Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature
is an 1863 book by Thomas Henry Huxley, in which he gives evidence for the evolution of man and apes from a common ancestor. It was the first book devoted to the topic of human evolution
Human evolution refers to the evolutionary history of the genus Homo, including the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species and as a unique category of hominids and mammals...
, and discussed much of the anatomical and other evidence. Backed by this evidence, the book proposed to a wide readership that evolution applied as fully to man as to all other life.
Precursors of the idea
In the 18th century Linnaeus and others had classified man as a primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...
, but without drawing evolutionary conclusions. It was Lamarck, the first to develop a coherent theory of evolution, who discussed human evolution in this context. Robert Chambers in his anonymous Vestiges
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation is a unique work of speculative natural history published anonymously in England in 1844. It brought together various ideas of stellar evolution with the progressive transmutation of species in an accessible narrative which tied together numerous...
also clearly made the point.
The book came five years after Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...
and Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist...
announced their theory of evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...
by means of natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....
, and four years after the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the...
. In the Origin
Darwin had deliberately avoided tackling human evolution, but left a gnomic trailer: "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history". Darwin's sequel came eight years later, with The Descent of Man, and Selection in relation to Sex
I. On the natural history of the man-like Apes
p1–56. This contains a summary of what was known of the great apes at that time.
II. On the relations of Man to the lower animals
p57–112. This chapter and its addendum contained most of the controversial material, and is still important today.
- Addendum: A succinct history of the controversy respecting the cerrebral structure of Man and the apes p113–118 (set in a smaller font
In typography, a font is traditionally defined as a quantity of sorts composing a complete character set of a single size and style of a particular typeface...
III. On some fossil remains of Man
p119–159. A neanderthal
The Neanderthal is an extinct member of the Homo genus known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia...
skull-cap and other bones had been found, and various remains of early Homo sapiens
. Huxley compares these remains with existing human races.
Previous publication of the content
As Huxley said in his Advertisement of the Reader
, most of the content of his book had been presented to the public before: "The greater part of the following essays has already been published in the form of Oral Discourses, addressed to widely different audiences, during the past three years." The oral presentations began in 1860. The publications in serials included:
- 1861. On the zoological relations of Man with the lower animals. Natural History Review (new series), p67–84.
- 1861. Man and the Apes. Letters to the Athenaeum, March 30 and September 21, p433 and 498.
- 1862. The Brain of Man and Apes. letter to Medical Times & Gazette, October 25, p449.
- 1862. On some fossil remains of Man. Proceedings of the Royal Institution
The Royal Institution of Great Britain is an organization devoted to scientific education and research, based in London.-Overview:...
of Great Britain 3 (1858–1862), p420–422.
- 1862. On some fossil remains of Man. Medical Times & Gazette 24, 159–161.
The central argument
The second chapter contains the basic evidence for man as an animal. After half a dozen preliminary pages Huxley introduces the study of development: "that every living creature commences its existence under a form different from, and simpler to, that which it eventually attains" (p74). Of course, this follows from fertilisation taking place in a single cell. He follows the embryological development of a dog, and its similarities with other vertebrates, before turning to man. "Without question... [man's] early stages of development... [are] far nearer the apes, than apes are to the dog" (p81).
Huxley next begins a comparison of the adult anatomy of apes with man, asking "Is man so different from any of these apes that he must form an order
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...
by himself?" (p85). "It is quite certain that the ape which most nearly approaches man is either the Chimpanzee, or the Gorilla..." (p86). "In the general proportions of the body and limbs there is a remarkable difference between the Gorilla and man (p87)... [but]... in whatever proportion the Gorilla differs from man, the other apes depart still more widely from the Gorilla and that, consequently, such differences of proportion can have no ordinal value" (p89). Put simply, Huxley rejects the idea that man should occupy an order separate from the apes. Therefore, they are primates.
Next, the skull and brains. "The difference between a Gorilla's skull and a man's are truly immense." (p92–93).... "Thus in the important matter of cranial capacity, men differ more widely from one another than they do from the apes; while the lowest apes differ as much, in proportion, from the highest, as the latter does from man" (p95). There is much more detailed comparative anatomy
Comparative anatomy is the study of similarities and differences in the anatomy of organisms. It is closely related to evolutionary biology and phylogeny .-Description:...
, leading to the same type of argument, for example: "Hence it is obvious that, greatly as the dentition of the highest ape differs from man, it differs far more widely from that of the lower and lowest apes" (p101). "Thus, whatever system of organs be studied, the comparison of their modifications in the ape series leads to one and the same result—that the structural differences which separate Man from the Gorilla and the Chimpanzee are not so great as those which separate the Gorilla from the lower apes" (p123). "But if man be separated by no greater structural barrier from the brutes than they are from each other—then it seems to follow that... there would be no rational ground for doubting that man might have originated... by the gradual modification of a man-like ape"... "At the present moment there is but one hypothesis which has any scientific existence—that propounded by Mr. Darwin" (p125).
Huxley's conclusion, that man differs from apes at the level of a family
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...
, may be compared with the opinion today that the distinction between the great apes
Great Apes may refer to*Great apes, species in the biological family Hominidae, including humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans*Great Apes , a 1997 novel by Will Self...
and man is at the level of a subfamily, the Homininae
Homininae is a subfamily of Hominidae, which includes humans, gorillas and chimpanzees, and some extinct relatives; it comprises all those hominids, such as Australopithecus, that arose after the split from orangutans . Our family tree, which has 3 main branches leading to chimpanzees, humans and...
or at the level of the tribe
In biology, a tribe is a taxonomic rank between family and genus. It is sometimes subdivided into subtribes.Some examples include the tribes: Canini, Acalypheae, Hominini, Bombini, and Antidesmeae.-See also:* Biological classification* Rank...
Hominini is the tribe of Homininae that comprises Homo, and the two species of the genus Pan , their ancestors, and the extinct lineages of their common ancestor . Members of the tribe are called hominins...
or even at the level of a subtribe: the Hominina
The more anthropomorphic primates of the Hominini tribe are placed in the Hominina subtribe. Referred to as hominans, they are characterized by the evolution of an increasingly erect bipedal locomotion. The only extant species is Homo sapiens...
. The Australopithecines separate man from the great apes, and the genus Homo
is almost certainly an offshoot of the early australopithecines, upright apes of the wooded savannah
Savannah or savanna is a type of grassland.It can also mean:-People:* Savannah King, a Canadian freestyle swimmer* Savannah Outen, a singer who gained popularity on You Tube...
(see human taxonomy
Human taxonomy is the classification of the species Homo sapiens , or modern human. Homo is the human genus, which also includes Neanderthals and many other extinct species of hominid; H. sapiens is the only surviving species of the genus Homo. Extinct Homo species are known as archaic humans...
). The general opinion today is that man is more closely related to apes than even Huxley thought.
The addendum to Chapter II was Huxley's account of his controversy with Owen about the comparison of human and ape brains. For the full text of the Addendum, see s:The cerebral structure of man and apes. In his Collected Essays
this addendum was edited out, and is lacking in most later reprints.
A key event had already occurred in 1857 when Richard Owen
Sir Richard Owen, FRS KCB was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist.Owen is probably best remembered today for coining the word Dinosauria and for his outspoken opposition to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection...
presented (to the Linnean Society) his view that man was marked off from all other mammals by possessing features of the brain peculiar to the genus Homo
. Having reached this opinion, Owen separated man from all other mammals in a subclass of its own. No other biologist before or since has held such an extreme view.
The subject was raised at the 1860 BA Oxford meeting, when Huxley flatly contradicted Owen, and promised a later demonstration of the facts.
- "I redeemed that pledge by publishing, in the January number of the Natural History Review for 1861, an article wherein the truth of the three following propositions was fully demonstrated (loc cit p71):
- 1. That the third lobe is neither peculiar to, nor characteristic of, man, seeing that it exists in all the higher quadrumana.
2. That the posterior cornu of the lateral ventricle is neither peculiar to, nor characteristic of, man, inasmuch as it also exists in the higher quadrumana.
3. That the 'hippocampus minor' is neither pecular to, nor characteristic of, man, as it is found in certain of the higher quadrumana."
In fact, a number of demonstrations were held in London and the provinces. In 1862 at the Cambridge meeting of the B.A. Huxley's friend William Flower
Sir William Henry Flower KCB FRCS FRS was an English comparative anatomist and surgeon. Flower became a leading authority on mammals, and especially on the primate brain...
gave a public dissection to show that the same structures (the posterior horn
The posterior horn of the lateral ventricle passes into the occipital lobe, its direction being backward and lateralward, and then medialward....
of the lateral ventricle and the hippocampus minor
) were indeed present in apes. Thus was exposed one of Owen's greatest blunders, revealing Huxley as not only dangerous in debate, but also a better anatomist.
As he says, Huxley's ideas on this topic were summed up in January 1861 in the first issue (new series) of his own journal, the Natural History Review
: "the most violent scientific paper he had ever composed". The substance of this paper was presented in 1863 as chapter 2 of Man's place in Nature
, with the addendum giving his account of the Owen/Huxley controversy about the ape brain.
In due course, Owen did finally concede that there was something that could be called a hippocampus minor in the apes, but said that it was much less developed and that such a presence did not detract from the overall distinction of smaller brain size. Interpreted as an attempt to defend his original decision, Owen's point on brain size was answered by Huxley in Man's Place
(excerpt above), and repeated when he wrote a section comparing ape and human brains for the second edition of Darwin's Descent of Man
- "Again, as respects the question of absolute size, it is established that the difference between the largest and the smallest healthy human brain is greater than the difference between the smallest healthy human brain and the largest chimpanzee's or orang's brain." and "A character which is thus variable within the limits of a single group can have no great taxonomic value."
The extended argument on the ape brain, partly in debate and partly in print, backed by dissections and demonstrations, was a landmark in Huxley's career. It was highly important in asserting his dominance of comparative anatomy, and in the long run more influential in establishing evolution amongst biologists than was the debate with Samuel Wilberforce
Samuel Wilberforce was an English bishop in the Church of England, third son of William Wilberforce. Known as "Soapy Sam", Wilberforce was one of the greatest public speakers of his time and place...
. It also marked the start of Owen's decline in the esteem of his fellow biologists.
Structure of the book
The first edition of Man's Place in Nature
is arranged as follows: 8vo
Octavo to is a technical term describing the format of a book.Octavo may also refer to:* Octavo is a grimoire in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett...
inches (23x15cms), [viii]+159+[i]+8ads. Bound in dark green pebbled cloth with blind-stamped borders on boards, gilt lettering on spine as follows: head: Man's place in nature / [rule] / T.H. Huxley; foot: Williams and Norgate. Dark brick red advertisement end-papers front and back, with Williams & Norgate's publications. Frontispiece
A frontispiece is a decorative illustration facing a book's title page. The frontispiece is the verso opposite the recto title page. Elaborate engraved frontispieces were in frequent use, especially in Bibles and in scholarly books, and many are masterpieces of engraving...
diagram of ape skeletons, photographically reproduced, after drawings by Waterhouse Hawkins, from specimens in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. Title bears Williams & Norgate's medallion logo
A logo is a graphic mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition...
; date is 1863.
Translations and other editions
- English: The original edition was reprinted in 1864. The American edition was first published in New York by Appleton
D. Appleton & Company was an American company founded by Daniel Appleton , who opened a general store which included books.- Timeline :* 1813 Relocated from Haverhill to Boston and imported books from England...
in 1863. The type was reset and the format was slightly smaller than the London edition: 8vo, 81/4x51/4 inches (21x13.3 cms), ix+9–184+8ads+[ii].
- German: translated by Victor Carus as Zeugnisse für die Stellung des Menschen in der Natur. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig
Braunschweig , is a city of 247,400 people, located in the federal-state of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker river, which connects to the North Sea via the rivers Aller and Weser....
- Russian: translated by Vladimir Kovalevskii, published at St Petersberg. There were two separate editions of Man's Place prepared before Darwin's Origin was translated.
- French: Paris 1868 and 1910.
- Italian: Milan 1869.
- Chinese: Shanghai 1935.
- Japanese: Tokyo 1940.
Comparison with Lyell's Antiquity of Man
In assessing Huxley's work, the content of Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, Kt FRS was a British lawyer and the foremost geologist of his day. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which popularised James Hutton's concepts of uniformitarianism – the idea that the earth was shaped by slow-moving forces still in operation...
's The Antiquity of Man
should be considered. It was published in early February 1863, just before Huxley's work, and covered the discoveries of traces of early man in the palaeolithic (Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....
). However, Lyell avoided a definitive statement on human evolution. Darwin wrote: "I am fearfully disappointed at Lyell's excessive caution" and "The book is a mere 'digest' ". In other respects Antiquity
was a success. It sold well, and it "shattered the tacit agreement that mankind should be the sole preserve of theologians and historians." But when Lyell wrote that it remained a profound mystery how the huge gulf between man and beast could be bridged, Darwin wrote "Oh!" in the margin of his copy. For this reason, despite its merits, Lyell's book did not anticipate the crucial arguments which Huxley presented.
Comparison with the Descent of Man
Eight years after Man's Place
, Darwin's Descent of Man
was published. In it Darwin faced the same task of persuading the reader of man's evolutionary heritage. He took, in Chapter 1 The evidence of the descent of man from some lower form
, an approach which made good use of his vast supply of information on the natural history of mammals.
Darwin starts: "It is notorious that man is constructed on the same general type or model as other mammals..." (p6) He goes on to discuss infections by similar diseases, the similarity of non-contagious diseases compared with monkeys, the liking of monkeys for tea, coffee and alcohol. He draws a wonderful word picture of baboons grumpily holding their aching heads the day after a drinking session (p7). He was aware that closely related animals always seemed to suffer from closely related parasites. He follows Huxley in his account of man's embryonic development, and then considers the evidence of vestigial organs, which he (and Huxley) called rudiments
(p11). The discussion of a rare human hereditary condition permitting its possessors to move their scalps is connected to the regular use of this ability in many monkeys. The fine lanugo
Lanugo is fine, downy hair as a type of fur. It is often found in teratomas .-Fetal development:Lanugo grows on fetuses as a normal part of gestation, but is usually shed and replaced by vellus hair at about 33 to 36 weeks of gestational age...
, a covering of hair on the human foetus, is thought by Darwin to be a vestige of the first permanent coat of hair in those mammals which are born hairy. The existence of non-erupting third molars is connected to the shortening of the jaw in humans, and, like the shortened caecum in the alimentary canal, is an adaptation to the human change of diet from full herbivory (humans are omnivores) (p20–21).
- "The bearing of the three great classes of facts now given is unmistakable... [the facts] are intelligible if we admit their descent from a common ancestor, together with their subsequent adaptation to diversified conditions... Thus we can understand how it has come to pass that man and all other vertebrate animals have been constructed on the same general model, why they pass through the same early stages of development, and why they retain certain rudiments in common. Consequently we ought frankly to admit their community of descent" (p25).
Later, in Chapter 6, Darwin produces his famous passage on the birthplace and antiquity of man, quoting the Chimpanzee and Gorilla as evidence that "...as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere" (p155).
- Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature, 1863, at Google Book Search
Google Books is a service from Google that searches the full text of books that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition, and stored in its digital database. The service was formerly known as Google Print when it was introduced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October...