BOOK: The Darwin Archipelago: The Naturalist’s Career Beyond Origin of Species

The Darwin Archipelago: The Naturalist’s Career Beyond Origin of Species, by Steve Jones (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 248 pp.

Charles Darwin is of course best known for The Voyage of the Beagle and The Origin of Species. But he produced many other books over his long career, exploring specific aspects of the theory of evolution by natural selection in greater depth. The eminent evolutionary biologist Steve Jones uses these lesser-known works as springboards to examine how their essential ideas have generated whole fields of modern biology.

Earthworms helped found modern soil science, Expression of the Emotions helped found comparative psychology, and Self-Fertilization and Forms of Flowers were important early works on the origin of sex. Through this delightful introduction to Darwin’s oeuvre, one begins to see Darwin’s role in biology as resembling Einstein’s in physics: he didn’t have one brilliant idea but many and in fact made some seminal contribution to practically every field of evolutionary study. Though these lesser-known works may seem disconnected, Jones points out that they all share a common theme: the power of small means over time to produce gigantic ends. Called a “world of wonders” by the Times of London, The Darwin Archipelago will expand any reader’s view of Darwin’s genius and will demonstrate how all of biology, like life itself, descends from a common ancestor.

The National Center for Science Education has a free preview of The Darwin Archipelago: The Naturalist’s Career Beyond Origin of Species, here.

ARTICLE: Foreign Bodies; or, How Did Darwin Invent the Symptom?

From Victorian Studies:

Foreign Bodies; or, How Did Darwin Invent the Symptom?

Matthew Rowlinson

Abstract Beginning with a discussion of the sources in Darwin’s writing for Freud’s theory of the hysterical symptom, this essay proceeds to a symptomatic reading of Darwin himself. With reference to The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of the Emotions, this essay shows that Darwin’s theories of involuntary expressive behavior and of aesthetic preference in sexual selection are linked by their role in his understanding of racial difference and also by their reliance on the idea that learned habits can be inherited as instincts, a view often identified with Lamarck. They are thus at once theories of the foreign body and theories that appear as foreigners within the body of Darwin’s work.

ARTICLES: Darwin on Stage & Darwin in Japan

From the Journal of Victorian Culture (15:1, April 2010):

Darwin’s Flinch: Sensation Theatre and Scientific Looking in 1872

Tiffany Watt-Smitha

Abstract This article explores the relationship between Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (London: Murray, 1872) and the debates surrounding audiences of sensation theatre. It takes as its starting point a flinch performed by Darwin in a self-experiment at London Zoological Gardens. Darwin’s flinch combined the act of scientific observation with a self-consciously staged emotional gesture. In the 1860s and early 1870s, the passionate and demonstrative audiences of sensation plays were similarly understood to watch themselves feeling. In this economy of emotional surfaces, actors and audience were caught up in unsettling relations between outwards expression and the remote landscape of interior feeling. Entangled in this theatrical instability, Darwin’s scientific observation reflected broader cultural concerns about the reliability of the emotional body. Thus the article offers Darwin’s Expression as an unusual but nonetheless suggestive artefact of theatrical spectatorship in 1872, while also contributing to recent debates about the history of objectivity and its supposedly unemotional and restrained scientific observer. It argues that the technique of self-conscious emotional spectatorship, shared by Darwin and theatre audiences, constituted a distinctive model of late Victorian emotion and visuality, in which communities of spectators were also spectators of themselves.

From Intellectual History Review (19:2, July 2009):

Alien Science, Indigenous Thought and Foreign Religion: Reconsidering the Reception of Darwinism in Japan

Kuang-chi Hunga

First paragraph Beginning in 1877, the American zoologist, Edward S. Morse (1837-1925), initiated a series of lectures on Darwin and his theory at the Tokyo Imperial University. As a former student of Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a prominent anti-Darwinist at Harvard University in Boston, Morse nevertheless sparked a wave of enthusiasm for Darwinism in Japanese society. In the years to come, Morse was held in great esteem as a cultural hero. Not only was he invited to give talks in a variety of institutions, from the Ministry of Education to public or private clubs, but also this American zoologist was awarded with numerous honours and recognitions. Morse’s influence persisted even after his return to the United States in 1879. In 1883, Morse’s draft lectures were translated by his student, Ishikawa Chiyomatsu (1868-1935), under the title The Evolution of Animals (Dōbutsu shinkaron). In the history of how evolutionism was accepted in Japan, The Evolution of Animals is the fourth book-length work to be published. Nevertheless, in terms of influence and subsequent impact, Morse’s work is probably the first of its kind to draw people’s attention specifically to Charles Darwin (1809-1882), not just to Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). With hindsight, it is even possible that Morse’s elaboration on Darwinism contributed to the publication of Darwin’s works in Japan. In 1881, three years after Morse’s departure, The Descent of Man was translated into The Ancestor of Man (Jinsoron). Fifteen years later, the Japanese version of On the Origin of Species was completed and published by Shigen Seibutsu. Since then, the translation of Darwin’s works has developed into an industry. As Eikoh Shimao puts it, ‘no western scientist’s works have been translated into so many Japanese versions as Darwin’s. No language seems to have produced more different versions of On the Origin of Species than Japanese’.

Darwin in Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

The May 2010 issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences was devoted to Darwin:

Charles Darwin and Neuropsychology

The Charles Darwin Anniversary, C. U. M. (Chris) Smith, Pages 83 – 84:

No abstract

The Darwins and Wells: From Revolution to Evolution, Nicholas J. Wade, Pages 85 – 104:

In the biography of his grandfather (Erasmus Darwin), Charles Darwin hinted that his father (Robert Darwin) had received parental assistance in conducting and writing his medical thesis (which concerned afterimages). The experiments also involved visual vertigo, and they were elaborated by the senior Darwin in his Zoonomia, published in 1794. Erasmus Darwin’s interpretation was in terms of trying to pursue peripheral afterimages formed during rotation; it was at variance with one published two years earlier by William Charles Wells, who had investigated the visual consequences of body rotation when the body is subsequently still. Wells penned two retorts to the Darwins’ theory; although they were not accepted by Erasmus, he did devise a human centrifuge, models of which were employed in later studies of vertigo. Wells’s ideas on evolution were expressed in a paper delivered to the Royal Society (in 1813) but not published in its Transactions. Commenting on the case of a white woman, part of whose skin was black, he proposed a process of change that was akin to natural selection. His ideas were acknowledged by Charles Darwin in the fourth edition of On the Origin of Species.

Darwin’s Unsolved Problem: The Place of Consciousness in an Evolutionary World, C. U. M. (Chris) Smith, Pages 105 – 120:

“How does consciousness commence?” When Darwin set about developing his evolution theory on his return from the Beagle circumnavigation in 1836, he quickly realized that one major problem was, precisely, the existence of “mind” in a material world. This paper reviews his early struggles with this problem and pursues it into his later writings, especially the 1872 Expression of Emotions and in the work of his disciple G. J. Romanes. In the 1871 Descent of Man, Darwin admits defeat, writing that “In what manner the mental powers were first developed in the lowest organisms is as hopeless an enquiry as how life itself first originated. These are problems for the distant future” (p. 100). That “distant future” has now arrived and plausible answers to Darwin’s first question have been developed. The bicentennial celebrations provide an opportunity to ask again whether we are any closer to a solution of the second. They also provide an opportunity to emphasize Darwin’s lifelong interest in the relationships between mind, brain, and behavior.

Charles Darwin and the Evolution of Human Grammatical Systems, Hugh W. Buckingham; Sarah S. Christman, Pages 121 – 139:

Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories of animal communication were deeply embedded in a centuries-old model of association psychology, whose prodromes have most often been traced to the writings of Aristotle. His notions of frequency of occurrence of pairings have been passed down through the centuries and were a major ontological feature in the formation of associative connectivity. He focused on the associations of cause and effect, contiguity of sequential occurrence, and similarity among items. Cause and effect were often reduced to another type of contiguity relation, so that Aristotle is most often evoked as the originator of the associative bondings through similarity and contiguity, contiguity being the most powerful and frequent means of association. Contiguity eventually became the overriding mechanism for serial ordering of mental events in both perception and action. The notions of concatenation throughout the association psychology took the form of “trains” of events, both sensory and motor, in such a way that serial ordering came to be viewed as an item-by-item string of locally contiguous events. Modern developments in the mathematics of serial ordering have advanced in sophistication since the early and middle twentieth century, and new computational methods have allowed us to reevaluate the serial concatenative theories of Darwin and the associationists. These new models of serial order permit a closer comparative scrutiny between human and nonhuman. The present study considers Darwin’s insistence on a “degree” continuity between human and nonhuman animal serial ordering. We will consider a study of starling birdsongs and whether the serial ordering of those songs provides evidence that they have a syntax that at best differs only in degree and not in kind with the computations of human grammatical structures. We will argue that they, in fact, show no such thing.

Darwin’s “Natural Science of Babies” , Marjorie Lorch; Paula Hellal, Pages 140 – 157:

In 1877, the newly founded British journal Mind published two papers on child development. The earlier, by Hippolyte Taine, prompted the second article: an account of his own son’s development by the naturalist Charles Darwin. In its turn, Darwin’s paper, “A Biographical Sketch of an Infant,” influenced others. Diary studies similar to Taine’s and Darwin’s appeared in Mind from 1878. In addition, the medical profession started to consider normal child language acquisition as a comparison for the abnormal. Shortly before his death in 1882, Darwin continued with his theme, setting out a series of proposals for a program of research on child development with suggested methodology and interpretations. Darwin, whose interest in infants and the developing mind predated his 1877 paper by at least 40 years, sought to take the subject out of the nursery and into the scientific domain. The empirical study of the young child’s developing mental faculties was a source of evidence with important implications for his general evolutionary theory. The social status of children in England was the subject of considerable discussion around the time Darwin’s 1877 paper appeared. Evolutionary theory was still relatively new and fiercely debated, and an unprecedented level of interest was shown by the popular press in advance of the publication. This article considers the events surrounding the publication of Darwin’s article in Mind, the notebook of observations on Darwin’s children (1839-1856) that served as its basis, and the research that followed publication of “Biographical Sketch.” We discuss the impact this article, one of the first infant psychology studies in English, made on the scientific community in Britain in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Charles Darwin’s Emotional Expression “Experiment” and His Contribution to Modern Neuropharmacology, Peter J. Snyder; Rebecca Kaufman; John Harrison; Paul Maruff, Pages 158 – 170:

In the late 1860s and early 1870s, Darwin had corresponded with the French physician and physiologist, G. B. A. Duchenne, regarding Duchenne’s experimental manipulation of human facial expression of emotion, by applying Galvanic electrical stimulation directly to facial muscles. Duchenne had produced a set of over 60 photographic plates to illustrate his view that there are different muscles in the human face that are separately responsible for each individual emotion. Darwin studied this material very carefully and he received permission from Duchenne in 1871 to reproduce several of these images in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Darwin had doubted Duchenne’s view that there were individual muscle groups that mediate the expression of dozens of separable emotions, and he wondered whether there might instead be a fewer set of core emotions that are expressed with great stability worldwide and across cultures. Prompted by his doubts regarding the veracity of Duchenne’s model, Darwin conducted what may have been the first-ever single-blind study of the recognition of human facial expression of emotion. This single experiment was a little-known forerunner for an entire modern field of study with contemporary clinical relevance. Moreover, his specific question about cross-cultural recognition of the cardinal emotions in faces is a topic that is being actively studied (in the twenty-first century) with the hope of developing novel biomarkers to aid the discovery of new therapies for the treatment of schizophrenia, autism, and other neuropsychiatric diseases.

ARTICLE: Did Darwin change his mind about the Fuegians?

From the journal Endeavour:

Did Darwin change his mind about the Fuegians?

Gregory Radick

Abstract Shocked by what he considered to be the savagery he encountered in Tierra del Fuego, Charles Darwin ranked the Fuegians lowest among the human races. An enduring story has it, however, that Darwin was later so impressed by the successes of missionaries there, and by the grandeur they discovered in the native tongue, that he changed his mind. This story has served diverse interests, religious and scientific. But Darwin in fact continued to view the Fuegians as he had from the start, as lowly but improvable. And while his case for their unity with the other human races drew on missionary evidence, that evidence concerned emotional expression, not language.

ARTICLE: Darwin’s Emotions: The Scientific Self and the Sentiment of Objectivity

In the current Isis (Vol. 100, Dec, 2009, pp. 811-26):

Darwin’s Emotions: The Scientific Self and the Sentiment of Objectivity

Paul White

Abstract Darwin’s emotional life has been a preoccupation of biographers and popularizers, while his research on emotional expression has been of keen interest to anthropologists and psychologists. Much can be gained, however, by looking at Darwin’s emotions from both sides, by examining the relationship between his emotional experience and his scientific study of emotion. Darwin developed various techniques for distancing himself from his objects of study and for extracting emotional “objects” from feeling subjects. In order to investigate emotions scientifically, his own emotional life, his feelings for others, had to give way—or did it? This question has implications well beyond the life of Darwin, moral implications about the effects of scientific discipline on those who practice it and on the animals and people subjected to it. This dual approach to Darwin’s emotions also allows us to address a conundrum of recent histories of “objectivity”—namely, the status of the scientific self as a feeling subject.

Also in this issue, essay reviews of The Tragic Sense of Life (about Ernst Haeckel) and Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform, and a short review of Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science.

LECTURE: Darwin complicit in manipulating photos

From BSHS:

Darwin complicit in manipulating photos
02 July 2009 — 02 July 2009   British Society for the History of Science

Location: Stamford Hall
Venue: University of Leicester
Opening hours: 13.30-15.00

When Darwin came to publish The Expression of the Emotions in 1872, he employed images made by five photographers to illustrate the wide variation in human facial expressions. A new study of the way that two of these photographers operated reveals the extent to which Darwin’s photographs were manipulated.

The photographic image can be seen both as a mirror of reality and a construction of reality. But in the nineteenth century, few people appreciated the subtle ways in which the photographer, the subject and the camera itself could interfere with the representation of reality.

For scientists like Charles Darwin, the photographic image promised unprecedented objectivity, apparently removing the subjectivity of the photographer from the equation altogether. And when it came to preparing his book on The Expression of the Emotions, published in 1872, Darwin yielded to this promise.

The two photographers analyzed here had rather different backgrounds: French physician and physiologist Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne and Swedish-born artistic photographer Oscar Gustave Rejlander. But both of them manipulated the construction of the images to give Darwin what he needed for his theorizations, says Tatiana C. Gonçalves of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine in London and the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil.

In spite of his scientific training, Duchenne got his subjects to pull facial movements that did not necessarily correspond to real expressions, says Gonçalves. And in order to capture the quick movements that Darwin wanted, Rejlander had to fake situations to photograph, she says. Gonçalves will present her full argument on Thursday 2 July at the annual meeting of the British Society for the History of Science in Leicester, UK.

“The images made by these two photographers offers an excellent case-study for investigating the general assumptions, intrinsic characteristics and particularities of the photographic medium as it was used in late nineteenth-century science,” concludes Gonçalves.

Darwin, the Observant Father

At the Inverse Square Blog, we get “A portrait of the naturalist at home” for Darwin Day, discussing correspondence between Darwin and his first son, William, in 1858. Today from Darwin Online, we get Darwin’s “Notebook of observations on the Darwin children” (1839-1856), some of Darwin’s preparation for Expression of the emotions (1872) and ‘A biographical sketch of an infant‘ (1877). The notebook begins with observations of William, sometimes referred to as Willy elsewhere in the notebook, during his first week:

W. Erasmus. Darwin born. Dec. 27th. 1839. — During first week, yawned, streatched himself just like old person — chiefly upper extremities — hiccupped — sneezes sucked, Surface of warm hand placed to face, seemed immediately to give wish of sucking, either instinctive or associated knowledge of warm smooth surface of bosom. — cried & squalled, but no tears — touching sole of foot with spill of paper, (when exactly one week old), it jerked it away very suddenly & curled its toes, like person tickled, evidently subject to tickling — I think also body under arms. — more sensitive than other parts of surface — What can be origin of movement from tickling; neck, & armpit between the toes are places seldom touched but are easily tickled — the whole surface of the sole of foot is toouched constantly. — so is the resting place of body but the latter is by no means sensitive to tickling — nor are ends of fingers, or surface of limbs — but back bone is. —

Book Review: Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750

Wonders and the Order of Nature is more than just a collection of stories about marvels. As a cornucopia of contexts, this book provides a wealth of social, cultural, religious, and political forces behind the history of wonders and the history of the emotion of wonder itself. In several ways, however, Daston and Park offer some broader themes. In their sweep through six centuries (from the High Middle Ages through the enlightenment), they show how the passions of wonder and curiosity have defined what objects were worthy of study and collection (and use) by European elites, be they courtly princes, natural philosophers, medical men, or theologians. Within those definitions emerge a multitude of boundaries – natural/unnatural, domestic/exotic, learned/lay (cultivated/vulgar), particulars/universals, theology/secularism, natural/artificial, empiricism and reason/ignorance, common/rare, physical experience/text experience, utility/futility, and ordinary/extraordinary – that help to understand how European elites viewed wonders and connected them to their lives.

Always with a dictionary at-hand, I found this book difficult at times to grasp a larger picture and yet redeemed as the authors summarized the main themes in each chapter. Chapter 1 places wonders geographically (or more exactly topographically), where marvels were “compiled, collated, analyzed, and multiplied.”[1] Most important here is the boundary between the domestic and the exotic. Marvels were found on the margins of Europe, to the east in Asia and Africa, and to the west in, at one time, Ireland, and later in the sixteenth century, the New World of North and South America. Recalling Pliny, the English monk Hidgen said “Nature plays with greater freedom secretly at the edges of the world than she does openly and nearer us in the middle of it.”[2] How geography defined marvels said something about the society of those experiencing the marvel. Marvels on the margins reflected Nature acting against her own laws, while marvels (of a different sort) that appeared within European society were considered horrors, signs of sin from the people. Those marvels on the margins were often exotic races such as the Cyclops (part of the natural order), while marvels at home were singularities: a monstrous birth, a comet, or blood-rain (ruptures of the moral order). While horrific marvels at home caused fear, exotic marvels, since they were not local, were viewed with tolerance. Part of this tolerance emerged from a view of relativity. Earlier readers of texts about monsters thought the exotic races barbarous and threatening. Medieval readers, however, saw exotic races through the eyes of those exotic races; they were no longer perceived negatively. Despite this new perspective, Europeans still expressed their superiority over exotic races.

While some viewed the marvels of the East as pleasurable (and non-threatening), Augustine placed them in a theological context. Representing the omnipotence of God, marvels should evoke religious awe. An Augustinian practice – by fellows like Bartholomaeus, Thomas, and Vincent – was to pore over catalogues of marvels and “bring out the moral sense.”[3] “He told of wonders,” a Christian author wrote about Pliny, “and I speak of morals.”[4] According to Daston and Park, the principal difference between singularities (prodigies) and marvelous (exotic) species “lay in their signification rather than their form.”[5] If a marvel were on the boundaries, then they represented symbols of the “power and wisdom of their Creator” or “figures of some higher theological or moral truth;” if they were found within society, then they acted as signs of God’s pleasure or displeasure “with particular situations or actions,”[6] and required immediate documentation because they “engag[ed] immediate human interests.”[7] Another aspect of the exotic versus domestic nature of marvels I found interesting is that travel writers relied on eyewitness experience in their accounts of visits to the east because “they needed to present their narratives as both literally and morally true.”[8]

In the next chapter, Daston and Park discuss wonders as physical objects and commodities of material culture rather than how they were significant to their observers or fit into literary culture as textual objects. As physical objects, wonders represented the wealth, power, and cultivation of those who owned them, and thus emerges the objects’ association with courts and nobility. The medieval collection was not a museum, for objects were not “prized for cognitive or philosophical reasons,” but rather a collection of treasures as a “repository of economic and spiritual capital.”[9] Daston and Park describe medieval collections as having “little resemblance to early modern or modern museums” and that they “functioned as repositories of wealth and of magical and symbolic power rather than microcosms, sites of study, or places where the wonders of art and nature were displayed for the enjoyment of their proprietors and the edification of scholars and amateurs.”[10] I somewhat disagree with this statement, for some modern museums were created and continued to represent the power and wealth of their donors or proprietors, and were intended for use by the wealthy and upper class citizens of society. Although offering their collections to public institutions, museum historian Marjorie Schwarzer notes that some self-made tycoons of the early twentieth century in America “expressed power through acquisition.”[11] Isabella Stewart Gardner named her art museum after herself and gained a “great increase in social stature.”[12] Thus, some modern museums retained symbolic expressions of wealth and power (but probably not magic), not only by what they collected but also how they displayed their objects. Almost the entire collection of museums in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was on display, a symbol of the institutions extent of acquisitions.

Although accessible to European elites, medieval collections were essentially off limits to laymen. It seems that by restricting access to treasures, the wonder they elicited from laymen was not only enforced, as Daston and Park note, but in some manner even constructed by those keeping them restricted. “[T]he wonders of the Crista were not generally available for popular contemplation,” and “ordinary laymen had to wait for one of the special festivals when the treasure was exhibited to the avid multitude, resulting in intense and sometimes rowdy scenes.”[13] Had these wonders of spiritual and economic capital been open to the masses more regularly, would they have elicited the same wonder and caused the same rowdy scenes? Chapter Two closes with a discussion of wonder at court. Daston and Park show how collections of marvels held social, economic, and political means for princes and dukes. Whether to impress court visitors, as symbols of Eastern conquest, or as symbols of wealth and power, courtly princes made “repeated and specific use of the marvelous as an elaborate system of emblems and signs to dramatize both their particular historical situation and their political aims.”[14]

Chapter Three looks beyond the role that wonders played for courtly princes and theologians of the Middle Ages to the place they held for natural philosophers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. According to Daston and Park, natural philosophers generally rejected wonders as worthy of inquiry not only because of their rarity but because of their unknown causal mechanisms. They viewed them as irrelevant to their work and as being outside or beyond the course of nature. Despite Aristotle’s claim that wonder, as ignorance of the causes of natural phenomena, and the study of particular natural phenomena created inquiry to search for those causes, Latin natural philosophers used Aristotle’s emphasis on causal mechanisms as the basis for their dispelling of wonders. In order to make sense of the natural order, these natural philosophers did not study particulars – individual marvels – but instead sought to understand natural variability through “elaborating general statements about the causes of certain types of phenomena.”[15] They studied universal principles rather than particular phenomena, and instead of observing natural phenomena, the natural philosopher’s task was “to refine and distill the universal truths he found in books and received from his teachers.”[16] Thus, the work of Latin natural philosophers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries did not rely on direct experience.

From Thomas Aquinas we get three types of physical occurrences. Wonders and the Order of Nature is not concerned with the supernatural (miracles), but with both the natural (naturalia) and the preternatural (mirabilia, marvels, wonders, you name it). There were problems with distinguishing between these three realms, but for the most part wonders and the passion of wonder associated with those wonders belonged to the preternatural. “Because wonder was associated with the ignorance of causes,” write Daston and Park, “it was a peculiarly unsuitable passion for one whose entire discipline was organized around the causal knowledge of nature.”[17] In their attempt to “make wonders cease,” natural philosophers in the fourteenth century posited explanations by natural causes without seriously invoking divine or demonic intervention. Moreover, they claimed that particular wonders, as objects which had to be experienced to be known, could not become part of natural philosophy.

Daston and Park move to Latin medical writers in their fourth chapter. Working for princely patrons who admired wonder and wonders, medical writers thus viewed wonders with attraction rather than the distaste of Latin natural philosophers. Because these physicians, involved in elite medical practice, “began to explore the therapeutic powers of particular marvels,” wonder and wonders emerged as part of natural philosophy, and, Daston and Park write, “lay at the heart of much philosophical writing” by the middle of the sixteenth century.[18] That particular phenomena became important as objects of philosophical reflection and wonder itself was reclaimed as a philosophical emotion led to a new philosophy, preternatural philosophy, which was concerned with adding personal experience of wonders to previous textual evidence, and used wonder as a tool for philosophical inquiry. Objects used by physicians and collected by apothecaries were not only wonders, but most were also exotic, associating them with elite practice. The marvels that poured out of the New World in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries provided much new natural material for study, especially for medicines, and reformed the ways in which “nature herself might best be explored.”[19]

The practice of collecting natural objects for their own sake, and not as objects that were collected by courtly princes, followed from global explorations. These collections helped to add practical use to the Greek and Roman texts on medicine and natural works. They also were places for research and tools in “professional and social self-fashioning.”[20] Like the collections of princes, however, marvelous natural history collections also transferred “the emotion of wonder from the objects themselves to their erudite and discriminating owner.”[21] Sixteenth-century collectors preferred particulars rather than universals, and thus sought specific explanations for individual phenomena. Ficino went beyond this and sought “overarching, speculative, and synthetic accounts of nature.” Daston and Park describe Ficino’s work as “a view of nature and natural philosophy that emphasized the power of human knowledge to transform the material world.”[22] The emotion of wonder as used by sixteenth-century collectors was now “passed through a professional lens.” A philosophical elite knew which phenomena were worthy of his attention, for this wonder was “a finely graduated register of response that only the best-informed and the most philosophically sophisticated could deploy.”[23] A new age of wonder emerged in both natural philosophy and the literature and art of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

As the centerpiece of Wonders and the Order of Nature, Chapter Five is a retelling of Daston and Park’s original work that ultimately led to this book.[24] In their 1981 article on monsters, they provided a chronological account of the views of monsters held in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – horror giving way to pleasure giving way to repugnance. They have changed their approach for this book, and now claim that chronology is ambiguous, for the ways in which people perceived monstrous births – horror, pleasure, and repugnance – occurred simultaneously and were not demarcated in time. Monsters could evoke horror or terror as signs of divine wrath signaling collective sin, pleasure as sports of a benign nature and ornaments of a benevolent creator, or repugnance based on anatomical, theological, or aesthetic grounds. As prodigies, monsters were ruptures in the physical order. As sports, they were objects of spectacle – such as a means for parents to make money – not just for princes and medical men but for laymen at marketplaces and fairs or expressions of “nature’s creative variety.”[25] As errors, or objects of repugnance, monsters “violated the standards of regularity and decorum not only in nature, but also in society and the arts.”[26]

Chapter Six discusses how marvels became part of natural philosophy in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scientific academies, such as the Royal Society of London and the Paris Académie Royale des Sciences. Naturalists in these circles weighed the credibility of marvelous reports and looked at “problems of evidence, explanation, and experience” in their study of nature in these centuries.[27] They devised new ways of understanding their roles as inquirers into the natural world. They were “the curious,” a combination of “a thirst to know with an appetite for wonders,”[28] and their discipline was “a slow and meticulous exercise in self-restraint,” a “discipline for the mind.”[29] They sought to understand the particularity of phenomena and through this, understand the normal, by looking at facts rather than explanations or theories. It became important to verify facts, to determine whether or not marvelous reports were sound or invented. Part of this verification was probably social, for a “delicate economy of civility governed the reporting on wonders.”[30] As gentlemen and members of scientific circles, it proved difficult to contradict their testimony of marvels.

Wunderkammern – cabinets of curiosity – are the subject of the seventh chapter. In opposition themselves with the Aristotelian opposition between art and nature, Wunderkammern displayed artificialia alongside naturalia, juxtaposing in collections, even in single objects, nature’s elegant economy with the extravagance in expenditure of labor and materials. “Nature does nothing in vain,” while art is “careless of function” and prone to useless ornamentation.[31] In some sense, combining art and nature in a single object, like the ornamented nautilus shell created by Bartel Jamnitzer of Nuremberg (p. 279), not only contrasts nature with art, but also juxtaposes nature with man’s ability to control and manipulate nature (in the form of mining the metals used in art). For the owners of Wunderkammern, they held “hidden assumptions and aims,”[32] and mainly served to show off the prince’s magnificence to visitors (usually of a political nature), or in the case of scholars and physicians, to “stupefy visitors with wonder” culminated from learning rather than wealth.[33] Objects also showed how art imitated nature, such as trompe l’oeil paintings and casts from nature, or how nature imitated art, as in swirls of marble resembling clouds and figured stones. These imitations garnered wonder rather than the objects themselves. The contrast of art and nature in Wunderkammern also pointed to questions of nature and theology: was nature art, or artisan? If nature produces art, then what does that say about God’s sovereignty? According to Boyle, God did not need nature as an assistant. To Enlightenment naturalists and collectors, “[n]ature had become ‘the Art of God,’ no longer able to create art on her own.”[34]

Chapter Eight discusses the shifting relationships of wonder and curiosity as emotions, at times aligned and at other times opposed. The final chapter is about how wonder and wonders were no longer important to European intellectuals, and how marvels waned from prominence, although not completely disappearing. Very quickly Daston and Park counter the argument that “the new science” of the seventeenth century dismissed marvels by means of objective and rational explanations. Instead, Enlightenment intellectuals ignored marvels on metaphysical, aesthetic, and political grounds. Daston and Park argue that it was “neither rationality nor science nor even secularization that buried the wondrous for European elites,” and that “Enlightenment savants did not embark on anything like a thorough program to test empirically the strange facts collected so assiduously by their seventeenth-century predecessors or to offer natural explanations for them.”[35] A broad theme emerges in the last paragraph of this chapter. Daston and Park write that for all participants involved in the emotion of wonder and experienced wondrous objects from the twelfth through eighteenth centuries, “the natural order was also a moral order in the broad and somewhat old fashioned sense of moral as all that pertains to the human, from the political to the aesthetic. Hence the aberrations of nature were always charged with moral meaning.”[36]

If we look back through the examples offered by Daston and Park, we begin to see this theme of wonder and wonders fashioning the self: topographically, the occurrence of wonders in the European center spoke of sin, while the knowledge of wonders at the margins testified to European dominance, and therefore superiority, of the East; courtly princes used their collections of exotica and other wonders to impress others with their power and wealth, as well as create wonders of themselves, such as Philip the Good of Burgundy as “a new Alexander;” natural philosophers rejected wonder because it stood for one’s ignorance of causes, and thus defined their intellectual status; early natural history collections were involved with “professional and social self-fashioning”[37] and represented the ability of their physician/naturalist owners to know what was or was not worthy of wonder, making wondrous the wealth and power of their philosophical intellect (a philosophical elite); for those studying “strange facts” through scientific societies, natural history was a “discipline for the mind, a slow and meticulous exercise in self-restraint,”[38] a practice only a select group could be involved with – to be a naturalist within scientific societies was often to be a gentlemen, one with indispensable time and hardly concerned with daily life and trivial matters; Wunderkammern symbolized the magnificence and taste of their princely owners or the ostentatious intellect of their scholarly owners, with objects juxtaposing art and nature representing Europe’s technological and intellectual status; and for the philosophers in the first half of the eighteenth century who sought to remove the “fear of divine wrath and wonder of divine intervention” from marvels, the vulgar were women, the very young and very old, primitive peoples, and the uneducated masses, all those not involved in philosophical inquiry of the natural world, and they were “barbarous, ignorant, and unruly.”[39] “The ‘order of nature,’ like ‘enlightenment,’” according to Daston and Park, “was defined largely by what or who was excluded.”[40] As much as this book is about the emotion of wonder and the objects of that wonder, Wonders and the Order of Nature is about how European elites largely defined themselves – how their place in society related to others morally or intellectually – through a “process of exclusion” and by how they understood the marvelous.

[1] Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (New York: Zone Books: 1998), p. 25.
[2] Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 25.
[3] Ibid., p. 41.
[4] Ibid., p. 41.
[5] Ibid., p. 52.
[6] Ibid., p. 52.
[7] Ibid., p. 65.
[8] Ibid., p. 62.
[9] Ibid., p. 74.
[10] Ibid., p. 68.
[11] Marjorie Schwarzer, Riches, Rivals & Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America (Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 2006), p. 70.
[12] Schwarzer, Riches, Rivals & Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America, p. 10.
[13] Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 77.
[14] Ibid., p. 101.
[15] Ibid., p. 114.
[16] Ibid., p. 118.
[17] Ibid., p. 124.
[18] Ibid., p. 133.
[19] Ibid., p. 147.
[20] Ibid., p. 158.
[21] Ibid., p. 158.
[22] Ibid., p. 164.
[23] Ibid., p. 167.
[24] Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, “Unnatural Conceptions: Monsters in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France and England,” Past and Present 92 (1981): 20-54.
[25] Daston and Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, p. 201.
[26] Ibid., p. 202.
[27] Ibid., p. 220.
[28] Ibid., p. 218.
[29] Ibid., p. 230.
[30] Ibid., p. 249.
[31] Ibid., p. 277.
[32] Ibid., p. 273.
[33] Ibid., p. 267.
[34] Ibid., p. 301.
[35] Ibid., p. 361.
[36] Ibid., p. 363.
[37] Ibid., p. 158.
[38] Ibid., p. 230.
[39] Ibid., p. 343.
[40] Ibid., p. 350.