disorder. Starved as they were, the men soon became reckless, and all the
regiments got mixed together; in short, the soldiers were desperate, in
spite of the exertions of the few mounted officers. For my own part, I
walked on, usually in my sleep, with the grumbling and tumultuous mass,
until awakened by the loss of my boots in one of the numerous deep cuts
across the roads, which were like quagmires, so that with my bare feet I
had some twenty miles still to march. Many of the soldiers got away from
the road to right and left. Marching all that dreadful night my young
frame at last gave way, the more so as I was barefoot, cold, and starved,
and already the great body of troops had got ahead of me. In short, I
was now one of a huge arrear of stragglers when day broke and the little
hamlet was in sight.

“Seated on a bank on the side of the road, and munching a raw turnip
which I had gathered from the adjacent field, and just as I was feeling
that I never could regain my regiment and must be taken a prisoner, a
black-eyed drummer of the 96th came from the village, whither the young
fellow had been to cater. Seeing I was exhausted, and almost as young as
myself, and not yet a hardened old soldier, he slipped round his canteen,
which he had contrived to fill with red wine, and gave me a hearty drink.
He thus saved me from being taken prisoner by the French, who were
rapidly advancing, and who, if they had had a regiment of cavalry in
pursuit, might at that moment have taken prisoners, or driven into the
mountains, a good third of the British forces.

“With the draught of wine I trudged on again, and came in, at eleven
o’clock of the 10th, into the town of Betanzos, and rejoined my regiment,
which had marched in about fifty men only, with the colours, though ere
night it was made up to its strength of six hundred and odd men. This
fact alone shows better than a world of other evidence, what forced
night-marches with a starving and retreating army must infallibly
produce. At Tugo the 36th regiment was fit to fight anything; in two days
it was a rabble.

“Happily for me I tumbled into a shoemaker’s house. His handsome young
wife washed my feet with warm water, and furnished me with stockings,
while her husband came to my further aid with shoes. But my swollen feet
had no time to recover. On the following day the whole army, such as it
was, passed over the river, blowing up the bridge and taking up its last

“There, remnant as it was, the army formed a respectable line—Corunna
within two miles of us, and our fleet ready to back us. Provisions and
shoes were served out to us, and with such luxuries the bivouac, even
in the month of January, was well borne. In truth, the army got into
comparative good spirits, and on the 15th the French crossed the last
bridge we had blown up, and were defiling at a respectable distance
along our front. We were quite refreshed, and ready to repel them. The
picquets, indeed, of our (Hope’s) division had a sharp encounter in that
evening, and when looking through the colonel’s glass, I saw Colonel
Mackenzie, of the 5th regiment, fall dead from his grey horse whilst
leading an attack on two of the enemy’s guns.

“On the 16th, just after our frugal repast, and whilst leaning over one
of the walls where we lay, my old colonel, after looking some time with
his glass, suddenly exclaimed to me, ‘Now, my boy, they’re coming on;’
and when I took a peep to the hills beyond on the right and south-west, I
perceived the glitter of columns coming out of a wood. Scarcely had the
colonel given the word to fall in, when a tremendous fire opened from a
battery of seventeen to twenty pieces, under cover of which the enemy
was rolling down in dense columns from the wooded hills upon our poor
fellows, who were in a hollow with their arms piled, like our own, until
they were assaulted.

“For our cavalry was extinct, as the horses and men, as well as most
of our artillery, were embarked on the 13th and 14th; yet never since
Englishmen fought was there a more gallant fight than was made by the
4th, 42nd, and 50th regiments (Lord W. Bentinck’s brigade), who rushed
on with the bayonet, and, supported by guards, held their own against a
terrific superiority, until General Paget was ordered to move his brigade
towards the enemy’s flank, and compelled them to withdraw; not, however,
before poor Moore, galloping out from the town, fell while encouraging
the troops, and Baird, who marched his division out of the town, had lost
his arm. My own brigade had much less to do, our front line and picquets
being alone engaged.

“As night fell, and after the firing had ceased, the enemy having
returned to his own ground, we received the order to march into Corunna
and embark. Our fires were left burning to deceive the enemy, and make
him believe that he must fight us again next morning if he hoped to beat

“Silently and regularly we moved on this our last short night-march in
the dark, tranquil night of the 16th, and, passing through the gates,
reached the quay. The names of our respective transports had previously
been explained to us, my own being the brig _Reward_, which I found to
be from Sunderland. I was on deck as light dawned, and then at once saw
the danger of the position of this miserable little transport, as well
as of a dozen or more of the same craft. They had been foolishly allowed
to anchor immediately under the tongue of high land which forms the
eastern side of the harbour, and on which there were no land defences.
Knowing that this ground was only a continuation of the hilly track on
which my division had marched a few hours before, and being certain that
the French would with the peep of day pass over our old bivouac to this
promontory, I at once urged our skipper to get up his anchor betimes. But
the grog had, I suppose, been strong that night. He exclaimed, ‘Why, I
tell you, the brave Highlanders are there; they have not come away like
you folks.’ Scarcely had he spoken when a battery of field-pieces opened
their fire and sent some balls through our rigging. Turning pale as death
under the fire of these mere field-pieces, and seeing that his crew were
ready to run below, he applied the axe to the cable, and in a few minutes
we were drifting away as we best could. The wind being from the east, we
were fast approaching the rocks on which the Castle of Antonio stands,
and on which at least five transports similarly circumstanced to my own
were wrecked, the men being saved with difficulty, after losing their
arms, colours, and baggage.

“I have often reflected on the extraordinary want of all due arrangement
on the part of our admiral, in command of a splendid fleet, who allowed
those miserable transports to anchor in such a position without placing
a frigate or two near them to silence the puny battery and prevent the
dismay which seized the skippers.

“Not missing stays, the _Reward_ floated away, and was soon going fast
before a strong nor’-easter, with the rest of the fleet helter-skelter
for the Channel.”

In 1815 Murchison met Charlotte Hugouin, the daughter of General Hugouin,
and as she was attractive, piquante, clever, and highly educated, she
made a conquest of the gallant soldier. They were soon married, at
Buriton, in Hampshire.

Hitherto he had lived at his own free will. From this time he came under
the influence of a thoughtful, cultivated, and affectionate woman.
Quietly and imperceptibly that influence grew, and she led him, with
true womanly tact, into a sphere of exertion where his uncommon powers
might find full scope. To his wife he owed his fame, as he never failed
gratefully to record; but years had to pass before her guidance had
accomplished what she had set before her as her aim.

Tired of the army, and possessing a great amount of energy and physical
power, Murchison longed for a profession, and at one time seriously
contemplated entering the Church. But money was scarce, and he went
with his wife to live economically in Italy. This was an epoch in his
life, and he went by way of Paris, and there he heard Cuvier lecture.
At Geneva he met De Candolle, and as his wife had relatives at Vevay,
they spent some time there, and Murchison began taking walking tours.
On one occasion he walked four hundred and thirty-two miles over
mountain ground, in fourteen days, finishing with a last day’s walk of
thirty-seven miles. In another excursion to Mont Blanc he walked one
hundred and twenty miles in three days. This was characteristic of the
man. But it was not simple exercise that he took, for his retentive
memory and eye for landscape were occupied; and such walks always
produced good results in after years.

Arrived at Rome they went into lodgings, and Murchison became a confirmed
visitor of galleries, museums, and churches. Then Mrs. Murchison fell
ill, and they went, on her recovery, to Naples, where, of course,
Vesuvius was seen, but oddly enough, his written impressions of the scene
do not tell of any geological tastes. Two years glided away, and they
founded his intellectual life, and impressed him that it was better than
gaiety. When returned to England, Murchison sold his Scotch estate and
went to live in a most out of the way old mansion at Barnard Castle,
in Durham. Then there was no art, and therefore Murchison became a
sportsman, and for five years rode as hard and as well to the front as
any of his fox-hunting friends. Every now and then some intellectual
society was enjoyed at some of the great houses of the neighbourhood, and
Murchison made the acquaintance of Sir Humphrey Davy. Mrs. Murchison did
not care about the everlasting hunting, and tried, in her wise manner,
to wean him from the purposeless life he was leading. She knew botany,
and tried to interest her husband in it, but he did not care for it;
then she tried to learn mineralogy to get him to help her. But Murchison
got deeper and deeper into the love of field sports, and took a house
at Melton Mowbray and hunted six days in the week. Murchison got tired
at last, and having met Sir Humphrey Davy again, was advised by him to
interest himself about chemistry. So Murchison sold his horses and gave
up his establishment, really intending to settle in London. But probably
want of means prevented his having an establishment in the West End at
first, so he led a less active but still sporting life in the south of
Scotland for some time.

Murchison was now to change his method of life completely, and the summer
of 1824 saw the last of his rambles, wherever the rocks around him
made no direct and urgent appeal to him. Bringing his wife to London,
they rented a house in Montague Place, and Murchison began to attend
scientific lectures, and especially those on geology, which was at that
time much talked about. Hutton’s admirable views of the causes of the
changes on the surface of the earth, and their possible comparison with
those of the present day, was making progress, but was still antagonized
by the notions of sudden convulsions and great underground movements. He
went to the Geological Society, a young and ardent one, which had sprung
into active work in spite of the opposition of the nursing mother of
science, the Royal Society.

With hearing lectures on science, scientific papers and discussions,
attending evening soirées, and the opportunity of hearing and talking to
men who had already made themselves famous, Murchison found enough fully
to fill up his time, and to make London life a very different thing to
him from what it had been in the old days, when he used to escape to town
from the monotony of a country barrack. With his characteristic ardour,
he had not completed his first winter’s studies in geology before he
longed to be off into the field to observe for himself.

“My first real field work,” he says, “began under Professor Buckland,
who having taken a fancy to me as one of his apt scholars, invited me to
visit him at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and attend one or two of his
lectures. This was my true launch. Travelling down with him in the Oxford
coach, I learned a world of things before we reached the Isis, and,
amongst other things, I enjoyed a lecture on crustacea, given whilst he
pulled to pieces on his knees, a cold crab, bought at a fishmonger’s shop
at Maidenhead, where he usually lunched as the coach stopped.

“On repairing from the Star inn to Buckland’s domicile, I never can
forget the scene which awaited me. Having, by direction of the janitor,
climbed up a narrow staircase, I entered a long corridor-like room (now
all destroyed), which was filled with rocks, shells, and bones in dire
confusion, and, in a sort of sanctum at the end was my friend, in his
black gown, looking like a necromancer, sitting on the sole rickety chair
not covered with some fossils, and cleaning out a fossil bone from the

The few days spent at Oxford were memorably pleasant. Buckland’s wit
and enthusiasm glowed all his scientific sayings and doings, and he had
a rare power of description, by which he could make even a dry enough
subject fascinatingly interesting. Murchison heard one or two brilliant
lectures from him, but what was of still more importance, he accompanied
the merry professor and his students, mounted on Oxford hacks, to
Shotover Hill, and for the first time in his life had a landscape
geologically dissected before him. From that eminence his eye was taught
to recognize the broader features of the succession of the oolitic rocks
of England up to the far range of the Chalk Hills, and this not in a
dull, text-book fashion, for Buckland, in luminous language, brought the
several elements of the landscape into connection with each other, and
with a few fundamental principles which have determined the sculpturing
of the earth’s surface. His audience came to see merely a rich vale in
the midst of fertile England, but before they quitted the ground, the
landscape had been made to yield up to them, clear notions of the origin
of springs and the principles of drainage. This was the very kind of
instruction needed to fan the growing flame of Murchison’s zeal for
science. He returned to town burning with desire to put his knowledge to
some use by trying to imitate, no matter how feebly, the admirable way in
which the Oxford professor had applied the lessons of the lecture-room to
the elucidation of the history of hills and valleys.

Murchison started with his wife in the middle of August, on a tour of
nine weeks along the south coast, from the Isle of Wight into Devon
and Cornwall. Taking a light carriage and a pair of horses, he made
the journey in short stages, lingering for days at some of the more
interesting or important geological localities. Driving, boating,
walking, or scrambling, the enthusiastic pair signalized their first
geological tour by a formidable amount of bodily toil.

Mrs. Murchison specially devoted herself to the collection of fossils,
and to sketching the more striking geological features of the coast-line,
while her husband would push on to make some long and laborious detour.
In this way, while she remained quietly working at Lyme Regis, he struck
westward for a fortnight into Devon and Cornwall, to make his first
acquaintance with the rocks to which, in after years, Sedgwick and he
were to give the name by which they are now recognized all over the
world. It was in the course of this tour that he met with a man, whom
he has the merit of having brought into notice, and who certainly amply
requited him by the services rendered in later years. William Lonsdale
had served in the Peninsular war, and retired on half-pay to Bath. With
the most simple and abstemious habits, his slender income sufficed
not only for his wants, but for the purchase of any book or fossil he
coveted, and so he spent his time in studying the organic remains, and
especially the fossil corals, to be found in his neighbourhood. Murchison
met him accidentally in some quarries, “a tall, grave man, with a huge
hammer on his shoulder,” and found him so full of information, that he
stayed some days at Bath under Lonsdale’s guidance.

With the enlargement of view which so instructive a ramble had given
him, Murchison prepared and read to the Geological Society, on 16th
December, 1825, his first scientific paper—“A Geological Sketch of the
North-western Extremity of Sussex, and the adjoining parts of Hants and
Surrey.” This little essay bore manifest evidence of being the result
of careful observation of the order of succession of the rocks in the
field, followed by as ample examination of their fossils as he could
secure, from those best qualified to give an opinion upon them. In these
respects it was typical of all his later work. Having shown by this first
publication his capacity as observer and describer, and being further
recommended by the leisure which his position of independence enabled him
to command, he was soon after elected one of the two honorary secretaries
of the Geological Society. “Lyell being then a law-student, with chambers
in the Temple, could only devote a portion of his time to our science,
and was glad to make way as secretary to one who, like myself, had
nothing else to do than think and dream of geology, and work hard to get
on in my new vocation.”

In the spring of 1826 he was elected into the Royal Society—an honour
more easily won then than now, and for which, as the President, his old
friend Sir Humphry Davy told him, he was indebted, not to the amount or
value of his scientific work, but to the fact that he was an independent
gentleman, having a taste for science, with plenty of time, and enough of
money to gratify it.

Murchison next investigated, at the instance of Dr. Buckland, the
geological age of the Brora coalfield, in Sutherlandshire. Some
geologists maintained that the rocks of that district were merely a part
of the ordinary coal, or carboniferous system; others held them to be
greatly younger, to be, indeed, of the same general age with the lower
oolitic strata of Yorkshire. A good observer might readily settle this
question; Murchison resolved to try.

Again he prepared himself by reading and study of fossils to understand
the evidence he was to collect and interpret, and in order to do full
justice to the Scottish tract, he went first to the Yorkshire coast, and
made himself master of the succession, and leading characters of the
rocks so admirably displayed along that picturesque line of cliffs. The
summer had hardly begun before he and his wife broke up their camp in
London and were on the move northwards. At York he made the acquaintance
of two men, with whom he was destined in after life to have much close
intercourse and co-operation—the Rev. William Vernon (afterwards Vernon
Harcourt) and Mr. (subsequently Professor) John Phillips.

Murchison’s own record of the meeting is as follows:—“Phillips, then a
youth, was engaged in arranging a small museum at York. He recommended
Murchison strongly to his uncle, William Smith, who was then living at
Scarborough, and had little intercourse with the Geological Society. From
the moment I had my first walk with William Smith (then about sixty years
old), I felt that he was just the man after my own heart; and he, on his
part, seeing that I had, as he said, ‘an eye for a country,’ took to me,
and gave me most valuable lessons. Thus he made me thoroughly acquainted
with all the strata north and south of Scarborough. He afterwards
accompanied me in a boat all along the coast, stopping and sleeping at
Robin Hood’s Bay. Not only did I then learn the exact position of the
beds of poor coal which crop out in that tract of the eastern moorlands,
but collecting with him the characteristic fossils from the calcareous
grit down to the lias, I saw how clearly strata must alone be identified
by their fossils, inasmuch as here, instead of oolite limestone like
those of the south we had sandstones, grits, and shales which, though
closely resembling the beds of the old coal, were precise equivalents of
the oolitic series of the south. Smith walked about stoutly with me all
under the cliffs from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby, making me well note the
characteristic fossils of each formation.”

Though the main object of this summer tour was to work out the geological
problem which had been assigned to him in Sutherlandshire, he sketched
a most circuitous route, partly for the sake of showing Mrs. Murchison
something more of the Highlands than she had yet seen, and partly with
the view of putting to use his new acquirements in geology; so that after
reaching Edinburgh, and having its geology expounded to him by Jameson,
instead of striking north at once, he turned westwards to the island of
Arran, and spent many weeks among the western islands from the Firth
of Clyde to the north of Skye. The hills of his native country had now
acquired an interest for him which they never possessed even in the days
when they drew him off in eager pursuit of grouse and black cock. At
every halt his first anxiety was to know what the rocks of the place
might be, and how far he could identify their geological position. In
Arran he filled his notebook with observations and queries about granite,
red sandstone, limestone, and other puzzling matters, on which his
previous experience in fieldwork in the south of England and in Yorkshire
could throw no light, and for the elucidation of which he wisely resolved
to secure, at some future time, the guidance and co-operation of an older
geologist than himself. It was in the fulfilment of this resolution that
Sedgwick and he first became fellow-workers in the field.

In the wildest of the western islands he and his wife did excellent work
in collecting fossils, and thereby obtaining materials for making more
detailed comparison between the secondary rocks of the west of Scotland
and those of England than had been attempted by Dr. Macculloch. The
actual fossil-hunting was mainly done by Mrs. Murchison, after whom one
of the shells (_Ammonites Murchisoniæ_) was named by Sowerby, while her
husband climbed the cliffs and trudged over the moors and crags, to make
out the order of succession among the secondary strata. But the tour was
not merely geological; many a halt and detour were made to get a good
view of some fine scenery, or to make yet another sketch. Friends and
highland cousins, too, were plentifully scattered along the route, so
that the travellers had ample experience of the hearty hospitality of
those regions. An occasional shot at grouse or deer, varied the monotony
of the hammering; but even when stalking, Murchison could not keep his
eyes from the rocks. Amid the jottings of his sport he had facts to
chronicle about the gneiss or porphyry or sandstone through which the
sport had led him. This characteristic, traceable even at this early
period of his life, remained prominent up to the last autumn of his life
in which he was able to wield a gun or hammer.

The summer had in great part passed before he reached that part of the
eastern coast of Sutherlandshire where the scene of his special task
lay; but that task proved to be eminently easy. From Dunrobin, where he
was hospitably entertained, he could follow northwards and southwards a
regular succession of strata, and he recognized in them the equivalents
of parts of the oolite series of Yorkshire. The Brora coal, therefore,
instead of forming part of the true carboniferous system, was simply a
local peculiarity in the oolitic series. He made a collection of the
fossils, which offered a means of satisfactory comparison with the
oolitic rocks of England.

The rapidity with which this piece of work could be done left time for a
prolongation of the tour northwards through Caithness, even up into the
Orkney Islands, but at length the tourists had to prepare for a southward
migration again. Reaching Inverness, they turned eastward to Aberdeen,
and thence down the eastern coast by Peterhead, by Buller’s of Buchan,
Arbroath, and St. Andrews. The immediate result of this summer’s work was
seen in the preparation of a paper for the Geological Society.

Professor Sedgwick had already distinguished himself in the difficult
labour of unravelling the structure of some of the older rocks, and
Murchison suggested that they should visit Scotland and examine and
describe part of the country together. They desired to ascertain if
possible the position and general relations of the Old Red sandstone.
This journey, intensely amusing in its anecdotes, led to much united work
and good fellowship.

Having learned the principles of the science, Murchison went to study
geology in the field on the continent. Accompanied by Mrs. Murchison, he
visited the extinct volcanoes of Auvergne, the South of France and Italy,
and finally Germany. Next year the Alps were explored, and subsequently
Austria. At Vienna, Murchison indulged a little in what he always liked,
and which did good to science, good society, and then started for Styria,
and got much puzzled about the rocks and fossils at Gosau. On his return
to England Murchison became secretary to the Geological Society, and
held the position for five years, and then he became the president of
the society. Subsequently he began seriously to attempt the description
of the geology of Wales which ended in the establishment of the Silurian
system of rocks. Then the Devonian and old red sandstones were
considered, and the merits of the paleontologist, Lonsdale, who really
established the great geological division of the Devonian, were fully
conceded. About this time Murchison and his wife settled in the well
known mansion in Belgrave Square, which was such a home for scientific
men, British and foreign, for many a long year to come.

Russia was the next country to be explored, and Murchison spent a long
and very pleasant time there; and his description of the Ural Mountains
was of great importance. He was the first to sketch out broadly the
geological construction of that very monotonous country, and to point
out the existence there of a formation which covers the coal-bearing
rocks of England, and which he called the Permian. Returning to England,
after receiving the thanks of the Emperor Nicholas, Murchison again
became President of the Geological Society, and with increased experience
endeavoured to work out more fully than before, the old rocks of Wales,
which he and Sedgwick had laboured over in common. Murchison and
Sedgwick, however, began at this time to misunderstand one another, and
those admirable men, the one having recognized the higher strata, and
the other the lower, began to differ regarding the line of separation
of their work. It is an unsettled point even at the present day,
notwithstanding all the knowledge that these great men have left to us,
and all that has come to science since their time. Ever enthusiastic in
the cause of science as he had been in war and in the field, Murchison
allowed himself no rest, but started for Germany _via_ France to
examine the red sands and clays in those countries which, overlying the
carboniferous formation, resemble in position the Permian of Russia. The
geologist was treated like a prince by kings, emperors, and a host of
titled people who were glad to welcome the perfect gentleman so full of
good genial temper and amiability.

At the same time Murchison did not forget the British Association for the
Advancement of Science, with which he was officially connected. In 1843
he began to interest himself in the then little Geographical Society,
which had been founded in 1830, chiefly by members of the Rayleigh
Travellers’ club. Murchison was chosen its president, and he read an
address to the fellows in 1844. This society, now of great utility to
science and civilization, was fostered mainly by Murchison, and passed
through years of steady progress under his management. In the same year,
our geologist visited Scandinavia, where he found science more honoured
than anywhere else on earth, and went on to St. Petersburg. Returning
to England, Murchison and his fellow labourers, Von Keyserling and De
Verneuil, published the great work on “Russia, and the Ural Mountains,”
and our hero became a recognized pillar in geological science.

Knowing the geology of the Ural Mountains thoroughly, and having paid
much attention to those parts of them where gold is found, Murchison was
impressed, when he read of the nature of the Australian Alps, that they
ought to be auriferous. In 1845, and 1846, Murchison spoke and wrote on
this subject, and kept on directing the attention of the colonists to
the necessity of searching for the precious mineral. In 1846 Murchison
advised the unemployed tin miners of Cornwall to emigrate and dig for
gold in Australia. In 1847 a Mr. W. T. Smith, of Sydney, acquainted
Murchison that he had discovered gold, and a Mr. Phillips, of Adelaide,
wrote announcing the same fact. Finally, in 1848, Murchison impressed
on Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the colonies the necessity of
having Australia surveyed, for the purpose of gold finding. Three years
afterwards a Mr. Hargraves came forward as the real Simon pure, and
was acknowledged by the ignorant legislature of New South Wales as the
discoverer of gold in Australia. Count Strzelecki, a geologist, sent
Murchison specimens of rocks from Australia, and positively found gold,
not by inference, as in Murchison’s case, but in reality. But at the
request of the colonial authorities it was kept a secret!!! The Rev. W.
B. Clarke, F.R.S., a capital geologist, found gold in places, and settled
what rocks it was in. This was in 1841. So that Murchison, although not
the first discoverer, or the first who inferred the existence of gold in
the Australian rocks, must have great credit given to him.

Twenty years had passed away since Murchison sold his horses and gave
up fox hunting, and he had done more than any man to establish the
grand features of the outside structure of the earth, and to prove the
succession everywhere of the same great formations. He was knighted in
1846, an honour which was appreciated in those days, but which is not
compatible with the proper simplicity and nobility of science at the
present time. Everybody was glad of the honour being given, and received
by Murchison, and “Sir Roderick,” for the future came as aptly to the
thoughts of his friends as “Mr. Murchison” had done of old. There is
no doubt that at this time this experienced geologist believed that
great lapses of time had occurred, involving great distinctions and
new creations between the successive geological formations, that great
changes had happened, universally, in the physical geography of the land
and sea before a new formation was produced, and that the vast majority
of fossils found in one were not recognized in a succeeding formation.
He believed much in grand and sudden catastrophic changes in nature. The
presidency of the British Association was given to the new scientific
knight, and he worthily occupied the chair at the meeting at Southampton
in 1846.

In 1848, the year of revolution in Europe, Murchison enjoyed foreign
politics and Alpine geology, and made the acquaintance of most of the
young Swiss geologists, whose names are now so celebrated. An essay on
the geology of the Alps was written, and our hero received the Copley
Medal of the Royal Society. But the many years of close and hard work
had told even on Murchison’s iron frame; and his wife was an invalid.
So they spent the summer of 1849 at Buxton, much to the disgust of the
geologist, however. He attended the meeting of the British Association
at Birmingham, however, and relapsed into a state of perpetual “liver,”
suppressed gout and “stomach attacks.” After awhile the invalid went
abroad and enjoyed rambling over the extinct volcanoes of Auvergne,
and had his trip over the same ground twenty-two years before, brought
before his mind. But he did not accept the theories of Lyell about the
formation of the valleys and the denudation of the district. He stuck,
unfortunately, to the violent in nature, and dismissed the truth of
the former uniform and slow action of the same forces as now prevail,
from his mind. In the next year Murchison was happy again with his old
friend Sedgwick, and they geologized in the highlands, and enjoyed the
hospitality of the young Duke and Duchess of Argyll. Then the southern
uplands of Scotland were examined; and Murchison, stimulated by the great
progress of the writings of Lyell, came out in strong opposition to the
Huttonian philosophy. Murchison contended in favour of great oscillations
and ruptures of the earth’s crust leading to the sudden breaking up and
submergence of tracts of land; but he did not explain how all this took
place or could take place. He believed in many superficial deposits, such
as drift, being the product of violent convulsions and floods. His frame
of mind was not difficult to account for. He had found, in investigating
the Alps, that movements amongst the strata had occurred on a vast scale,
and that whole series of them, hundreds of feet thick, had not only
been bent, but positively turned upside down. In 1851 Murchison visited
Ireland, and geologized there, and gradually began to complete his great
work, entitled “Siluria; or a Description of the Geology of the Silurian
Rocks of the World and of their Fossils.” This was published in 1854. The
next great act of Murchison’s was the assisting and promoting the success
of the geological survey of the United Kingdom, and the establishment of
the museum in Jermyn Street. This led to the establishment of the Royal
School of Mines. Murchison became the director of the survey, and went
into the subject with heart and soul, and found himself surrounded by the
most distinguished teachers in England.

Murchison worked personally at the Scottish rocks from 1855 to 1858, and
it is a matter of interest that at the present day his admirable work
relating to the order of the older rocks is a vexed question. In 1860,
Murchison went to the highlands for the fourth time, and came to the same
conclusions as before.

Year after year the grand old man laboured on for the benefit of the
sciences of geology and geography, and kept the geological survey in
capital order. He obtained the sanction of the Government for colonial
surveys, and was, in fact, the main stay of science in relation to the
state. For ten years he did all this, and occasionally indulged in a
trip to the north and west, and also into Bohemia. In 1862, Murchison
was terribly troubled by the sudden ill-health of his wife, to whom he
owed so much. She became more and more of an invalid, and died in 1869.
It was the greatest blow possible, and it brought the kindest letter
from his old friend Sedgwick, eighty-four years of age. In September,
1870, Murchison’s time was coming to an end. A slight attack of paralysis
warned him to retire from active life. In the spring of 1871 he prepared
his last address as president of the Royal Geographical Society, and
resigned the chair he had so ably filled for fifteen years. He lingered
on, and passed quietly away on October 22nd, 1871, full of years and
well merited honours. Murchison’s name will live for ever as a clear,
keen-eyed, careful observer of nature, and as a master of the facts
relating to much of the ancient history of the earth. He was a great
stimulator of men of science, assisted the weak, and helped the good
worker. He had a great personal character, religious, honest, truthful,
open and generous; he was a gentleman indeed. His biographer, Professor
A. Geikie, F.R.S., whose most charming book has been so freely quoted
by me, writes about his good old friend as follows: “A man’s face and
figure afford usually a good indication of the general calibre of the
spirit which lodges beneath them. The picture which rises to the mind
when one thinks of Murchison, is that of a tall, wiry, muscular frame,
which still kept its erectness even under the burden of almost fourscore
years. It seemed the type of body for an active geologist, who had to win
his reputation by dint of hard climbing and walking, almost as much as by
mental power. It was, moreover, united in his case with a certain pomp
and dignity of manner, which at one time recalled the military training
of the Peninsula days, at another the formal courtesy of the well-bred
gentleman of a bygone generation.”





    The study of existing nature and its changes undertaken in
    order to comprehend the past changes during geological ages—The
    uniformity of natural operations under law—Catastrophes
    abolished—The succession of life on the globe, and that of the
    tertiary ages explained—The antiquity of man and of the great
    ice age considered.

Charles Lyell was born in Forfarshire, at Kinnordy, on November 14th,
1797. His father was an able, wealthy, well-educated gentleman; and his
mother, a Yorkshire lady, had the usual good sound sense of the women of
that county. He was the eldest of ten children, the whole of whom grew
up; and he, as is commonly the case in large families, was a good son and
brother, and a most independent man in mind and action.

Charles Lyell’s family resided, for years, in the south of England after
his birth, and the boy was sent to school early; and in his amusing
history of his schoolboy days, which is given in the “Life of Sir Charles
Lyell,” edited by his sister-in-law, Mrs. Lyell, he went through all
the fun and trouble, the games by day and the bolsterings by night, the
keeping of pets, and the petty warfares of the English schoolboy. When
eleven years of age, Lyell got into indifferent health at school after
measles, and this necessitated his being less pressed at his lessons. He
was fond of study, however, and this enforced idleness made him take to
some of his father’s amusements, that of entomology.

Young Lyell studied butterflies, and chased them in the fields and
woodlands of the New Forest in Hampshire. He soon began to study the
changes of form which insects undergo in their short lives, and to
watch, hour after hour, the habits of the water-beetles and other
aquatic insects. After spoiling a considerable number of hats in chasing
butterflies, Lyell was supplied with a net and a cabinet in which to
place his stores of insect wealth. Oddly enough, some of the varieties of
the butterflies which young Lyell collected were of use in after years to
Curtis the entomologist. The boy had no companions in these “un-English”
amusements, and was very grateful for the assistance of his father’s head
servant, who knew a few plants by sight, and helped his young master.
“Instead of sympathy,” wrote Lyell, “I received from almost every one
beyond my home, either ridicule, or hints that the pursuits of other boys
were more manly. Whether did I fancy that insects had no feeling? What
could be the use of them? The contemptuous appellation of ‘butterfly
hunting’ applied to my favourite employment always nettled me.” However,
Lyell persisted, and when he got back to school he used to work at his
favourite subject out of school hours.

Finding a number of expensive books in his father’s library on
entomology, with beautiful plates in them, the boy’s common sense
told him that somebody prized all this knowledge, and that it must be
valuable. Oddly enough, he took to reading Linnæus for descriptions of
insects, and hunted up pictures of his captured butterflies in the plates
of the more modern authors. Recovered in health, and fairly strong, Lyell
was sent at thirteen years of age to school at Dr. Bayley’s, preparatory
to being sent to the great school at Winchester. The new school was at
Midhurst, in Sussex, and it had all the demerits of the schools of the
day, fighting, fagging, and bullying being rampant. Lyell came off well,
although a weak and short-sighted boy. Nevertheless, he stated that the
method of teaching got rid of “most of my natural antipathy to work and
extreme absence of mind, and I acquired habits of attention, which were,
however, painful to me, and only sustained when I had an object in view.”

It is evident that at this time, 1811-1813, Lyell’s heart was not
altogether in his classics and mathematics, and that he was reading other
subjects which were more pleasing to him. At the early age of seventeen,
Lyell entered Exeter College, Oxford, and whilst working fairly well
at his studies, cultivated music, and entered thoroughly into all the
politics and literary fellowships of the undergraduates. His love of
nature persisted, and he began to direct his thoughts to the past, and to
learn something about fossils. Thus he found out the house of Sowerby,
the conchologist, by finding at the door an ammonite, well known to
Oxford geologists. Subsequently, when on a visit to Mr. Dawson Turner,
of Norwich, he met a Javanese traveller, Dr. Arnold. Mr. Dawson Turner
had a fine collection of Norwich and Suffolk fossils. Lyell writes to his
father to say, “I have copied for Buckland, part of his paper, being a
list of those which are described, and shall copy the rest.” It appears
that the seed was sown by attending a course of lectures on geology,
at Oxford, given by the celebrated Dr. Buckland, and it is no little
thing for that great university to be able to assert that its teaching
developed the greatest system of geology ever brought forward. Lyell
geologized over Norfolk, and in his conversations with his host and Dr.
Arnold, it appeared that he had got hold of the idea, the elaboration of
which is at the very bottom of his future great work. Lyell studied what
is now in progress in nature so as to comprehend what occurred in the
past times of the earth. Modern changes are the examples by which ancient
changes can alone be studied. He quotes in a letter to his father, the
following saying of Buckland and of White: “Local information, from
actual observation, tends more to promote natural history science, than
all that is done by the speculations and compilations of voluminous
authors.” Dr. Arnold made collections of Norfolk fossils, and catalogued
them, whilst his young friend endeavoured to make a geological map of the
county. In the vacation Lyell and two friends went to Staffa, and his
description of the grand columns of the old volcanic stone shows how he
enjoyed and comprehended the scene.

In 1818 the family of the Lyells made a tour in France, Switzerland, and
Italy, and the notes, letters, and diaries of the eldest son have been
preserved, and they show how gradually, yet surely, he was educating
himself for that path which he, subsequently, never deserted. France
was not very lively, but he noticed the country more than the people,
and observed the country changed with the soil. He spent his first
Sunday at Paris, and went to the Jardin des Plantes the first thing on
Monday morning, but was disappointed by not hearing Cuvier lecture. In
the evening he went to see the great fountains at Versailles, where
Wellington was dining with some French marshals. Day after day the
wonderful sights of Paris were visited; but Lyell, whenever he had the
opportunity, slipped off to the Jardin des Plantes. He was much struck
with the collection of comparative anatomy, which he said might tempt
anyone who had the opportunity of staying in Paris, to take up ardently
the study of anatomy. He studied Cuvier’s work on fossil remains, and
on the geology of the country round Paris. One of his visits was to
Cuvier’s lecture room, which he described as filled with fossil remains,
among which are those glorious relics of a former world. Leaving Paris,
Lyell travelled by post, and noticed the geology and rocks of the
monotonous country to the Jura Mountains. He was mightily puzzled about
the rocks of the Jura, and enjoyed that magnificent scene of the Alps
from the top of the hills over which he was travelling. He wrote, “In
descending the Jura from Lavatey to Gex, we had a most magnificent view
of a vast extent of country. Below us the Lake of Geneva and the Canton
de Vaud; before us the Savoy Alps towering up to the clouds, and in spite
of their great distance and the height on which we stood, extended in a
long line before us like an army of giants, Mont Blanc rising high above
all in the middle as their chief. We saw the Dent du Midi to our left,
shooting up his two remarkable peaks, with many more of extraordinary
and picturesque forms.” On visiting the Valley of Chamouni, we find
Lyell naming the rocks of the different well known scenes, according
to the accepted terms of the mineralogists of the day, and this is a
satisfactory proof that he had been studying geology very effectually,
by himself, before he left England. He saw his first glacier, of any
importance, and was immensely struck with the changes it was producing in
the valley.

Many books have been written about Mont Blanc, its botany and its
glaciers, but none have ever equalled, in truthfulness and freshness
of description, the diary of Lyell. He seized upon all the remarkable
points to be noticed, and shone both as a botanist and geologist. He,
moreover, did not forget his old entomological tastes, for he chased
butterflies in the valley of the Arve, and was delighted with the Alpine
rhododendrons, and the little _ranunculus glacialis_. On the Grimsel
Lyell saw “some extraordinary large bare pieces of granite-rock, which
I could not account for,” and was puzzled by the redness of the snow in
some places. Afterwards on the Wengern Alp, he saw a fine avalanche fall
over a precipice on to a ledge below. He went to the Valais to see the
result of the great flood the previous June, and witnessed the results of
the enormous force of running water, carrying with it sand and stone, on
everything against which it came in contact.

Lyell then crossed the Alps and visited the Italian lakes and the
principal towns of Italy, but more as an antiquarian than a geologist.

The long journey bore fruit, for the constant proofs of changes ever
progressing in nature, which were brought before Lyell’s notice,
influenced his mind in a very decided manner. He became opposed to the
convulsionist doctrines of sudden and violent changes having occurred,
and furthered the ideas taught by Hutton, that the alterations on the
surface of the earth are slow and constant, and have been uniform for
ages. In 1819 Lyell took his B.A. degree at Oxford, obtaining a second
class in classical honours, and in the same year he became a fellow of
the Geological Society of London, and of the Linnæan Society. On leaving
Oxford he was entered at Lincoln’s Inn, and resided in London, and
studied law in a special pleader’s office. His eyes became weak, and he
was advised to give up reading for a time, and to join his father in a
visit to Rome in 1820. In 1822 Lyell was in full correspondence with the
most prominent geologists of the day, and he was doing original work, for
his letters show that he was interesting himself about the fresh water
strata of the Isle of Wight, and about the bones found in Kirkdale cave,
of hyæna, elephant, rhinoceros, etc. His enthusiasm and ability to work
were recognized in the very remarkable selection the Geological Society
made in 1823. For he was then elected one of the secretaries, and his
friends were Mantell and Buckland. The same year he went to Paris to see
the French geologists and Cuvier. Cuvier was very polite, and introduced
Lyell to Madlle. Duvancel, his step-daughter, and Lyell spoke very well
of her ability and engaging manners. He met Humboldt and Laplace and
Arago, the mathematicians and astronomers of the day.

In 1824 Lyell was interesting himself about Dean Coneabeare’s discovery
of a plesiosaurus at Lyme Regis, and the fossil was brought in triumph
to the rooms of the Geological Society, then established at 20, Bedford
Street. Then he started on a geological excursion in the west of England
with M. Prévost, and subsequently went to his birthplace and geologized
in Scotland.

Lyell was called to the bar in 1825, and went the western circuit for two
years, and in 1826 he became a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1827
he wrote an article in the _Quarterly Review_, showing how thoroughly he
identified himself with the school of geology that taught the necessity
of studying the past from the modern example of slow and gradual changes
on the earth by forces which have always been in existence. In 1828
appeared his papers on the excavation of valleys by ordinary agencies,
such as the sun’s heat, frost, rain, running water and the atmosphere.

A very remarkable book on the Geology of Central France, with especial
reference to the extinct volcanoes and lava flows of the Auvergne, was
written by Mr. Scrope, and its criticism was the foundation of the
article in the _Quarterly Review_ just noticed. Lyell was so impressed
with the grand descriptions in the book, that he determined to persuade
Mr. and Mrs. Murchison to accompany him on a tour into the region. Two of
Lyell’s letters to his father are so characteristic that they may well
find a place here.

                                                   _May 26th, 1828._


    I have just returned again to Clermont, from an expedition
    of five days, and we have discovered that there is no end
    to the work to be done in this country, and that it is of
    the most interesting description. The first day was spent in
    ascending some of the lofty volcanic Puys near here. Mrs.
    Murchison accompanied us, and then returned to Clermont, where
    she employed herself, during our absence, in making panoramic
    sketches, receiving several of the gentry and professors, to
    whom he had letters, in the neighbourhood, and collecting
    plants and shells, etc., while Murchison and I, with my man,
    went on in a patache, a one-horse machine on springs. We first
    visited Pontgibaud and the Sioule, to see the excavations made
    by that river in the grand lava-current of the Come, which
    descended from the central range, and dispossessed the river
    of its bed. The scenery was beautiful. Just as we were leaving
    the place, the peasants offered to take us to a volcano farther
    down the river. As no Puy was mentioned in Desmarest’s accurate
    map, nor by Scrope, we thought their account a mere fable; but
    their description of the cinders, etc. was so curious, that we
    had the courage to relinquish our day’s scheme, and proceed
    again down the river.

    You may imagine our surprise when we found, within a ride of
    Clermont, a set of volcanic phenomena entirely unknown to
    Buckland, Scrope, or the natives here. A volcanic cone, with a
    stream of basaltic lava issuing out on both sides, and flowing
    down to the gorge of the Sioule. This defile was flanked on
    both sides by precipitous cliffs of gneiss, and the river’s
    passage must have been entirely choked up for a long time. A
    lake was formed, and the river wore a passage between the lava
    and the granitic schist, but the former was so excessively
    compact, that the schist evidently suffered most. In the
    progress of ages, the igneous rock, one hundred and fifty
    feet deep, was cut through, and the river went on and ate its
    way, thirty-five, forty-five, and in one place eighty-five
    feet into the subjacent granitic beds, leaving on one bank a
    perpendicular wall of basaltic lava towering over the gneiss.
    In the Vivarrais, where similar phenomena had been observed,
    Herschel had remarked a bed of pebbles between the lava and the
    gneiss, marking the ancient river-bed, but Buckland endeavoured
    to get over this difficulty by saying that these pebbles might
    have covered a sloping bank when the river filled the valley,
    and that this bank may have always been high above the river
    bed; for if the sloping sides of a valley, said the Professor,
    be covered with pebbles, as they often are, and the valley is
    filled with lava, and then the lava cut through and partially
    removed, there will of course be a line of pebbles at the
    junction of the lava and the rock beneath, but these pebbles
    will not mark an ancient river bed. Now, unluckily for the
    doctor in this case, he has no loophole; an old lead mine, said
    to have been worked by the Romans, happens to have exactly laid
    open the line of contact, and the pebble bed of the old river
    is seen going in under the lava, horizontally, for nearly fifty
    feet. This is an astonishing proof of what a river can do
    in some thousands or hundred thousand years by its continual
    wearing. No deluge could have descended the valley without
    carrying away the crater and ashes above.

    Six hundred or seven hundred feet higher, is an old plateau of
    basalt, and if this flowed at the bottom of the then valley,
    the last work of the Sioule is but a unit in proportion to the
    other. There are several of the Clermont savans who, since they
    discovered how much we were interested with this, have given
    us to understand they intended to publish on it, but no doubt
    they will take a year before they launch out in the expense of
    a patache to Pontgibaud. Murchison certainly keeps it up with
    more energy than anyone I ever travelled with, for Buckland,
    though he worked as hard, always flew about too fast to make
    sure of anything. Mons. Le Coq, the botanist, a clever young
    man, assures me that the geology of the soils does not affect
    the botany of Auvergne. I shall get some specimens from him
    for Dr. Hooker, I expect. None to be bought, at least this
    year, for it seems there may be hereafter. It is a wonderful
    fact that _Glaux maritima_ grows round some saline springs
    here. Busset, an engineer, who is mapping Auvergne, has forced
    us to dine with him to-morrow. As we know his object to be to
    get geology out of us, of which he knows nothing, M. fears it
    will be a bore, but the man is evidently clever. We shall get
    barometric heights from him, and a map of our little volcanic
    district, and if he pumps unreasonably, I shall find a
    difficulty in expressing myself in French. We are to meet Count
    Le Serres there, a gentlemanlike and well-informed naturalist,
    who has a property on Mont Dore, and knows more geology than
    anyone we have met here, professors not excepted. He organized
    a geological society here, and they chose Count Montlosier
    as president; but the Jesuits took alarm, and, declaring
    that Montlosier had written a book against Genesis, got the
    Prefect and Mayor and Government to oppose, and at last put
    the thing down; at least it merged in the regular scientific
    Etablissement de la Ville, and Montlosier is just coming out
    with a book against the Jesuits, a more popular subject in
    France at present than geology. We are to visit him at his
    château near Mont Dore. We like the people and the country.

                   Believe me, your affectionate son,

                                                      CHARLES LYELL.

                             TO HIS FATHER.

                                       Bains de Mont Dore, Auvergne.
                                       _June 6th, 1882._


    I am at this moment arrived here, after passing three
    delightful days at Count de Montlosier’s, an old man of
    seventy-four, in full possession of faculties of no mean order,
    and of an imagination as lively as a poet’s of twenty-five. I
    stayed a day longer than the Murchisons, as I was determined to
    have one more trial to find a junction between the granite of
    the Puy chain and the fresh water formations of the Limagne,
    and I actually found it; and my day’s work alone will throw a
    new light on the history of this remarkable country. I believe
    most of the granite to have made its appearance at the surface
    at a later period than even the fresh water tertiary beds have,
    though they contain the remains of quadrupeds. The scenery
    of Mont Dore is that of an Alpine valley, deep, with tall
    fir woods, high aiguilles above, half covered with snow, and
    cataracts and waterfalls. A watering-place with good views at
    the bottom of the valley. I shall send Hall back from here, as,
    although he has been useful, I do not think the advantage will
    overbalance the additional expense. Le Coq has promised some
    plants for certain, and Hall has done pretty well in insects.

                   Believe me, your affectionate son,

                                                      CHARLES LYELL.

Lyell was not sparing of criticism so far as his friend Murchison’s
habits were concerned, as may be gleaned in the following letter:—

                             TO HIS MOTHER.

                                       Bains de Mont Dore, Auvergne.
                                       _June 11th, 1828._


    We have been so actively employed, I may really say so
    laboriously, that I assure you I can with great difficulty
    find a moment to write a letter. This morning we got off,
    after breakfast at five o’clock, on horseback, to return from
    St. Amand to this: arrived at seven o’clock. But one day we
    rode fifty-five miles, which I shall take care shall be the
    last experiment of that kind, as even the old Leicestershire
    fox-hunter was nearly done up with it. But I have really gained
    strength so much, that I believe I and my eyes were never in
    such condition before; and I am sure that six hours in bed,
    which is all we allow, and exercise all day long for the body,
    and geology for the mind, with plenty of the vin du pays, which
    is good here, is the best thing that can be invented in this
    world for my health and happiness. Murchison must have been
    intended for a very strong man, if the sellers of drugs had not
    enlisted him into their service, so that he depends on them
    for his existence to a frightful extent, yet withal he can
    get through what would knock up most men who never need the
    doctor. He has only given in one day and a half yet. On one
    occasion we were on an expedition together, and as a stronger
    dose was necessary than he had with him, I was not a little
    alarmed at finding there was no pharmacy in the place, but at
    last we went to a nunnery, where Mdlle. la Supérieuse sold all
    medicines without profit—positively a young, clever, and rather
    good-looking lady, who hoped my friend would think better of
    it, as the quantity would kill six Frenchmen. M. was cured, and
    off the next morning, as usual. The mischief is, that he has
    naturally a weak though a sound stomach, and if he possessed a
    more than ordinary share of self-denial, and was very prudent,
    and after much exercise did not eat a good dinner when set
    before him—if, in short, he would take the advice which many
    find it easy to give him, he would be well. He has much talent
    for original observation in geology, and is indefatigable, so
    that we make much way, and are thrown so much in the way of the
    people, high and low, by means of our letters of introduction,
    and our pursuits, that I am getting large materials, which I
    hope I shall find means of applying. Indeed, I really think I
    am most profitably employed on this tour, and as long as things
    go on as well as they do now, I should be very sorry to leave
    off; particularly as, from our plan of operation, which is
    that of comparison of the structure of different parts of the
    country, we work on with a continually increasing power, and in
    the last week have with the same exertion done at least twice
    as much in the way of discovery, and in enlarging our knowledge
    of what others had done, as in any preceding. I expect it will
    be at least three weeks before we can have done with Central
    France, and then we hope to work south towards Nice, down the
    Rhone, keeping always in analogous formations, and then to the
    Vicentin, if possible, though this is very uncertain, as we can
    never see far before us, either as to time or place, directing
    our course according to the new lights we are gaining.

    We shall leave this place in a day or two. I like it well
    enough, but it is certainly too early in the season to enjoy
    it; and Mrs. Murchison suffers from the cold and damp, though
    she has not often complained in this tone.

    Mont Dore is partially covered with snow, and almost always
    with clouds, and the transition in coming up here from the
    low country is violent. Yesterday we rode up from the climate
    of Italy to that of Scotland. It is the most varied and
    picturesque country imaginable. There are innumerable old
    ruins for sketches, with lakes, cascades, and different kinds
    of wood, so that we wonder more and more that the English
    have not found it out. The peasantry are very obliging,
    industrious, well-fed, and clothed, and to all appearance are
    the very happiest I ever saw. We have crossed the chain of
    Puys, the Limagne, and the valleys leading from Mont Dore,
    in all directions. The people in the higher regions begin to
    talk French—at least there are generally some who have served
    in the armies, and their children catch some from them. Their
    own language has a good deal of the old Provençal in it, and a
    great many of the terminations are Italian. In short, we often
    find a demand in Italian succeed when French misses fire; but
    all our ammunition often fails to produce any impression. The
    population is dense, and bears no other resemblance to other
    parts of France that ever I saw. In the mountains a large
    portion do not believe that Napoleon is dead, especially the
    old soldiers. There is an almost entire want of gentry here,
    but as it does not arise from absenteeism, but from the great
    sub-division of property, it evidently produces no ill effects
    on the character and well-being of the people.

    Give my love to all at Kinnordy, and believe me

                         Your affectionate son,

                                                      CHARLES LYELL.

After visiting the south of France with Murchison, Lyell prepared to
cross the Alps and to see Vesuvius, he being impressed with the necessity
of studying that grand modern example in order to understand, perfectly,
the extinct volcanoes they had been studying in the Auvergne. He wrote
his father—“I scarcely despair now, so much do these evidences of modern
action increase upon us as we go south (towards the more recent volcanic
seat of action) of proving the positive identity of the causes now
operating with those of former times.” This was always his point, and it
certainly was not Murchison’s.

When at Vesuvius, Lyell recognized the similarity of some very old
volcanic dykes of Scotland with those recently exposed in the old crater.
Etna was visited, and he was delighted at finding sea-shells, resembling
those now living on the floor of the Mediterranean close by, some three
hundred feet above sea level. Whilst at Naples, and in the midst of the
highly suggestive scenery of the beautiful neighbourhood, Lyell wrote to
Murchison a very characteristic letter, which should be well pondered
over even by wealthy men who enter into the studies of nature, and which
might be read with benefit by those people who on this not over civilized
earth, hold the purse-strings of the world and treat scientific teachers
with gross meanness. With all his advantages Lyell could not undertake
the research which made him famous, which has tended to elevate our
conception of the laws of nature, and which has done so much to lead
geologists along the right path, without caring much for pecuniary

He wrote, “I will tell you fairly that it is at present of no small
consequence to me to get a respectable sum for my volume, not only to
cover expenses for present and future projected campaigns, but because
my making my hobby pay the additional costs which it entails, will
alone justify my pursuing it with a mind sufficiently satisfied with
itself, and so to feel independent and free to indulge in the enthusiasm
necessary for success. I shall never hope to make money by geology,
but not to lose, and _tax others_ for my amusement; and unless I can
secure this, it would, in my circumstances, be selfish in me to devote
myself as much as I hope to do to it.” These sentiments did Lyell great
honour. “My work is in part written, and all planned. It will not pretend
to give even an abstract of all that is known in geology, but it will
endeavour to establish the principle of reasoning on the science. All my
geology will come in as illustrative of my views of those principles,
and as evidence strengthening the system necessarily arising out of
the admission of such principles, which as you know, are neither more
nor less than, that _no causes whatever_ have, from the earliest time
to which we can look back to the present, ever acted, but those _now
acting_; and that they never acted with different degrees of energy from
that which they now exert. If I can but earn the wherewith to carry on
the war, or rather, its _extraordinary costs_, depend upon it I will
waste no time in book-making for lucre’s sake.”

Lyell’s long-expected book on the “Principles of Geology” was published
in 1830, and it made a very considerable sensation, and was warmly
combated and abused. Now it is admitted as the most conclusive and
useful of introductory books, fit for a youth, and eminently good in
its tone. Then the man, ever on the move, left for the Pyrenees, and
studied the formations there, and especially devoted himself to the
explanation of ripple-marks in the hundreds of feet of rock, and noticed
the effects of water-borne and air-carried sand in accumulating flats
of ripples one over the other. In 1831 Lyell accepted the position of
Professor of Geology in King’s College, London, and he gave courses of
lectures there in 1832 and 1833; and he became engaged to Mary, the
eldest daughter of Mr. Leonard Horner, a geologist of considerable
reputation, and a thoroughly liberal-minded man. Mr. Horner was a great
friend of Lyell’s before the engagement, and was a most painstaking man
and a great manager at the Geological Society. Lyell’s letters to Miss
Horner are most interesting, and show how admirable a woman she was
and how she stimulated him to follow out his great destiny. His work
on the “Principles” became a great pecuniary success, and he laboured
hard at King’s College, and was much annoyed at the decision of the
council at the College, not to allow women to attend his lectures, which
were a great success. Married, Lyell started for Germany, the Rhine,
and Switzerland. Coming home to London, he set to work at his lectures
at the Royal Institution, where ladies were admitted, and at King’s
College, where they were not. He had two hundred and fifty people to
hear his introductory lecture at King’s College, and it dwindled down
to fifteen in a few days, not from any want of care or excellence in
Lyell, who was ever bitter against the establishment for their refusal
to advance female education. He retired from the professorship as soon
as he found that it interfered with his researches, and never again took
any part in academical teaching. The trouble he took about his lectures
was great, and he went to great expense in having diagrams well drawn.
His retirement was a great loss to the College, which now admits ladies
to certain lectures. In 1834, Lyell travelled in Sweden and examined
into the rise of the land in Scandinavia, and whilst enjoying his hard
geological work—for he was well received by everybody, and taken to see
everything—his letters show how he missed his gentle and sympathizing
wife. On his return home Lyell received one of the Royal Society medals
for his work on the “Principles of Geology,” and in 1838 became President
of the Geological Society. About this time his attention was strongly
drawn to the relative numbers of living species found in the strata which
had been formed during the last geological or tertiary age. In working
at Sicily he had found that in the latest beds in which the shells were
hardly fossilised, all the species were still living. That is to say,
he collected shells which were of course dead, but they were similar to
others which were alive on the floor of the sea close by. The individual
had died, but the kind or species was still alive. He examined the latest
strata in England, the crag of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, and found
that the proportion of recent shells—that is to say, of dead individuals
belonging to living species—is great. Some of the shells belonged to
kinds which are not now living, and are extinct. He wrote, “I think we
may lay it down as a rule, that if any given tertiary deposit in which
we have found a few species of shells only, of which one half, or a
third, or even less, are recent, and those recent ones inhabit the seas
immediately adjoining, the formation will be pliocene.” This word was one
of three invented by Dr. Whewell, of Cambridge, at Lyell’s suggestion
to explain the gradual development of the recent animals and plants
during the past history of the globe. The other terms were “miocene”
and “eocene.” The most ancient deposit which was supposed by Lyell to
contain evidences of existing genera was at the dawn of the last great
geological period, the tertiary. It was called eocene from ηως, dawn,
καὶνος, recent. The next deposits overlying these older ones contained,
according to his estimate, seventeen per cent. of living species, all
the rest being extinct; and they were called miocene, from μεῖον, less,
and καὶνος, recent; expressing a minor proportion of recent species to
that found in the topmost and most recent tertiary deposits. These last
contain a large proportion of recent species, and are called pliocene,
πλεὶον, more, and καὶνος, recent. It was a grand theory, which has
remained almost unaltered, and it influenced the progress of geology,
for it plainly inferred that the living things of the present have been
linked with those of the past time by direct descent; that many forms of
life have become extinct, and that there is some wonderful law relating
to this.

About this time many were the geological heresies, and the lovers of the
notion of the violent actions of nature evolved theories about volcanoes
and the occurrence of vast waves to account for the presence of the great
masses of rock which are found strewn far and wide and away from their
sources. These Lyell successfully antagonized. He then published the
“Elements of Geology,” and his time was fully occupied in the meetings
of the Geological Society, in criticising work, and in genial scientific

In the autumn of 1841 Lyell crossed the Atlantic, and spent thirteen
months in the United States, Canada, and Nova Scotia. He worked hard as
an observer and recorder, and his comparisons between the strata in the
New and Old World are full of interest. Writing from Philadelphia to his
father-in-law, Mr. Horner, he says, “Here I am working away in quarries
of greensand and picking up belemnites and other cretaceous fossils;”
and then to Dr. Mantell, “After staying two days we went by New York
and the Hudson to Albany, where I began my explorings in the silurian
strata, and from whence I examined the valley of the Mohawk. The Falls
of Niagara were as beautiful as I expected, perhaps scarcely so grand,
but in geological interest far beyond my most sanguine hopes. So I shall
send a paper on the proofs of their recession to the Geological Society.
I will not dwell on them now. After spending some time there, I examined
seriatim, all the silurian groups and the old red and coal on the borders
of Pennsylvania. Returning to Albany, I went south to Philadelphia,
and spent four days in collecting in the different divisions of the
greensand, and in New Jersey. The analogy of the genera, and even of the
species of the European chalk, is most striking.”

One of his duties in the United States, was to give a course of lectures
at the Lowell Institute, at which his audiences amounted to two thousand.
He also went north, and made some most important investigations with
Dr. Dawson, then a comparatively unknown school missionary struggling
to learn something about nature, and now one of the most distinguished
geologists in the world. They dug out roots called by fossilists
stigmariæ, which once supported huge trees called sigillariæ in the days
of the coal formation, and they measured foot by foot many hundreds of
yards of the cliffs of the now celebrated place called Toggins, in Nova
Scotia. There they found rows of trees, one over the other, erect, and
indicating that, when the part of the earth now cut into by the sea and
exposed as a cliff was formed, there was a series of ages, each having
its forest, each of which was overwhelmed, and thus forest after forest
accumulated. Amongst the trees were some hollow ones, and they contained
little fossils, such as shells and scales. They were objects of interest,
but it was not until later on that Lyell and Dawson saw their importance.
This subterranean forest exceeds in extent and quantity of timber all
that have been found in Europe put together. The new deposit of red sand
of the numerous estuaries there afforded them endless instruction. “At
this place, Truro, the tide is said to rise seventy-five feet, and we see
the bottom of a deep salt-water sea, its rippled sands, shells and holes
of _Mya_ and _Tellina_ and their tracks, footmarks of birds and worms,
the manner in which the clays crack and are marked with the rain, and
sometimes shells included recently in solid models of claystone. I have
also learned more about the geological effects of drifting ice in the
last ten days than in all the Canadian tour.”

Lyell returned to England, and, after a short rest, started for the
north of Ireland. He wrote to his sister: “We have just returned from a
walk over the grand pavement (Giant’s Causeway), the effect of which was
as picturesque as the evening sun and some white breakers rolling and
foaming over the black rocks could make it. Much as I have been pleased
with the sight, it strikes me that there are parts of Staffa away from
Fingal’s Cave, and which travellers have seldom leisure to visit, which
are even finer in precisely the same style. The geology of Antrim is very
interesting—so many formations, such as chalk, green sand, lias, new
red—and the coal being represented by such distinctly characterized and
yet such thin sets of strata, compared to the same groups elsewhere; and
then the grand trap or basaltic mass covering and cutting through them

Often slightly political in his ideas, Lyell wrote much about the Irish
peasantry, and spoke of them as the quick, obliging, and fine-looking
natives of the Green Island. He remarked, in 1843, “One cannot help
fearing that the anti-English spirit has sunk deep into the hearts of
the millions here, for they read nothing but O’Connell’s newspapers,
from which he artfully excludes, without appearing to them to do so,
every other foreign or domestic topic of interest except repeal and Irish
grievances—a great proportion of them now bygone.”

He kept steadily at work preparing his American travels for publication,
and in a note to a friend regarding the nature of coal, he instanced the
swamps of Virginia. “The Virginian morasses allow, under a hot sun, great
accumulations of black vegetable matter, nearly like peat, and which
might make coal. The shade of _Cupressus distichi_, Thuya, and water oaks
shut out the sun, and ferns and mosses draw in the damp air beneath,
while the heat causes evaporation, and evaporation cold. One swamp which
I saw is forty miles long by twenty broad. Thousands of prostrate trees
are in the peat.” Some investigators held that the atmosphere must have
contained a large amount of carbonic acid gas during the ages in which
coal was being formed out of decaying vegetation, but Lyell, adhering
to his strictly uniformitarian views, denied this, and considered the
Virginian swamps to be explanatory of the formation of coal.

Lyell went to see the skeleton, brought by a German named Koch from
the Missouri, of a very large mastodon, and was wonderfully amused to
notice how this savant had made it up out of fragments. “He has turned
the huge tusks the wrong way—horizontally, has made the first pair of
ribs into collar-bones, and has intercalated several spurious dorsal
and tail vertebræ, and has placed the toe-bones wrong to prove, what
he really believes, that it was web-footed. I think he is a mixture of
an enthusiast and an impostor, but more of the former, and amusingly
ignorant. His mode of advertising is a thousand dollars reward for
anyone who will prove that the bones of his Missourium are made of wood.
He is soon to take them to London, when you will have a treat, and see a
larger femur (thigh-bone) than that of Iguanodon.” He was delighted with
the Americans.

Lyell revisited America in 1845, and on returning across the Atlantic
in 1846, narrowly escaped shipwreck on an iceberg; but he made an
interesting observation about one great berg. “It had a large rock,
twelve feet square, on the top, and much gravel and sand on its side.
The bergs were from fifty to four hundred feet in height, pyramidal,
pinnacled, dome-shaped, single-peaked, double-peaked, flat-topped, and of
every form and most picturesque, and only a quarter of a mile off us.”

The lesson was not lost, for Lyell had thus ocular proof concerning
how stones of huge size and gravity, can travel far from their proper
location. And as these icebergs capsize or melt he was confirmed in
his views that many deposits of huge stones and gravels in the form of
“drift” have been produced in this manner.

Having now attained great eminence, Lyell began to write and agitate
about the scientific teaching of the Universities, and his opinion of
the decidedly unprogressive character of them was proved to be correct
when only four heads of houses out of twenty-four were at Oxford to
receive the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He urged
strongly the necessity of placing the lay teacher on the same pecuniary
level as the clergy. Moreover, he made a vigorous attempt to have truly
scientific presidents of the Royal Society, and not only noblemen of high
and royal standing. The Queen honoured Lyell with her regard, and Prince
Albert used to get him to talk about America and the Americans, listening
always with great interest. He was knighted for his distinguished
services to science, and the conferring of this dignity pleased the whole
scientific world.

In 1849 Sir Charles Lyell was re-elected president of the Geological
Society, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Sumner, attended at
the annual dinner given on the occasion. After the expiration of his
presidency, Lyell again went to the United States, and, returning,
visited Teneriffe, the Grand Canary, and Palma, arriving in England in

In 1855 and the two following years Sir Charles and Lady Lyell travelled
much on the continent, and always with a view of studying existing nature
so as to comprehend the past. He was gratified by finding that most of
the rising teachers in Germany were using his books as text books for
their lectures, and that the doctrines of Hutton he had elaborated were
so much appreciated. In Switzerland, Lyell interested himself more than
ever about the great remains of former ice action on the rocks. He was
at one time disposed to believe that certain masses of mud containing
angular stones, derived from a distance, could have been produced by the
sea, but not finding any remains of marine animals, or evidence of such
action as the ice would produce in rounding and waterwearing stone, he
began to examine the influence of glaciers in wearing rocks and carrying
the rubbish down with them. He was of course aware that there had been an
age of cold in Switzerland, corresponding to the glacial epoch of Europe
to the north, and he was therefore prepared to find some proofs of the
former great extension of glaciers beyond their present limits. He was
disposed to believe that the Alps were higher than they now are in that
age of cold. In order to account for the former action of ice and the
production of huge moraines, in comparison with which those now found
at the glacier foot are pigmies, Lyell wrote: “In the glacial period,
when the weight of ice was enormously greater, when in the region of the
Alps there was so little melting, when glaciers at present only ten,
fifteen, and twenty miles long, and from three hundred to one thousand
feet deep, were fifty to one hundred, and even one hundred and fifty
miles long, and four thousand feet deep (and if there is any truth at
all in the generally received theory of the old Swiss glaciers, such
must have been their gigantic dimensions), one may readily grant that
the pressure and friction were so much in excess of what we now see as
to explain the contrast between the ice work done in the olden times,
and that accomplished in our own days, to say nothing of the probably
disproportionate length of the periods compared.” He noticed an old
terminal moraine, in advance of the new one of the Rhone glacier, covered
with wild plants, some in full flower, and cut through in two places by
the river; its height was only fifteen feet, and its width ninety feet.
He went underneath the Viesch glacier in the Upper Vallais, and beyond
it; in consequence of its having melted much, he saw a rounded and domed
surface of granite, smooth, and with straight furrows a quarter of an
inch deep exactly in the direction of the onward movement of the glacier.
On the Ruffelhorn, on the right lateral moraine, that is on the surface
of the ice close to the rocks, he saw a splendid mass of granite, angular
in shape, and measuring fifty-nine feet long, forty-nine feet wide, and
forty-two feet high. Its sides were polished and furrowed. This huge mass
was being carried slowly down, by the glacier, and will be deposited at
its foot some day or other. Once it formed a part of the valley side, and
it fell on to the glacier, whose flanks had scrubbed it for many a long
day. He particularly noticed how the glaciers had been advancing of late
years (just as they are now receding).

Lyell followed out these researches on the south of the Alps, and he
first of all made many excursions, accompanied by Gastaldi, one of the
best of the scientific men of Turin, and by Michelotti, in order to
compare the shells which are found fossil in the middle tertiary strata
on the south of the Alps, with those of the molasse of Switzerland to
the north. He found that these strata, separated by the great mass of
the mountains, resembled each other somewhat mineralogically as well as
in their fossils, but he was not able to make out that they were exactly
of the same geological age, although it was highly probable. He wrote on
the glaciers ancient and modern of the southern slopes of the Alps, and
in relation to the former—“A comparison also of the extinct glaciers of
the Italian and Swiss sides of the Alps can better be made from Turin
than from any other place. Before my arrival I had seen, on the banks of
the Lago Maggiore, some good examples of erratics and of moraines which
had come from the Simplon, but these, as you might suppose, _a priori_
are far inferior to those which have descended from the Val d’Aosta, or
which belong to the mighty glacier derived from the combined snows of
the Mont Blanc and the Mont Rosa group of Alpine heights. This glacier,
although perhaps of less gigantic dimensions than that of the Rhone, has
certainly left, as Gastaldi first pointed out in a memoir on the subject,
a far more imposing monument of itself on the plains of the Po, than have
the extinct glaciers of the Rhone or the Rhine, in the lower country of
Switzerland.” He noticed that “J. D. Forbes has well shown in his book
on the Alps, that a glacier is a peculiarly sensitive instrument for
measuring the average of heat and cold, and that every slight difference
of temperature causes it to increase or lessen in height and length.”
And pursuing the argument, remarks that as geologists had shown from
the nature of the fossil remains in lately formed gravels, that arctic
animals lived far south in Europe, shortly before the existing state of
things, we ought to find evidences of the cold climate which allowed
those animals to live so far south. These evidences are at hand in the
remains of the glaciers, which in those days extended far lower than they
do now, and were grander in extent. Thus a lofty mound or ridge, two
thousand feet high, called the Serra, running into the great alluvial
flat of the River Po, where maize and mulberries grow, is a huge terminal
moraine of an ancient glacier. Ice reigned supreme there in the glacial
period, and brought down the stone from the distant hills, and deposited
it on the Serra. In Forfarshire, Lyell had noticed the peculiar contorted
appearance of the beds of clay, gravel and sand of glacial formation,
and also in the mud cliffs of Norfolk. He was anxious to know whether
any of the ancient glacial heaps or moraines of the country south of the
Alps, showed similar indications of pressure and forcing along by ice.
“It happened that a railway was making from Turin to Ivrea, and although
they cut through the lowest part of the terminal moraines near Mazzi they
have thought it worth while to make a tunnel, through which we walked.”
Near the entrance, “I was delighted,” wrote Lyell, “to see that curious
folding of the strata, which will cause the same beds to be here pierced
by a perpendicular shaft, yet without the beds having participated in
the movement.” Full of this important subject he wrote fully on it.

“In order to appreciate the distinctive character of this colossal
moraine, you must reflect on the uniformity and evenness of the vast
plain of the Po all round it, for, although really inclined from the
Alps, it looks as level as the sea; then fancy the great mounds sloping
up at angles of 20° and 30° to heights of 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000
feet; then consider that at the very extremity, as near Caluso, there
are blocks of protogine which have come one hundred miles from Mont
Blanc; also that the whole assemblage of stones is not like that which
has issued from the Susa, or from any other valley, but confined to
rocks such as now strictly belong to the basin of the Dora Baltea; also
that the pebbles and fragments of stone, if of serpentine or any easily
striable rock, are all striated, at least nineteen-twentieths of the
whole, whereas in a recent glacier which has only travelled ten miles,
you might only find one in twenty of the same stone striated; and lastly,
think of the narrow vomitory which has disgorged this enormous quantity
of material, the ravine above Ivrea being as obviously the source of the
whole, as is the crater of Vesuvius the point from which its lavas have
issued. When Gastaldi read his paper to the Geological Society at Paris,
written jointly by him and Martens, Elie de Beaumont, who had many years
before visited the ground, objected entirely to their conclusion that it
was a moraine, but I never saw a stronger or more satisfactory case.
But in the same paper the authors hazarded an opinion that although the
old Alpine moraines stopped short after going a few leagues from the
Alps, yet at some former time erratics had been conveyed to the summit
of the Collina, just as “Pierre à Bot” and other blocks had been carried
by the old Rhone glacier to the flanks of the Jura. Now when I read this
at Zurich, I immediately recollected that in the valley of the Bormida,
when I passed from Savona to Alessandria in 1828, I had been astonished
at some very huge erratics of serpentine in the Miocene. Having never
seen blocks of such enormous dimensions in any tertiary formation, I was
relieved in 1828 at finding, in some spots on the Bormida, projecting
fragments of serpentine in places which the erosion of the valleys had
exposed to view. I concluded that they may not have travelled far, and
when I saw some large blocks on the Superga (in 1828), I immediately
suspected that as that hill consisted of beds of the same formation,
the blocks might have been washed out of the Miocene not far off. I
therefore now suggested this view to Gastaldi, and found that he was
by no means tenacious of his printed theory, although he said that the
blocks were many of them angular, of very great size, and accompanied
by Alpine loam. We then examined the beds of the Superga, both those
dipping to the north-west, and those to the south-east, and on both
sides of this anticlinal are strata containing fragments of stone of
various kinds, some not known in the neighbouring Alps or Apennines,
from two to eight feet in diameter. On our ascent to the Superga I saw
a thickness of sixty feet regularly stratified of this conglomerate,
in which were fragments consisting chiefly of serpentine, but some of
limestone, others of protogine granite, and one of the latter angular
and eight feet in diameter. In less than half an hour’s search, I found
two of the serpentine and one of the limestone pebbles with scratches,
which would be called glacial if they were found in a modern moraine,
though not such as you would select for examples for a museum. Still I
searched this year in some recent moraines quite as long without finding
better. As to the age of the beds, there is no doubt of their belonging
to the Lower Miocene, the marine fossils of which we collected in strata
both below and above them. These enormous blocks, therefore, were brought
into their present position by causes which acted in the Miocene age. I
know of no agency but that of ice which could have quietly let them down
upon subjacent beds of undisturbed fine marl and sand. Hence I conclude
that there was floating ice in the Lower Miocene period, and if the
few scratches I saw really imply glacial striation, the ice-rafts were
probably derived from glaciers which came down from mountains bordering
the glacial sea; perhaps from the Alps, for that chain must have existed
before the origin of a large part of the Lower Miocene. I have kept the
specimens I found of these Miocene striated stones to show Ramsay, who
will be interested in hearing, that in spite of some Brazilian genera of
trees and insects, and not a few palms, and some reptiles of good size,
and many other fossil genera found on both sides of the Alps and supposed
to imply a subtropical climate, I am not afraid to appeal to ice as the
only known cause capable of stratifying these great masses in the manner
in which they occur.”

The evidence of former changes in climate was thus strongly impressed on
Lyell’s mind, and the astonishing truth began to be strongly impressed
upon geologists by him, that not only has the area of Europe witnessed
ages of tropical heat, but also ages of considerable winter’s cold, and
that there has been more than one glacial period.

Lyell visited Vesuvius and Etna in 1858, and how carefully he noticed
every detail of the mountain structure, and how little he cared about
“roughing it” may be gleaned from extracts from his diary sent to his

“Etna, _Casa Inglese_, Sept. 21, 1858.—Got off with two guides and two
muleteers and four mules, at half past seven, in bright sunshine, from
Nicolosi, and after a beautiful sunny ride of three hours through wooded
craters, protected from the heat by my umbrella, was gradually enveloped
in clouds. I saw a lava stream where the oaks had been surrounded by
lava, which had taken the form both of upright and prostrate trunks,
surrounding them with tuff, and the wood being burned up they are now
cylinders of scoriaceous lava. After a couple of hours we got above the
clouds, when about eight thousand feet high, but not till my hands were
numbed, for I could not believe for a long time in the necessity of my
putting on a cloak. After reaching this place, I set out with Angelo for
the top of Etna, leaving Guiseppe to cook. We had now and then a drifting
cloud, but on the whole splendid sunshine. I saw the spot at the foot of
the great line where the Catanians quarried ice from under a current of
lava. My guide saw the same thing some six years ago, while the eruption
of 1852 was in progress, in August and September: the sand and lava ten
feet thick, and four feet of ice below, and bottom not seen. Not far
above the ice I warmed my hands at a fumarole where the steam and some
sulphuretted hydrogen were given off at such a heat that I was obliged
to be careful how I put my fingers in. This welcome heat enabled me to
write. When we reached the edge of the crater the whole of Sicily was
hidden except the higher part of Etna, between us and Montagunoli. But
Lipari and Stromboli stood out in the sea very conspicuously. I made a
rough sketch of the two craters; the smaller one has lately, I believe,
fallen, and shows a section of some of the horizontal beds of lava,
with which it had been filled nearly to the top. It was a considerable
exertion climbing and going half round it after a seven hours’ ride,
and this makes the Casa Inglese, which is the roughest place I was ever
in, seem a hospitable mansion, as it saves our returning. The wind is
whistling round and somewhat through it, but Dr. Guiseppe, I hear, has
made it weather tight. There is no chimney and we have charcoal burners,
but if the wind always blows like this I am not, at any rate, guaranteed
from asphyxia.”

He got a list of one hundred and fifty shells of the newer pliocene
clay on which Etna rests. Nine-tenths of them he found were of species
belonging to the present floor of the Mediterranean Sea, and this, to his
delight, confirmed what he wrote, and what has already been alluded to,
regarding this deposit on a former occasion. At Bronte, Lyell saw the
place where a crowd assembled in 1842, to see the lava flow into a great
artificial reservoir of water. The torrent of melted stone came forward
with a front of more than thirty feet high, and falling suddenly into the
water, produced for a while no effect whatever, as if, as in the white
hot metal in Butigny’s experiment, it required to cool down before it
could cause explosion. At length it went off suddenly, and everybody but
one or two out of fifty or more in number was killed.

During the years of his journeys in America and Europe, Lyell had paid
special attention to the changes which were occurring on the surface of
the earth amongst the rocks and hills, valleys, rivers, and sea-shores.
He had dealt with inanimate nature largely. About the year 1859 he began
to consider the changes which have occurred in the living things of the
past, and to direct his attention to the subject of the antiquity of man
and to the possible origin of species. He wrote to a friend in his usual
half-jesting manner: “I have been much occupied with another geological
subject besides that which your niece, Ellen Twisleton, irreverently
calls the proving her to be first cousin to a turnip (a violet she
should have said); I mean the antiquity of man as implied by the flint
hatchets of Amiens, undoubtedly contemporaneous with the mammoth, and
also the human skeletons of certain caves near Liège, which I believe to
be of corresponding age. I regard the pyramids as things of yesterday in
comparison of those relics.” Lyell struggled long in his mind against the
theory of the great age of man on the earth, and converted himself to
the belief in it, and in 1861 he wrote, after examining the associated
remains of human art and extinct animals, such as the mammoth and hairy
rhinoceros in England, that “the late discoveries at Herne Bay and
Reculver convince me that man inhabited England when the Thames was a
tributary of the Rhine.” He published a work on the antiquity of man,
and then began to interest himself about the great age when ice reigned
supreme over much of the northern hemisphere. Writing to his nephew he
states: “On a hill called Moel Tryfaen (in North Wales), at a height of
thirteen hundred feet above the sea, I found twenty species of fossil
shells, all of living species, in sand and gravel fifty feet thick. You
would have known most of them familiarly.” Some of these shells were
of kinds now living close by in the sea, but others of kinds now living
within the arctic circle. “The shells show that Snowdon and all the
highest hills which are in the neighbourhood of Moel Tryfaen were mere
islands in the sea at a comparatively late period, or when these living
molluscs were flourishing.”

The researches of Lyell and Dawson in Nova Scotia have been noticed, and
it is interesting to know that they were rewarded by the discovery of an
air-breathing mollusc, and of several small amphibians of the age of the
coal period, in the hollow of a stump of a tree, which dated back to that
very ancient time. After the death of his friend Murchison, although the
effects of age and a life of hard study were not unfelt, Lyell followed
with great care the researches of Dr. Hicks relating to the oldest rocks
of England. Lyell was intensely interested at the discovery of highly
organized invertebrate animals in sandstones and shales, which hitherto
had only yielded some doubtful worm tracks and impressions of plants,
and he recognized the truth that no evidences of the beginning of living
things were presented to the geologist. The researches of Carpenter,
Thomson, and Agassiz concerning the natural philosophy and natural
history of the deep sea were gratefully acknowledged by Lyell, as most
important contributions to science, and the author of this memoir has a
lively remembrance of Sir Charles’s intense excitement when the news
first came that the sea was very cold at great depths.

Years passed on, and honours came to the hard-working, truth-loving
man. He was elected president of the British Association, and was made
a baronet. His sight began to fail, and it was a constant anxiety to
many who saw him about London, to witness his constant exposure to
danger. Availing himself of an excellent secretary, he still corresponded
largely, and attended scientific meetings. But the end was at hand, and
he lost his well-loved wife and then his brother. Dying from the results
of a fall, Lyell was buried in Westminster Abbey, as a representative man
of science. He was a brilliant example of a man who sought out truth, and
braved public opinion for its sake, and who enlightened the world, caring
little for ease and luxury, and assisting every fellow-labourer in the
great science of geology.



[1] The greater part of this memoir is taken from Miss Brightwell’s “Life
of Linnæus.” Van Voorst.

[2] Terebratulæ.

[3] A large Echinite (_Clypeus sinuatus_ of Leske), not unfrequently
employed as a “pound-weight” by the dairywomen.

[4] Named from its frequent use in the construction of ovens.

[5] Written by his biographer.

[6] Address to the Geological Society, at the Anniversary Meeting, Feb.
18, 1831, by the President, the Rev. Adam Sedgwick, M.A., F.R.S., etc.





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    “Ned Garth,” &c., &c. With Three full-page Illustrations on
    toned paper. Crown 8vo.                       _Cloth boards_ 1    6

    UNDER THE TREES. By H. L. CHILDE-PEMBERTON, author of “Round my
    Table,” &c. With Three full-page Illustrations on toned paper.
    Crown 8vo.                                    _Cloth boards_ 1    6

    UNTO HIS LIFE’S END. A book for choir-boys. By URSULA, author
    of “Little Things,” &c. With Three full-page Illustrations on
    toned paper. Crown 8vo.                       _Cloth boards_ 1    6

    VANDA. By ESMÉ STUART, author of “The Little Brown Girl,” &c.
    With Three full-page Illustrations on toned paper. Crown 8vo.
                                                  _Cloth boards_ 2    0

    WHITE CHAPEL (THE); A STORY. By ESMÉ STUART, author of “Mimi,”
    &c. With Three full-page Illustrations on toned paper. Crown
    8vo.                                          _Cloth boards_ 2    0

    WHITE GIPSY (THE). By ANNETTE LYSTER. With Four full-page
    Illustrations on toned paper. Crown 8vo.      _Cloth boards_ 3    0


                     AND 135, NORTH STREET, BRIGHTON.

_Wyman and Sons, Printers, Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields, W.C._

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