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Charles darwin and richard owen

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Charles darwin and richard owen

Charles Darwin and Richard Owen

Wars occur everyday, whether it be pushing and shoving or shooting and bombing. During the 1800's, a

different war of conflict took place. This so-called war between Charles Darwin and Richard Owen circled on the

topic of evolution. As much as it would liked to have this essay based upon a physical war between these two

opposing figures, it is not the case. This war involved the use of text written by Darwin and meanwhile having

Owen misinterpreting it and trying at his very best, falsifying it.

Prior to describing events that took place during the 1800's, it would be best to briefly account for the

characteristics of Owen and Darwin. Richard Owen was born in 1804, and was considered lazy and impudent by

teachers. He attended Lancaster Grammar School to pursue a medical career and later entered the University of

Edinburgh medical school in 1824. However, due to the lack of quality in teaching, Owen transferred to Barclay

School, and it was here that John Barclay, an anti-materialist, greatly influenced Owen. Through Barclay's

recommendation of Owen to John Abernathy, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Owen was granted

membership to the Royal College in 1826. Owen was later appointed assistant in the cataloging of a collection

containing thirteen thousand specimens (known as the Hunterian Collection (Rupke 17)). It was probably this that

lead Owen interest in the field of anatomy, which eventually lead him into becoming a naturalist. By 1836, he

published anatomical work on the Memoir on the Pearly Nautilus (Rupke 119). Within a year, he was giving

lectures to the public on the the Hunterian Collection. These lectures were often attended by important and

royalty figures of Victorian England. Charles Darwin was also one of the many that attended Owen's lectures.

His death in 1892 was treasured with a bronze statue of him placed in the main hall of the Natural History Museum

in South Kensington.

Darwin was born in 1809, he was considered as a man of having a lot of patience and humility. Unlike Owen, he

grew up in a wealthy family with an above average status. His father was an English country doctor, but it was

Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, who received the most fame, prior to Charles' popularity. Erasmus Darwin

could be best remembered as the one that declined King George III's grant to take the post of the Royal Physician

in London. He was an English doctor with a high reputation and was also a poet, a philosopher, mathematician,

and a strongly liberal pursuer of human rights (Edey 39). Getting back to Charles Darwin, he was one that loved

the outdoors, his hobbies included collecting shells, moths, butterflies, and beetles. Following his father and

grandfather's footsteps, he was told to be become a doctor, a surgeon, more specifically. However, Darwin's lack

of interest in the subject and the frightfulness of surgery lead him to withdraw from Edinburgh School. His father

then send him to Christ's College, in Cambridge, and it was here, that eventually lead Darwin to become known

as the most famous natural scientist in the world. Through many recommendations by teachers at Christ's

College, Darwin was asked to take the post of a naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle (Edey 43). This expedition,

along with many others followed by, enticed his interest in evolution, botany, and zoology. His works, theories,

and natural selection can be seen through numerous publications, notably his Origin of Species and The Descent

of Man.

Darwin's theory of evolution was the primary reason that had caused the fade out of Owen's name, or as one

could call it, the 'now forgotten natuarlist' (Rupke 3). Obviously, Owen, being furious of his diminishing

reputation, had to somehow turn this around. Owen attacked back by various strategies including : misquoting

Darwin's publications, setting up traps such that Darwin's theories would become inaccurate, etc. Owen's anger

toward Darwin's publication of the Origin of Species, can be seen in his following expression :

The great value of Darwin's series of works, summarizing all the evidences of embryology,

palaeontology, and physiology experimentally applied to producing varieties of species, is exemplified in the

general acceptance by biologists of the secondary law, by evolution, of the origin of 'species'. As a rule, additions

by summaries and monographs now published in natural history are in the terms of such 'law'.

In this respect Charles Darwin stands to biology in the relation in which Copernicus stood to


The rejection of the origin of species by primary law or miraculous creation, is equivalent to

the rejection of the fixity, centricity and supreme magnitude of our earth, i.e. to the substitution for the geocentric

of the heliocentric hypothesis. The accelerated progress of natural history under the guidance of 'evolution'

parallels that of astronomy under the guidance of heliocentricity.

But the adoption of Darwin's hypothesis of the evolutional way of work is not general.

Lamarck's hypothesis is found in some cases to be more applicable. So it seems to me that Darwin parallels

Copernicus. The latter knew not how the planets revolved around the sun: to know that required the successive

labours of a Galileo, a Kepler and finally a Newton. Analogy raises a cheerful hope and confident expectation

that the science of living things will also be blessed with its Galileo, its Kepler and finally its Newton. And that the

way of operation of the secondary law originating species will then be as firmly established as the 'law of

gravitation'. (Rupke 255-256)

In Owen's first paragraph, it seems that he gives respect to Darwin and the works that he did. This can be seen in

the part that goes ''is exemplified in the general acceptance by the biologists of the secondary law'' (Rupke

256), which can be derived that Owen is saying that Darwin is accepted by the biologists in a general or

recognized to the public. However, in the following paragraph, Owen begins his attack. He first compares

Darwin with Copernicus. After this, Owen explains how Darwin rejects the origin of species by the primary law.

He then continues in saying that rejection of such law is like rejecting accepting a few and disregarding others.

The next paragraph can be said as Owen's final argument in which he further compares Darwin to Copernicus.

He states that Darwin is like Copernicus in that Darwin establishes his points from the secondary law, with no

regards to the primary laws. He uses the example that in order to establish the 'law of gravitation' (Rupke 256),

the works of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton must first be recognized. It is probably due to Owen's knowledge that

he knows Darwin will not be able to defend at this, that has lead him to write in such a negative manner, since

Darwin was dead already when he published this. Giving Owen the name 'chicken' to publish this after Darwin's

death may seem appropriate, however, when one looks at the numerous followers of Darwinism after Darwin's

death, it would seem a perfectly smart move by Owen. Not only would this persuade away others from further

continuing and believing Darwin's work, but it would also help re-establish Owen's once-famed reputation.

Although it may appear that Owen was always the one arguing at Darwin's theories. This was certainly

not the case, as Darwin also criticized Owen's works. For example, in Owen's On the Invertebrate Animals, he

mentions in the glossary :

'Analogue' : a part in one animal which has the same function as another part or organ in another animal.

'Homologue' : the same origin in different animals under every variety of form and function. (Glass 402)

It is clear that Owen's definitions are inaccurate, in that it is not applicable for every species. Darwin noticing this,

responded by stating the following in Chapter V of his Origin of Species :

Several years ago I was much struck by a remark, to the above effect made by a remark, to the above effect,

made by Mr. Waterhouse. Professor Owen, also, seems to have come to a nearly similar conclusion. It is hopeless

to attempt to convince any one of the truth of the above proposition without giving the long array of facts which I

have collected, and which cannot possibly be here introduced. I can only state my conviction that it is a rule of

high generality. I am aware of several causes of error, but I hope that I have made due allowance for them. It

should be understood that the rule by no means applies to any part, however unusually developed, unless it be

unusually developed in one species or in a few species in comparison with the same part in many closed allied

species. (Darwin 112)

Darwin's response with Owen's idea is an attempt to show that Owen's work is not full of evidence. He refers to

Owen's definition as hopeless in convincing the truth. Furthermore, Darwin makes himself look good by

mentioning that he has facts from which he had collected, thus giving himself a better image than Owen.

However, he states : ''and which cannot possibly be here introduced.' (Darwin 112), which may query one to

think whether the evidence that Darwin has, was ...

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Keywords: charles darwin survival of the fittest theory, charles darwin main theories, proof of charles darwin theory, charles darwin interests, charles darwin theory

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