Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/323

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319
LIFE AND WORKS OF DARWIN

weapons of ostracism and loss of position. In biology Linnæus, Buffon, Lamarck, St. Hilaire, in turn discovered the evidences of evolution, but felt the penalty and either recanted or suffered loss of position. The cause of supernaturalism had never seemed stronger than in 1857; the masterly works of Paley and Whewell had appeared; the great series of Bridgewater Treatises to demonstrate the wisdom and goodness of God in the special creation of adaptations had just been closed; men of rare ability, Cuvier, Owen, Lyell and Agassiz, were on the side of special creation; yet at the very time this whole system of natural philosophy was rotten at the foundation because not the work of free observation.

Where his great predecessors Buff on and Lamarck had failed, Darwin won through his unparalleled genius as an observer and reasoner, through the absolutely irresistible force of the facts he had assembled and through the simplicity of his presentation. Lacking the literary graces of his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, and the obscurity of Spencer, Darwin was understood by every one as every one could understand Lincoln. It is true the cause was immediately championed by able men, but victory was gained not by the vehement and radical Haeckel nor yet by the masterly fighter Huxley, but through the resistless power of the truth as Darwin saw it and presented it. It was not a denial, as had been the great skeptical movement of the end of the eighteenth century, but an affirmation. Darwin was not destroying but building; yet at the time good and honest men trembled as if passing through an earthquake, for in the whole history of human thought there had been no such cataclysm.

 
II

In what he achieved Darwin is so entirely alone that his place in the history of ideas is next to Aristotle, the great Greek biologist and philosopher who preceded him by over 2,000 years.

The biographers of Lincoln are at a loss to explain his greatness through heredity. Darwin belonged to an able family, and his ancestors are singularly prophetic of his career. He was near of kin to Francis Galton, who shares with Weismann the leadership in the study of heredity during the nineteenth century. By a happy combination of all the best traits of the best of his ancestors coupled with the no less happy omission of other traits, Darwin was a far greater man than any of his forebears. Kindliness, truthfulness and love of nature were part of his birthright. From his grandfather Erasmus, Charles may have inherited especially his vividness of imagination and his strong tendency to generalize. Countless hypotheses flitted through his mind.[1] "Without speculation there is no good and original ob-

  1. "I can not resist forming one on every subject."