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RSCEd Surgeon's News - Darwin's Edinburgh Connection

RSCEd Surgeon's News - Darwin's Edinburgh Connection

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Published by JF Derry

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: JF Derry on Dec 12, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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was a momentous yearfor Darwin; he shared hisideas with colleagues,among them his closest friend and ally, and aScot, Joseph Hooker, and the response waslargely positive, giving Darwin an important
condence boost. Having found acceptanceof his ideas, the nudge he needed to publish
them arrived a short time later when CharlesLyell, another Scot, alerted him to similar
ndings in the work of Alfred Russel Wallace,himself born in Welsh Monmouthshire, but
to an English mother and a father claiming
direct descent from William Wallace. Thus,
they were Scottish sources that inspired
publication of The Origin of Species, and it
was even a Scottish source from which that
famous book’s very title likely was seeded:his 1826 course in zoology at Edinburgh
University concluded with lectures on the
philosophy of zoology, starting with Origin ofthe Species of Animals.Most important for Darwin’s skills as anaturalist, it was time spent in Edinburgh and
the Highlands of Scotland that informed andtrained the young man in preparation for his
legendary voyage aboard the Beagle and hissubsequent career in science. Darwin would
not have developed his theories if he had not
attended Edinburgh University. His formaltuition there didn’t amount to much, but
through interaction with his tutors, peers, andextracurricular groups, Darwin was exposedto an ethos of naturalistic philosophy rooted
in the Scottish Enlightenment, and by directdescent, the Ancient Greeks.
Athens of the North
Edinburgh wasn’t the rst Scottish universitybut its academic pedigree took the fore
On the 150th anniversary of
The Origin of Species,
Julian Derry 
reaffirms Scotland’s,and particularly Edinburgh’s, role in CharlesDarwin’s life and work 
Hugo Rheinhold’s ‘Affe mit Schädel’ (c.1893) on display at Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society.Photo credit:Steven Hay 
‘With the ape’sstudy, the libraryof books and thecalliper instruments,the suggestion isthat the statuetteis warning againstthe application of rationalism in theabsence of morality’

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