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Idola Tribus: Lamarck, Politics and Religion in the Early Nineteenth Century

  • Pietro Corsi
Chapter

Abstract

There is no doubt that traditionally the history of evolutionary ideas has been and is Darwin-centred. I have no dispute with this, being a convinced “Darwinian”, in spite of years of work I have devoted to study Lamarck and the many non-Darwinian theories of evolution current in Europe and the United States before and after 1859. Whereas historians have paid some attention to post-Darwinian, non Darwinian theories, pre-Darwinian theories have been much neglected. Attention is usually paid to so-called “Lamarckian” attitudes present in European natural history debates from the early 1800s to the 1850s, only to conclude that Lamarck played no role, was almost unanimously neglected and in any case unanimously vituperated. This was hardly the case. However, the aim of my paper is not to vindicate Lamarck, but to argue that even concentration on Lamarck would amount to gross anachronism. After analysing reasons – essentially political and religious – that have been given to explain the alleged oblivion into which Lamarck’s works had fallen (if they ever rose to attention) I will examine evidence concerning the wider debate on Lamarck’s ideas within the medical literature of the 1810s and the 1820s. This will open up a new research area, focussed on the translation into French of major German authors (Meckel, Tiedemann, Carus, Treviranus, Burdach, Oken) and on the attempts to re-formulate key Lamarckian tenets in the terms of German natural philosophy, comparative anatomy and embryology, and medicine. The debate on the development of life – historical and embryological – was wider and much more interesting than the debate on Lamarck’s own theories, which in any case well deserves to be rescued from oblivion.

Keywords

Early Nineteenth Century Comparative Anatomy Effective Shield Spontaneous Generation French Translation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l.  2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Old Boys High SchoolUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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