Makers of British botany/Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker 1817—1911
|←A sketch of the Professors of Botany in Edinburgh from 1670 until 1887||Makers of British botany
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker 1817—1911
Frederick Orpen Bower
His long life—childhood and education—travels—Geological work—Morphological Memoirs—administrative duties—systematic works—relations with Darwin—acceptance of Mutability of Species—his philosophical Essays—their influence in advancing Evolutionary Belief.
It is a difficult task to condense within suitable limits an appreciation of so long and strenuous a life as that of Sir Joseph Hooker. Naturally with age the bodily strength waned, but the vivid mind remained unimpaired to the end. He even continued his detailed observations till very shortly before his death in December, 1911. The list of his published works extends from 1837 to 1911, a record hardly to be equalled in any walk of intellectual life.
Sir Joseph Hooker was born at Halesworth, in Suffolk, in 1817. His father, Sir William Hooker, brought him to Glasgow as a child of four years of age, when he entered on his duties as Professor of Botany in 1821. The Professor established himself in Woodside Crescent, conveniently near to the Botanic Garden, then but recently established, but developing under his hands with wonderful rapidity. Doubtless his little son was familiar with it and its contents from childhood. He grew up in an atmosphere surcharged with the very science he was to do so much to advance. His father's home was the scene of manifold activities. It housed a rapidly growing herbarium and museum. It was there that the drawings were made to illustrate that amazing stream of descriptive works which Sir William was then producing. New species must have been almost daily
SIR JOSEPH DALTON HOOKER
under examination, often as living specimens. Between the garden and the house the boy must have witnessed constantly, during the most receptive years of childhood, the working of an establishment that was at the time without its equal in this country, or probably in any other. The eye and the memory must have been trained almost unconsciously. A knowledge of plants would be acquired as a natural consequence of the surroundings, and without the effort entailed by study in later years. Few ever have known, or ever will know, plants as he did. Such knowledge comes only from growing up with them from earliest childhood.
Side by side with this almost unconscious education in Botany the ordinary curriculum of school and of college was pursued. There is no record of academic successes either at the High School, or at the University of Glasgow, beyond a prize "for the best Essay on the Brain and Nerves," in 1836. But the following year saw his first publication: for he described, while still a student, three new species of Mosses. It may be remarked that, like his father, his first writings related to the lower Plants. He never lost his interest in them, though in later years duty diverted him to the study of the Flowering Plants. An incident of his student period, which he himself relates, is, however, a more clear indication of the life that was to follow than any early publication of new species. He tells how an opportunity was given him of reading the proofs of Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle. "I was hurrying on my studies (that is for the final examination in Medicine)...and so pressed for time was I that I used to sleep with the sheets of 'The Journal' under my pillow, that I might read them between waking and rising. They impressed me profoundly, whilst they stimulated me to enthusiasm in the desire to travel and observe." The opportunity came to him almost at once in the four years' voyage to the Antarctic. At the age of 22, having passed his examinations, and graduated as M.D., he was equipped at every necessary point for his duties as Assistant Surgeon and Botanist in the "Erebus," then about to start, along with the "Terror," on the famous voyage under the command of Sir James Clark Ross.
No attempt will here be made to give any consecutive biographical sketch of Sir Joseph Hooker. Several such have already appeared. The interest of the reader will be more readily engaged by indicating the various lines of activity in which he excelled. He was never a professional teacher, except for a short period of service as deputy for Graham in Edinburgh. There was a moment when he might have been Professor in Edinburgh, but it passed. He left no pupils, except in the sense that all botanists have learned from him through his books. We shall contemplate him rather as a Traveller and Geographer, as a Geologist, as a Morphologist, as an Administrator, as a Scientific Systematist, and above all as a Philosophical Biologist. He played each of these several parts in the Drama of Science. The endeavour will be made, however imperfectly, to touch upon them all.
The experiences of Hooker as a traveller began immediately after taking his degree, with his commission in 1839 as Assistant Surgeon and Botanist in the "Erebus." Scientific Exploration was still in its heroic age. Darwin was only three years back from the voyage of the "Beagle." We may well hold the years from 1831, when the "Beagle" sailed, to 1851, when Hooker returned from his Indian journey, or 1852, when Wallace returned from the Amazon, to have been its golden period. Certainly it was if we measure by results. Unmatched opportunity for travel in remote and unknown lands was then combined with unmatched capacity of those who engaged in it. Nor was this a mere matter of chance. For Darwin, Wallace, and Hooker all seized, if they did not in some measure make, their opportunity.
The intrepid Ross, with his two sailing ships, the "Erebus" and the "Terror," probed at suitable seasons during four years the extreme south. The very names of the Great Ice Barrier, M'Murdo Sound, Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, made familiar to us by adventures seventy years later under steam, remain to mark some of his additions to the map of the world. Young Hooker took his full share of risks, up to the point of being peremptorily ordered back on one occasion by his commanding officer. To his activity and willingness, combined with an opportunity that can never recur in the same form, is due that great collection of specimens, and that wide body of fact which he acquired. On the outward and return voyages, or in the intervals when the season was not favourable for entering the extreme southern seas, the expedition visited Ascension, St Helena, the Cape, New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, Kerguelen Island, Tierra del Fuego, and the Falkland Islands. The prime object of the voyage was a magnetic survey, and this determined its course. But it brought this secondary consequence; that Hooker had the chance of observing and collecting upon all the great circumpolar areas of the southern hemisphere. The results he later welded together into his first great work, The Antarctic Flora.
Very soon after his return from the Antarctic the craving for travel broke out afresh in him. He longed to see a tropical Flora in a mountainous country, and to compare it at different levels with that of temperate and arctic zones. Two alternatives arose before him: the Andes and the Himalaya. He chose the latter, being influenced by promises of assistance from Dr Falconer, the Superintendent of the Calcutta Garden. But before he left England his journey came under the recognition of Government. He not only received grants on the condition that the collections made should be located in the Herbarium at Kew, but he was accredited by the Indian Government to the Rulers, and the British Residents, in the countries whose hitherto untrodden ways he was to explore. After passing the cold season of 1848 in making himself acquainted with the vegetation of the plains and hills of Western Bengal, he struck north to the Sikkim Himalaya. Hither he had been directed by Lord Auckland and by Dr Falconer, as to ground unbroken by traveller or naturalist. The story of this remarkable journey, its results and its vicissitudes, including the forcible detention of himself and his companion Dr Campbell by a faction of the Court of Sikkim, is to be found in his Himalayan Journals. These most fascinating volumes of travel were published in 1854. They tell how he spent two years in the botanical exploration and topographical survey of the state of Sikkim, and of a number of the passes leading into Thibet; and how towards the close of 1848 he even crossed the western frontier of Sikkim, and explored a portion of Nepal that has never since been open to travellers. In 1849 ne returned to Darjeeling, and busied himself with arranging his vast collections. Here he was joined by an old fellow-student of Glasgow, Dr Thomas Thomson, son of the professor of that name. The two friends spent the year 1850 in the botanical investigation of Eastern Bengal, Chittagong, Silhet, and the Khasia hills. In 1851 they returned together to England.
The botanical results of these Indian journeys were immense, and they provided the material for much of Hooker's later scientific writing. Nearly 7000 species of Indian plants were collected by these two Glasgow graduates. But Hooker was not a mere specialist. His Journals are full of other observations, ethnographical, ornithological, and entomological. His topographical results especially were of the highest importance. They formed the basis of a map published by the Indian Topographical Survey. By the aid of it the operations of various campaigns and political missions have since been carried to a successful issue. If he were not known as a Botanist, he would still have his assured place as a Geographer.
After his return from India, nine years ensued of quiet work at home. But in 1860 Hooker took part in a scientific visit to Syria and Palestine, ascending Mount Lebanon, where he specially paid attention to the decadent condition of the Cedars, his observations leading later to a general discussion of the genus. Again a period of ten years intervened, his next objective being Morocco. In 1871, with Mr Ball and Mr Maw, he penetrated the Atlas Range, never before examined botanically. His last great journey was in 1877, when he was sixty years of age. With his old friend, Prof. Asa Gray of Harvard, he visited Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and California. Prof. Coulter of Chicago, who was one of the party in the Rockies, has told me how difficult it was to round up the two elderly enthusiasts to camp at night.
This is an extraordinary record of travel, especially so when we remember that all the journeys were fitted into the intervals of an otherwise busy life of scientific work and administration. At one time or another he had touched upon every great continental area of the earth's surface. Many isolated islands had also been examined by him, especially on the Antarctic voyage. Not only were fresh regions thus opened up for survey and collection, but each objective of the later journeys was definitely chosen for scientific reasons. Each expedition helped to suggest or to solve major problems. Such problems related not only to the distribution, but also to the very origin of species. Darwin saw this with unerring judgment as early as 1845. Hooker was then but twenty-eight years old, and the records of the Antarctic voyage were only in preparation. Nevertheless Darwin wrote with full assurance in a letter to Hooker himself: "I know I shall live to see you the first authority in Europe on that grand subject, that almost keystone of the laws of Creation, Geographical Distribution." Never was a forecast more fully justified. But that position, which Hooker undoubtedly had, could only have been attained through his personal experience as a traveller. Observation at first hand was the foundation upon which he chiefly worked. Hooker the traveller prepared the way for Hooker the philosopher.
Sir Joseph Hooker would probably have declined to consider himself as a Geologist. He was, however, for some eighteen months official Botanist to the Geological Survey of Great Britain. He was appointed in April 1846, but relinquished the post in November 1847 in order to start on his Himalayan journey. During that short period three Memoirs were published by him on Plants of the Coal Period. They embodied results derived from the microscopic examination of plant-tissues preserved in Coal Balls, a study then newly introduced by Witham, and advanced by Mr Binney. It has since been greatly developed in this country. Such studies were continued by him at intervals up to 1855. While he was thus among the first to engage in this branch of enquiry, he may be said to have originated another line of study, since largely pursued by geologists. For he examined samples of diatomaceous ooze from the ocean-floor of the Antarctic, and so initiated the systematic treatment of the organic deposits of the deep sea. Yet another branch of geological enquiry was advanced by him in the Himalaya. For there he made observations on the glaciers of that great mountain chain, his notes supplying valuable material to both Lyell and Darwin. He also accumulated valuable data concerning the stupendous effects of sub-aerial denudation at great elevations. His latest contribution of a geological character was in 1889, when he returned to an old problem of his youth, the Silurian fossil Pachytheca. But he had to leave the question of its nature still unsolved. This geological record is not an extensive one. But the quality and rapidity of the work showed that it was the time and opportunity and not the faculties that were wanting. Moreover, it is worthy of remark that the problems he handled were all nascent at the time he worked upon them.
The list of Sir Joseph Hooker's memoirs which deal morphologically with more limited subjects than is possible in floristic works, is a restricted one. In 1856 he produced a monograph on the Balanophoraceae, based upon collections of material from the most varied sources. It is still an authority very widely quoted on these strange parasites. In 1859 he described the development and structure of the Pitchers of Nepenthes, while the physiological significance of these, and other organs of carnivorous plants, formed the subject of an Address before the British Association at Belfast, in 1874. And in 1863 his great monograph appeared upon that most remarkable of all Gymnospermic plants, Welwitschia. These works bore the character of a later period than the time when they were produced. In Britain, between 1840 and 1875, investigation in the laboratory, by microscopic analysis of tissues, was almost throttled by the overwhelming success of systematic and descriptive work. The revival of investigation in the laboratory rather than that in the herbarium dates from about 1875. But we see that Hooker was one of the few who, prior to that revival, pursued careful microscopic analysis side by side with systematic and floristic work.
The noble establishment of the Royal Gardens at Kew is often spoken of as the Mecca of Botanists. It is also the Paradise of the populace of London. It was the Hookers, father and son, who made Kew what it is. When we contemplate Sir Joseph as an administrator, we immediately think of the great establishment which he and his father ruled during the first half century of its history as a public institution. Kew had existed for long as a Royal Appanage before it was handed over to the Nation. The Botanic Garden had, indeed, ranked for upwards of half a century as the richest in the world. But after the death of King George III, it had retrograded scientifically. On the accession of Queen Victoria a revision of the Royal Household had become necessary. It was then decided to transfer the garden to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. This took place in 1840, and in 1841 Sir William Hooker, who was then Professor in Glasgow, was appointed the first Director. The move to Kew, whither he took his private Library, Herbarium, and Museum, was carried out in the absence of his son, who was still in the Antarctic. It was not till the Himalayan journey was over in 1851 that Sir Joseph settled at Kew, his great collections having already been consigned there by agreement with the Government. In 1855 he was appointed assistant to his father in the Directorship. Finally, he became himself Director on his father's death in 1865, and he held the position for twenty years.
So long associated together, it is difficult to disentangle the parts that father and son actually played in the creation of Kew as it now is. Nor is there need to attempt it. The original area of the Garden at Kew was less than 20 acres. But in 1855, when Sir Joseph joined his father in the directorate, it had grown by successive additions to 70 acres. Finally, the large area of 650 acres came under the Director's control. Numerous large glass houses were built. Three Museums were established, and the vast Herbarium and Library founded and developed. The Garden Staff rose to more than 100 men. The day-by-day administration of such an establishment would necessarily make great demands upon the time, energy, tact, and skill of its official head. But in addition there was the growing correspondence to be attended to, on the one hand with botanists all over the world, on the other with the Government Departments, and especially with the Indian and Colonial Offices. As the activity of the Garden extended, there grew up a large staff of scientific experts and artists, whose duties centred round the Herbarium and Library. These all looked to the Director for their guidance and control. The descriptive work prepared by them for publication took formidable dimensions. The production of the Floras of India, and of the Colonies, the publication of which was conducted under Government subvention, had to be organised and carried through. These matters are mentioned here so as to give some idea of the extent and complexity of the work which was being carried on at Kew. For ten years as Assistant Director, and for twenty years as Director, Sir Joseph Hooker guided this complex machine. The efficiency of his rule was shown by the increasing estimation in which the Garden was held by all who were able to judge.
It was the founding of the Herbarium and Library at Kew which, more than anything else, strengthened the scientific establishment. As taken over from the Crown the Garden possessed neither. But Sir William brought with him from Glasgow his own collections, already the most extensive in private hands. For long years after coming to Kew he maintained and added to his store at his own expense. But finally his collections were acquired after his death by Government. His Herbarium was merged with the fine Herbarium of Bentham, already presented to the nation in 1857. Thus, the opening years of Sir Joseph's directorate saw the organisation upon a public basis of that magnificent Herbarium and Library, which now contains not only his father's collections, but also his own. Among the enormous additions since made to the Herbarium of Kew, its greatest interest will always be centred in the Hookerian collections which it contains.
It might be thought that such drafts as these upon the time and energies of a scientific man would leave no opportunity for other duties. But it was while burdened with the directorship that Sir Joseph was called to the highest administrative office in science in Great Britain. He served as President of the Royal Society from 1873 to 1878. The obligations of that position are far from being limited to the requirements of the Society itself. The Government of the day has always been in the habit of taking its president and officials into consultation in scientific matters of public importance. In these years the administrative demands upon Sir Joseph were the greatest of his life They are marked by a temporary pause in the stream of publication. None of his own larger works belong to this period. It happens only too often in this country that our ablest men are thus paralysed in their scientific careers by the potent vortex of administration. Not a few succumb, and cease altogether to produce. They are caught as in the eddy of the Lorelei, and are so hopelessly entangled that they never emerge again. They fail to realise, or realise too late, that the administration of matters relating to a science is not an end in itself, but only a means to an end. Some, the steadfast and invincible seekers after truth, though held by the eddy for a time, pass again into the main stream. Hooker was one of these. The Presidency of the Royal Society ended at the usual term of five years. Seven years later he demitted office as Director of Kew. He was thus free in 1885, still a young man in vigour though not in years. For over a quarter of a century after retirement he devoted the energy of his old age to peculiarly fruitful scientific work. Thus the administrative tie upon him was only temporary. So long as it lasted he faithfully obeyed the call of duty, notwithstanding the restrictions it imposed.
No exhaustive catalogue need be given of the works upon which the reputation of Sir Joseph Hooker as a scientific systematist was founded. It must suffice briefly to consider his four greatest systematic works, The Antarctic Flora, The Flora of British India, The Genera Plantarum, and the Index Kewensis.
We have seen how on the Antarctic voyage Hooker had the opportunity of collecting on all the great circumpolar areas of the Southern Hemisphere. His Antarctic Flora was based on the collections and observations then made. It was published in six large quarto volumes. The first related to the Lord Auckland and Campbell Islands (1843—1845); the second to Fuegia and the Falkland Islands (1845—1847); the third and fourth to New Zealand (1851—1853); and the fifth and sixth to Tasmania (1853—1860). They describe about 3000 species, while on 530 plates 1095 species are depicted, usually with detailed analytical drawings. But these volumes did not merely contain reports of explorations, or descriptions of the many new species collected. There is much more than this in them. All the known facts that could be gathered were incorporated, so that they became systematically elaborated and complete Floras of the several countries. Moreover, in the last of them, the Flora Tasmaniae, there is an Introductory Essay, which in itself would have made Hooker famous. We shall return to this later. Meanwhile we recognise that the publication of the Botanical Results of Ross's Voyage established Hooker's reputation as a Traveller and Botanist of the first rank.
What he did for the Antarctic in his youth he continued in mature life for British India. While the publication of the Antarctic Flora was still in progress, he made his Indian journeys. The vast collections amassed by himself and Dr Thomson were consigned by agreement with Government to Kew. Thither had also been brought in 1858 "seven waggonloads of collections from the cellars of the India House in Leadenhall Street, where they had been accumulating for many years." They included the herbaria of Falconer and Griffith. Such materials, with other large additions made from time to time, flowed into the already rich Herbarium at Kew. This was the material upon which Sir Joseph Hooker was to base his Magnum Opus, the Flora of British India.
Already in 1855 Sir Joseph, with his Glasgow college friend, Thomas Thomson, had essayed to prepare a "Flora Indica." It never advanced beyond its first volume. But if it had been completed on the scale set by that volume, it would have reached nearly 12,000 pages! After a pause of over fifteen years Hooker made a fresh start, aided now by a staff of collaborators, and the Flora of British India was the result. It was conceived, he says with regret, upon a restricted plan. Nevertheless it ran to seven volumes, published between the years 1872 and 1897. There are nearly 6000 pages of letterpress, relating to 16,000 species. It is, he says in the Preface, a pioneer work, and necessarily incomplete. But he hopes it may "help the phytographer to discuss problems of distribution of plants from the point of view of what is perhaps the richest, and is certainly the most varied botanical area on the surface of the globe."
Scarcely was this great work ended when Dr Trimen died. He left the Ceylon Flora, on which he had been engaged, incomplete. Three volumes were already published, but the fourth was far from finished, and the fifth hardly touched. The Ceylon Government applied to Hooker, and though he was now eighty years of age, he responded to the call. The completing volumes were issued in 1898 and 1900. This was no mere raking over afresh the materials worked already into the Indian Flora. For Ceylon includes a strong Malayan element in its vegetation. It has, moreover, a very large number of endemic species, and even genera. This last floristic work of Sir Joseph may be held fitly to round off his treatment of the Indian Peninsula. His last contribution to its botany was in the form of a "Sketch of the Vegetation of the Indian Empire," including Ceylon, Burma, and the Malay Peninsula. It was written for the Imperial Gazetteer, at the request of the Government of India. No one could have been so well qualified for this as the veteran who had spent more than half a century in preparation for it. It was published in 1904, and forms the natural close to the most remarkable study of a vast and varied Flora that has ever been carried through by one ruling mind.
The third of the systematic works selected for our consideration is the Genera Plantarum. It was produced in collaboration with Mr Bentham. Of its three massive volumes the first was published in 1865, and the work was completed in 1883. It consists of a codification of the Latin diagnoses of all the genera of Flowering Plants. It is essentially a work for the technical botanist, but for him it is indispensable. Of the known species of plants many show such close similarity of their characters that their kinship is recognised by grouping them into genera. In order that these genera may be accurately defined it is necessary to have a précis of the characters which their species have in common. This must be so drawn that it shall also serve for purposes of diagnosis from allied genera. Such drafting requires not only a keen appreciation of fact, but also the verbal clearness and accuracy of the conveyancing barrister. The facts could only be obtained by access to a reliable and rich Herbarium. Bentham and Hooker, working together at Kew, satisfied these drastic requirements more fully than any botanists of their time. The only real predecessors of this monumental work were the Genera Plantarum of Linnaeus (1737—1764) and of Jussieu (1789), to which may be added that of Endlicher (1836—1840). But all of these were written while the number of known genera and species was smaller. The difficulty of the task of Bentham and Hooker was greatly enhanced by their wider knowledge. But their Genera Plantarum is on that account a nearer approach to finality. Hitherto its supremacy has not been challenged.
The fourth of the great systematic works of Hooker mentioned above was the Index Kewensis. It was produced upon the plan and under the supervision of Sir Joseph by Dr Daydon Jackson and a staff of clerks. The publication began in 1893, and successive supplements to its four quarto volumes are still appearing at intervals. The expense was borne by Charles Darwin. The scheme originated in the difficulty he had found in the accurate naming of plants. For "synonyms" have frequently been given by different writers to the same species, and this had led to endless confusion. The object of the Index was to provide an authoritative list of all the names that have been used, with reference to the author of each and to its place of publication. The habitat of the plant was also to be given. The correct name in use according to certain well-recognised rules of nomenclature was to be indicated by type different from that of the synonyms superseded by it. The only predecessor of such an Index was Steudel's Nomenclator Botanicus, a book greatly prized by Darwin, though long out of date. He wished at first to produce a modern edition of Steudel's Nomenclator. This idea was, however, amended, and it was resolved to construct a new list of genera and species, founded upon Bentham and Hooker's Genera Plantarum. Sir Joseph Hooker was asked by Mr Darwin to take into consideration the extent and scope of the proposed work, and to suggest the best means of having it executed. He undertook the task, and it was he who laid out the lines to be followed. After years of labour by Dr Daydon Jackson and his staff, the work was produced. But Sir Joseph read and narrowly criticised all the proofs. Imagine four large quarto volumes, containing in the aggregate 2500 pages, each page bearing three columns of close print, and each column about fifty names. The total figures out to about 375,000 specific names, all of which were critically considered by the octogenarian editor! Surely no greater technical benefit was ever conferred upon a future generation by the veterans of science than this Index. It smooths the way for every systematist who comes after. It stands as a monument to an intimate friendship. It bears witness to the munificence of Darwin, and the ungrudging personal care of Hooker.
But the author of great works such as these was still willing to help those of less ambitious flights. I must not omit to mention two books which, being more modest in their scope, have reached the hands of many in this country. In 1870 Hooker produced his Students' Flora of the British Islands, of which later editions appeared in 1878 and 1884. It was published in order to "supply students and field botanists with a fuller account of the plants of the British Isles than the manuals hitherto in use aim at giving." In 1887 he edited, after the death of its author, the fifth edition of Bentham's Handbook of the British Flora. Both of these still hold the field, though they require to be brought up to date in point of classification and nomenclature.
The object of these brief sketches of four of the great systematic works of Sir Joseph Hooker has been to show how fully he was imbued with the old systematic methods: how he advanced, improved and extended them, and was in his time their chief exponent. His father had held a similar position in the generation before him. But the elder Hooker, true to his generation, treated his species as fixed and immutable. He did not generalise from them. His end was attained by their accurate recognition, delineation, description, and classification. The younger Hooker, while in this work he was not a whit behind the best of his predecessors, saw further than they. He was not satisfied with the mere record of species as they were. He sought to penetrate the mystery of the origin of species. In fact, he was not merely a Scientific Systematist in the older sense. He was a Philosophical Biologist in the new and nascent sense of the middle period of the nineteenth century. He was an almost life-long friend of Charles Darwin. He was the first confidant of his species theory, and, excepting Wallace, its first whole-hearted adherent. But he was also Darwin's constant and welcome adviser and critic. Well indeed was it for the successful launch of evolutionary theory that old-fashioned systematists took it in hand. Both Darwin and Hooker had wide and detailed knowledge of species as the starting-point of their induction.Before we trace the part which Hooker himself played in the drama of evolutionary theory, it will be well to glance at his personal relations with Darwin himself. It has been seen how he read the proof-sheets of the Voyage of the 'Beagle'
while still in his last year of medical study. But before he started for the Antarctic he was introduced to its author. It was in Trafalgar Square, and the interview was brief but cordial. On returning from the Antarctic, correspondence was opened in 1843. In January 1844 Hooker received the memorable letter confiding to him the germ of the Theory of Descent. Darwin wrote thus: "At last gleams of light have come, and I am almost convinced that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable: I think I have found (here's presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends." This was probably the first communication by Darwin of his species-theory to any scientific colleague.
The correspondence thus happily initiated between Darwin and Hooker is preserved in the Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, and in the two volumes of Letters subsequently published. They show on the one hand the rapid growth of a deep friendship between these two potent minds, which ended only beside the grave of Darwin in Westminster Abbey. But what is more important is that these letters reveal, in a way that none of the published work of either could have done, the steps in the growth of the great generalisation. We read of the doubts of one or the other; the gradual accumulation of material facts; the criticisms and amendments in face of new evidence; and the slow progress from tentative hypothesis to assured belief. We ourselves have grown up since the clash of opinion for and against the mutability of species died down. It is hard for us to understand the strength of the feelings aroused: the bitterness of the attack by the opponents of the theory, and the fortitude demanded from its adherents. It is best to obtain evidence on such matters at first hand; and this is what is supplied by the correspondence between Darwin and Hooker.
How complete the understanding between the friends soon became is shown by the provisions made by Darwin for the publication of his manuscripts in case of sudden death. He wrote in August 1854 the definite direction "Hooker by far the best man to edit my species volume": and this notwithstanding that he writes to him as a "stern and awful judge and sceptic." But again, in a letter a few months later, he says to him: "I forgot at the moment that you are the one living soul from whom I have constantly received sympathy." I have already said that Hooker was not only Darwin's first confidant but also the first to accept his theory of mutability of species. But even he did not fully assent to it till after its first publication. The latter point comes out clearly from the letters. In January 1859, six months after the reading of their joint communications to the Linnean Society, Darwin writes to Wallace: "You ask about Lyell's frame of mind. I think he is somewhat staggered, but does not give in...I think he will end by being perverted. Dr Hooker has become almost as heterodox as you or I, and I look at Hooker as by far the most capable judge in Europe." In September 1859 Darwin writes to W. D. Fox: "Lyell has read about half of the volume in clean sheets...He is wavering so much about the immutability of species that I expect he will come round. Hooker has come round, and will publish his belief soon." In the following month, writing to Hooker, Darwin says: "I have spoken of you here as a convert made by me: but I know well how much larger the share has been of your own self-thought." A letter to Wallace of November 1859 bears this postscript: "I think that I told you before that Hooker is a complete convert. If I can convert Huxley I shall be content." And lastly, in a letter to W. B. Carpenter, of the same month, Darwin says: "As yet I know only one believer, but I look at him as of the greatest authority, viz. Hooker." These quotations clearly show that, while Lyell wavered, and Huxley had not yet come in, Hooker was a complete adherent in 1859 to the doctrine of the mutability of species. Excepting Wallace, he was the first, in fact, of the great group that stood round Darwin, as he was the last of them to survive.
The story of the joint communication of Darwin and of Wallace to the Linnean Society "On the tendency of Species to form Varieties, and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection" will be fresh in the minds of readers, for the fiftieth anniversary of the event was lately celebrated in London. It was Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker who jointly communicated the two papers to the society, together with the evidence of the priority of Darwin in the enquiry. Nothing could then have been more apposite than the personal history which Sir Joseph gave at the Darwin-Wallace celebration, held by the Linnean Society in 1908. He then told, at first hand, the exact circumstances under which the joint papers were produced. Nor could the expressions used by the President (Dr Scott) when thanking Sir Joseph, and presenting to him the Darwin-Wallace Medal, have been improved. He said: "The incalculable benefit that your constant friendship, advice, and alliance were to Mr Darwin himself, is summed up in his own words, used in 1864: 'You have represented for many years the whole great public to me.'" The President then added: "Of all men living it is to you more than to any other that the great generalisation of Darwin and Wallace owes its triumph."
The very last appearance of Hooker at any large public gathering of biologists was at the centenary of Darwin's birth, celebrated at Cambridge, in 1909. None who were there will forget the tall figure of the veteran, aged, but still vigorous, with vivacity in every feature. How gladly he accepted the congratulations of his many friends, and how heartily he rejoiced over the full acceptance of the theory he had himself done so much to promote. The end came only two years later, in December last. Many will have wished that the great group of the protagonists of Evolution, Darwin, Lyell, and Hooker, should have found their final resting-place together in Westminster Abbey. But this was not to be. Personal and family ties held him closer to Kew. And he lies there in classic ground beside his father. Having thus sketched the intimate relations which subsisted between Hooker and Darwin, it remains to appraise his own positive contributions to Philosophical Biology. He himself, in his Address as President of the British Association at Norwich in 1868, gives an insight into his early attitude in the enquiry into biological questions. "Having myself," he says, "been a student of Moral Philosophy in a Northern University, I entered on my scientific career full of hopes that Metaphysics would prove a useful mentor, if not a guide in science. I soon found, however, that it availed me nothing, and I long ago arrived at the conclusion so well put by Agassiz, when he says, 'We trust that the time is not distant when it will be universally understood that the battle of the evidences will have to be fought on the field of Physical Science, and not on that of the Metaphysical.'" This was the difficult lesson of the period when Evolution was born. Hooker learned the lesson early. He cleared his mental outlook from all preconceptions, and worked down to the bed-rock of objective fact. Thus he was free to use his vast and detailed knowledge in advancing, along the lines of induction alone, towards sound generalisations. These had their very close relation to questions of the mutability of species. The subject was approached by him through the study of geographical distribution, in which, as we have seen, he had at an early age become the leading authority.
The fame of Sir Joseph Hooker as a Philosophical Biologist rests upon a masterly series of Essays and Addresses. The chief of these were The Introductory Essay to the Flora Tasmaniae, dealing with the Antarctic Flora as a whole; The Essay on the Distribution of Arctic Plants, published in 1862; The Discourse on Insular Floras in 1866; The Presidential Address to the British Association at Norwich in 1868; his Address at York, in 1881, on Geographical Distribution; and finally, The Essay on the Vegetation of India, published in 1904. None of these were mere inspirations of the moment. They were the outcome of arduous journeys to observe and to collect, and subsequently of careful analysis of the specimens and of the facts. The dates of publication bear this out. The Essay on the Antarctic Flora appeared about twenty years after the completion of the voyage. The Essay on the Vegetation of India was not published till more than half a century after Hooker first set foot in India. It is upon such foundations that Hooker's reputation as a great constructive thinker is securely based.
The first-named of these essays will probably be estimated as the most notable of them all in the History of Science. It was completed in November 1859, barely a year after the joint communications of Darwin and Wallace to the Linnean Society, and before the Origin of Species had appeared. It was to this Essay that Darwin referred when he wrote that "Hooker has come round, and will publish his belief soon." But this publication of his belief was not merely an echo of assent to Darwin's own opinions. It was a reasoned statement, advanced upon the basis of his "own self-thought," and his own wide systematic and geographical experience. From these sources he drew for himself support for the "hypothesis that species are derivative, and mutable." He points out how the natural history of Australia seemed specially suited to test such a theory, on account of the comparative uniformity of the physical features being accompanied by a great variety in its Flora, and the peculiarity of both its Fauna and Flora, as compared with other countries. After the test had been made, on the basis of study of some 8000 species, their characters, their spread, and their relations to those of other lands, he concludes decisively in favour of mutability and a doctrine of progression.
How highly this Essay was esteemed by his contemporaries is shown by the expressions of Lyell and of Darwin. The former writes: "I have just finished the reading of your splendid Essay on the Origin of Species, as illustrated by your wide botanical experience, and think it goes far to raise the variety-making hypothesis to the rank of a theory, as accounting for the manner in which new species enter the world." Darwin wrote: "I have finished your Essay. To my judgment it is by far the grandest and most interesting essay on subjects of the nature discussed I have ever read."
But besides its historical interest in relation to the Species Question, the Essay contained what was up to its time the most scientific treatment of a large area from the point of view of the Plant-Geographer. He found that the Antarctic, like the Arctic Flora, is very uniform round the Globe. The same species in many cases occur on every island, though thousands of miles of ocean may intervene. Many of these species reappear on the mountains of Southern Chili, Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The Southern Temperate Floras, on the other hand, of South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand differ more among themselves than do the Floras of Europe, Northern Asia, and North America. To explain these facts he suggested the probable former existence, during a warmer period than the present, of a centre of creation of new species in the Southern Ocean, in the form of either a continent or an archipelago, from which the Antarctic Flora radiated. This hypothesis has since been held open to doubt. But the fact that it was suggested shows the broad view which he was prepared to take of the problem before him. His method was essentially that which is now styled "Ecological." Many hold this to be a new phase of botanical enquiry, introduced by Professor Warming in 1895. No one will deny the value of the increased precision which he then brought into such studies. But in point of fact it was Ecology on the grand scale that Sir Joseph Hooker practised in the Antarctic in 1840. Moreover it was pursued, not in regions of old civilisation, but in lands where Nature held her sway untouched by the hand of man.
This Essay on the Flora of the Antarctic was the prototype of the great series. Sir Joseph examined the Arctic Flora from similar points of view. He explained the circumpolar uniformity which it shows, and the prevalence of Scandinavian types, together with the peculiarly limited nature of the Flora of the southward peninsula of Greenland. He extended his enquiries to oceanic islands. He pointed out that the conditions which dictated circumpolar distribution are absent from them; but that other conditions exist in them which account for the strange features which their vegetation shows. He extended the application of such methods to the Himalaya and to Central Asia. He joined with Asa Gray in like enquiries in North America. The latter had already given a scientific explanation of the surprising fact that the plants of the Eastern States resemble more nearly those of China than do those of the Pacific Slope. In resolving these and other problems it was not only the vegetation itself that was studied. The changes of climate in geological time, and of the earth's crust as demonstrated by geologists, formed part of the basis on which he worked. For it is facts such as these which have determined the migration of Floras. And migration, as well as mutability of species, entered into most of his speculations. The Essays of this magnificent series are like pictures painted with a full brush. The boldness and mastery which they show sprang from long discipline and wide experience.
Finally, the chief results of the Phyto-Geographical work of himself and of others were summed up in the great Address on "Geographical Distribution" at York. The Jubilee of the British Association was held there in 1881. It had been decided that each section should be presided over by a past President of the Association, and he had occupied that position at Norwich in 1868. Accordingly at York Hooker was appointed President of the Geographical Section, and he chose as the subject of his Address "The Geographical Distribution of Organic Beings." To him it illustrated "the interdependence of those Sciences which the Geographer should study." It is not enough merely to observe the topography of organisms, but their hypsometrical distribution must also be noted. Further, the changes of area and of altitude in exposed land-surfaces of which geology gives evidence, are essential features in the problem, together with the changes of climate, such as have determined the advance and retrocession of glacial conditions. Having noted these factors, he continued thus: "With the establishment of the doctrine of orderly evolution of species under known laws I close this list of those recognised principles of the science of geographical distribution, which must guide all who enter upon its pursuit. As Humboldt was its founder, and Forbes its reformer, so we must regard Darwin as its latest and greatest law-giver." Now, after thirty years, may we not add to these words of his, that Hooker was himself its greatest exponent?
And so we have followed, however inadequately, this great man into the various lines of scientific activity which he pursued. We have seen him to excel in them all. The cumulative result is that he is universally held to have been, during several decades, the most distinguished botanist of his time. He was before all things a philosopher. In him we see the foremost student of the broader aspects of Plant-Life at the time when evolutionary belief was nascent. His influence at that stirring period, though quiet, was far-reaching and deep. His work was both critical and constructive. His wide knowledge, his keen insight, his fearless judgment were invaluable in advancing that intellectual revolution which found its pivot in the mutability of species. The share he took in promoting it was second only to that of his life-long friend Charles Darwin.