ARTICLE: Neptunism and Transformism: Robert Jameson and other Evolutionary Theorists in Early Nineteenth-Century Scotland

A new article in the Journal of the History of Biology might be of interest to readers here:

Neptunism and Transformism: Robert Jameson and other Evolutionary Theorists in Early Nineteenth-Century Scotland

Bill Jenkins

Abstract This paper sheds new light on the prevalence of evolutionary ideas in Scotland in the early nineteenth century and establish what connections existed between the espousal of evolutionary theories and adherence to the directional history of the earth proposed by Abraham Gottlob Werner and his Scottish disciples. A possible connection between Wernerian geology and theories of the transmutation of species in Edinburgh in the period when Charles Darwin was a medical student in the city was suggested in an important 1991 paper by James Secord. This study aims to deepen our knowledge of this important episode in the history of evolutionary ideas and explore the relationship between these geological and evolutionary discourses. To do this it focuses on the circle of natural historians around Robert Jameson, Wernerian geologist and professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh from 1804 to 1854. From the evidence gathered here there emerges a clear confirmation that the Wernerian model of geohistory facilitated the acceptance of evolutionary explanations of the history of life in early nineteenth-century Scotland. As Edinburgh was at this time the most important center of medical education in the English-speaking world, this almost certainly influenced the reception and development of evolutionary ideas in the decades that followed.

3 thoughts on “ARTICLE: Neptunism and Transformism: Robert Jameson and other Evolutionary Theorists in Early Nineteenth-Century Scotland

  1. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Year 2, Vol: #16 | Whewell's Ghost

  2. Paul, I was just reading about this in Darwin’s Sciences by Duncan M. Porter and Peter W. Graham (2015): They state that Darwin may have been negative to Jameson in his recollections because Jameson would not be a mentor to Darwin. While he referred to Jameson as “that old brown, dry stick Jameson” in a letter to J.D. Hooker in 1854 (following Jameson’s death), Porter and Graham note that “to CD, Jameson’s lectures were” likely “dull in presentation, but not in content.”

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