Choice April 2002

a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries

The Origin of Species, Revisited

Review by Joel S. Schwartz, CUNY College of Staten Island

Forsdyke (biochemistry, Queen's Univ., Canada) pays tribute to Charles Darwin's last disciple, George John Romanes, suggesting that Romanes anticipated modern developments in biological theory with his theory on the origin of species by "physiological selection." The book's key idea is that while Darwin viewed natural selection as the "prime moving force" in evolution with reproductive selection following, Romanes and John Thomas Gulick -- the American missionary and naturalists -- held that physiological or reproductive selection occurred first and then natural selection acted on variations. Forsdyke's difficulty lies in his historical discussion; e.g., he barely identifies Gulick but frequently refers to the "Romanes-Gulick" theory, an overstatement because although Gulick supported Romanes's ideas on isolation, he cannot be credited as its coauthor. Another figure Forsdyke admires is William Bateson, a pioneer in genetics, and he notes Bateson's antipathy to "biometrician-like statistics in genetics." However, although Bateson was barely 20 when Darwin died in 1882, the dust jacket misidentifies him as "Darwin's young research associate," an ironic twist because Bateson rejected the Darwinian mechanism of evolution-natural selection. In spite of its shaky history, the book will interest research biologists and historians of science. Upper-division graduates through faculty.

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Last edited 06 Sep 2010 by Donald Forsdyke