Evolution before darwin
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Evolution Before Darwin. Ancient Cultures. Basic knowledge of animals since early times Ancient cultures had a practical knowledge of nature Essential for their hunting and fishing activities Naming of species; knowledge on behavior and natural history

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Evolution Before Darwin

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Evolution before darwin

Evolution Before Darwin

Ancient cultures

Ancient Cultures

  • Basic knowledge of animals since early times

  • Ancient cultures had a practical knowledge of nature

  • Essential for their hunting and fishing activities

  • Naming of species; knowledge on behavior and natural history

  • Knowledge of edible, medicinal, and pharmacological plants

  • Knowledge of names and structures



  • Domestication of plants and animals

  • Selective breeding

  • Use of mutants to alter crops and herds

  • Practice of artificial selection

Intellectual environments among ancient human cultures

Intellectual Environments Among Ancient Human Cultures

  • Most gave a bad environment for the development of new ideas

  • Animistic: Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, African tribes, Buddhism, and Amerindians

  • Monotheistic: Judaism, Christianity, and Islamism: beliefs gravitate around a specific book or dogma

The greek world

The Greek World

Hellenistic culture

Hellenistic Culture

  • Produced scientific writings for the sake of it

  • Did not believe in a single god, revealed truth, nor dogmatic book

  • There was a free flow of ideas, even contradictory (nobody felt threatened)

The first generation ca 600 550 bce

The First Generation (ca. 600-550 BCE)

  • Influenced by Eastern cultures

  • Creation of the world is the product of the forces of nature

  • There was no design. What takes place is the result of necessity

  • Rejection of supranatural explanations in favor of materialistic ones

  • The world is eternal (timeless)

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • They had a natural history tradition

  • They departed heavily from centuries of mythological explanations

  • A fresh start by looking at the world as it presented itself

  • Greek colonies became lively centers for a scientific attitude

  • “Everything in the world came from a single, original substance”

Thales of miletus asia minor 625 547 bce

Thales of Miletus(Asia Minor, 625-547 BCE)

  • Tried to give a purely natural explanation of the world's origin

  • Water was the first principle or original substance

  • Explanation for fossils of marine animals in inland

Anaximander of miletus ca 610 546 bce

Anaximander of Miletus(ca. 610-546 BCE)

  • Moisture (water) gave raised to the first animals in the sea

  • These, in turn, conquered the land

  • Believed in spontaneous generation

Empedocles sicily ca 492 greece 432 bce

Empedocles(Sicily, ca. 492; Greece, 432 BCE)

  • Animal and plant body parts originated in water

  • Things attached together or they die and produce monstrosities

  • Everything in nature was composed by four elements: fire, air, water, and earth, and two forces: love and hate

Anaxagoras asia minor b ca 500 d 428 bce

Anaxagoras (Asia Minor, b. ca. 500; d. 428 BCE)

  • Attributed adaptations in nature to a deliberate plan

  • Believed that the Universe had always existed

  • The origin of plants and animals is in germs in the air and ether

The second generation ca 550 400 bce

The Second Generation (ca. 550-400 BCE)

  • Belief in the inheritance of acquired characters

  • The principle of use and disuse

  • Spontaneous generation

Pythagoras samos 582 sicily 497 bce

Pythagoras(Samos, 582; Sicily, 497 BCE)

  • Much emphasis on the study of nature on number and quantities

  • Nature preserves the fit and discards the unfit

Heraclitus asia minor ca 540 ca 475 bce

Heraclitus(Asia Minor, ca. 540; ca. 475 BCE)

  • Everything derives from fire and fire will destroy the universe

  • “This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be, an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures”

  • In nature there is change “everything is in flux”

Alcmaeon italian peninsula ca 520 bce

Alcmaeon (Italian Peninsula, ca. 520 BCE)

  • Dissected animals for the first time

  • Brain, not the heart, was the seat of senses and the center of intellect

  • Demonstrated how arteries were to be distinguished from veins

  • Discovered the optic nerve

  • Gave an explanation for the origin of the semen

Hippocrates greece ca 460 370 bce

Hippocrates (Greece, ca. 460 - 370 BCE)

  • Based his ideas on observation and empirical approaches

  • Established a relationship between humans and the environment

  • Theory pangenesis (tiny particle called gemmules or pangenes are given off by every part of the adult body)

The third generation 469 322 bce

The Third Generation(469-322 BCE)

  • Epitomized by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

  • They all lived in Athens

  • Conflicts between Idealism to the value of observation

Plato athens ca 427 347 bce

Plato (Athens, ca. 427 - 347 BCE)

  • Founder of Academia

  • Founder of Idealism

  • Idealism: Whatever exists is known to man in dimensions that are chiefly mental

  • No spontaneous generation

  • Creation by supranatural powers

  • No true knowledge can be acquired through observation

Aristotle macedonia 384 euboea 322 bce

Aristotle (Macedonia, 384; Euboea, 322 BCE)

  • Teacher of Alexander the Great

  • Founder of the Lyceum

  • Peripatetic school

  • Knowledge from direct observation

  • “Although I loved my teacher Plato greatly,

    I love the truth more”

Aristotle s contributions

Aristotle’s Contributions

  • Observed and dissected animals

  • Founder of the comparative method

  • Distinguished between homology and analogy

  • Distinguished different biological disciplines

  • Advanced the Scala Naturae or ladder of nature: “Nature passes from inanimate objects through plants to animals in an unbroken sequence”

  • Formalized species and genus

  • Classified animals

  • Recognized cetaceans as a natural group

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • Humans

  • Other mammals

  • Whales

  • Oviparous (egg laying) vertebrates

  • Birds

  • Amphibians and reptiles (but see snakes below)

  • Snakes

  • Fish

  • Invertebrates (without red blood)

  • Cephalopods

  • Crustacea

  • Insects, spiders

  • Other mollusks, echinoderms

  • Sponges, etc.

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • The world of perceived things is the real world

  • Avid collector of empirical evidence

  • All structure and biological activities have a biological meaning (adaptive significance)

  • The first asking the why-questions

  • Believed in the inheritance of acquired characters

  • Species were unchanging, fixed, eternal (neither created nor vanished)

  • The founder of teleology: doctrine or purposiveness

From greece to rome

From Greece to Rome

  • There was a decline of the Greek city-states and the emergence of the larger Hellenistic zone, from the 4th. to the 3rd. centuries BCE

  • Rome started to expand at the beginning of the third century BCE

  • It became the established commercial power in northern Africa, and the defeat of Carthage, Syria, Macedonia, Greece, and Egypt, made them the masters of the Mediterranean world by the mid second century BCE

Titus lucretius carus roman 99 55 bce

Titus Lucretius Carus (Roman, 99-55 BCE)

  • Species were fixed

  • Gods pay no attention whatsoever to human beings

  • Preferred explanations on evolution related to selection than to teleology

  • Proposed the “continuity of the germ plasm” composed of unaltered particles passing down through the generations (a form of pangenesis)

  • The existence of these particles explained how characters and traits of the more distance ancestors could reappear, after the had been hidden for a generation or so

  • Rejected the inheritance of acquired characters

Pliny the elder como 23 vesuvius 79 ce

Pliny the Elder(Como, 23; Vesuvius, 79 CE)

  • Uncritical compiler

  • 37-volume Historia Naturalis

  • Cited the sources

  • Marine mammals were “fish”

  • Great influence for 1700 years

Lucius caelius lactantius roman b africa 260 340 ce

Lucius Caelius Lactantius(Roman b. Africa, 260-340 CE)

  • Demolished all previous rational thoughts

  • Used Christian beliefs to explain everything

  • Settled species as designed by God

  • Believed earth was flat

The end of bright times

The End of Bright Times

  • The replacement of Greek philosophies

    by Christian beliefs

  • The burn of the Alexandria's library in

    390 CE

  • Christianity became the official religion

    of the Roman Empire

  • In 529 CE, Junian I closed all Greek

    philosophical schools because of their

    pagan character

  • The origin of the animals and plants was being traced back to the creation of the world as described in the book of Genesis

Medieval times ca 500 1450

Medieval Times (ca. 500-1450)

  • It developed in closed conjunction with Christian thought

  • Christian theology is dominated by the concept of creation

  • All the knowledge is in the “revealed” book

  • No why-questions

  • Nature was subservient of man

  • Natural theology: God exists because of the order and harmony of the world which requires an intelligent being

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • Knowledge kept by Muslims and Jews scholars and Christian monks

  • Rise of Scholasticism (11th. Century)

    • It meant lack of freedom of thought

    • Truth determined by logic, not observation

    • Blind faith in the ‘Authorities’

  • Little intellectual progress until the 12th. Century

Saint augustine bishop of hippo italian peninsula 354 430 ce

Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo(Italian Peninsula, 354-430 CE)

  • God gave nature the characteristics, the power of creating things

  • Believed in spontaneous generation

  • The successive appearance of lower species

  • Some species might not have been in Noah's ark

  • Between the 5th. and the 12th. all western knowledge was kept in monasteries

Albertus magnus germany 1193 1280

Albertus Magnus([Germany], 1193-1280)

  • Opera Omnia

  • Believed in spontaneous generation, the inherited of acquired characters, and pangenesis

Roger bacon england ca 1220 ca 1292

Roger Bacon(England, ca.1220-ca. 1292)

  • Opus Majus

  • Popularized the term “experimental science”

  • The incompleteness of our knowledge

  • Mankind acquires knowledge by reasoning and experience

  • He believed in spontaneous generation

The first universities

The First Universities

  • Paris (1150, 1170)

  • Oxford (1168)

  • Teaching by lecture and disputation

  • Development of Natural Theology

The renaissance 1450 1650

The Renaissance (1450-1650)

  • Began in Italy (Medicis 1450)

  • The compass (1125)

  • Paper making (1150)

  • The “Arabic” numerals (1202)

  • Gunpowder (1313)

  • Block printing from movable types Gutenberg (1450)

  • Voyages of Discovery

  • Dissections, Dissections



  • This was a revolt against the reign of religion => against church => against authority => against scholasticism => against Aristotle

  • Examples: Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

  • Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

  • Defended experimentalism

  • Believed in the “transmutation” of species

  • Spontaneous generation

Leonardo da vinci italian peninsula 1452 1519

Leonardo da Vinci(Italian Peninsula, 1452-1519)

  • The original “Renaissance Man”

  • Anatomical work lost until the end of the 19th. century

Encyclopedic natural histories

Encyclopedic Natural Histories

  • Species not mentioned in the Bible or by Aristotle

  • They compiled the knowledge of the time

  • Many times uncritically

  • Scientific illustration improved considerably

Edward wotton english 1492 1555

Edward Wotton(English, 1492-1555)

  • Followed Aristotle in De differentiis animalium libri decem (1552)

    eliminating however most of the

    fabulous animals of Antiquity

  • Described the use of many animal products as medicines

Guillaume rondelet french 1507 1566

Guillaume Rondelet (French, 1507-1566)

  • Wrote an encyclopedic work on marine animals (1554-5)

  • Described 6 spp. of cetaceans

  • Crazy about dissections

  • Environmental classification

Conrad gessner switzerland 1516 1565

Conrad Gessner (Switzerland, 1516-1565)

  • Another uncritical encyclopedist

  • History of Animals (1551-1558)

  • Many genera could be split into two or more species

Pierre belon french 1517 1564

Pierre Belon(French, 1517-1564)

  • L'Histoire de la Nature des Oyseaux (1555)

  • He pointed out the homologies between a bird and a man's skeletons

Andreas vesalius belgium 1514 1564

Andreas Vesalius(Belgium, 1514-1564)

  • De Humani corporis fabrica (1543)

  • Empirical method: vascular + neural + muscular system

  • Demoted many of Galen’s descriptions (“Galen dixit”)

Ulysses aldrovandi italian 1522 1605

Ulysses Aldrovandi(Italian, 1522-1605)

Modern science 1650 1800

Modern Science (1650-1800)

  • Direct observation replaces scholasticism

  • Development of classification

  • Similar and differentiating characters

  • Center of gravity of western science moves from the Mediterranean to Northern

    Europe (1642)

William harvey england 1578 1657

William Harvey (England, 1578-1657)

  • Studied at the University of Pavia

  • An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals (1628)

  • Essays on the Generation of Animals (1651)

  • “Ex ovo omnia”: there is not spontaneous generation

Johann jonston polish 1603 1675

Johann Jonston(Polish, 1603-1675)

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • Samuel Collins (1618-1685)

  • Walter Charleton (1620-1707)

  • John Ray (1627-1705)

  • Francis Willughby (1635-1672)

  • Edward Tyson (1651-1708)

  • Dissections and classifications

John ray english 1627 1705

John Ray (English, 1627-1705)

  • Established the significance of the generic principle

  • A leading contributor to the gigantic task of classification

  • From few hundred plants in the 16th. century to thousands in 1686

  • Began by grouping those organisms by their biological affinities

  • Adaptations of plants and animals as a result of God's design

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • Teleological explanations using divine intervention were ideal to link religion and the new scientific observations

  • He had privately problems with extinct (fossil) organisms:

    • How to explain that God created them, with what purpose?

    • How the biblical flood can account for the extinction of marine organisms?

    • How come fossils in different strata? Had there been more than one flood?

Robert hooke england 1635 1703

Robert Hooke(England, 1635-1703)

  • Concluded that fossils derived from once living beings

  • Tried to explain that the finding of fossils inland as the product of flood, earthquake, or some other catastrophic event

Niels stensen steno danish 1638 1686

Niels Stensen (Steno)(Danish, 1638-1686)

  • Confirmed the organic origin of fossils

  • Sedimentation had taken place in discrete episodes and that rock for undisturbed strata the lower the stratum the oldest it is

Edward tyson england 1650 1708

Edward Tyson(England, 1650-1708)

  • Published in 1699 a neat description of what was probably a chimpanzee and placed it between man and monkeys in “the chain of being’

Carolus linnaeus linn swedish 1707 1778

Carolus Linnaeus (Linné)(Swedish, 1707-1778)

  • Complex personality, pedantic

  • ‘Deus creavit, Linnaeus disposuit’

  • Numerologist (5, 12, 365)

  • Classified everything, including botanists

  • His ‘apostles’

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

1. First fully natural system of classification

2. Consistent use of the binomial nomenclature

3. Species with Latinized names (genus and species)

4. Telegram-style diagnosis for species descriptions

5. Synonymies to reach a taxonomic consensus

6. The development of hierchy (class, order, genus, species)

7. Creation of the Class Mammalia, inclusion of cetaceans

8. Creation of the Order Primates, inclusion of humans

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

9. Defined species as similar individuals bound by reproduction

10. Species were fixed except for small variations due to climatic/local conditions He observed that individuals tend to multiply in each generation

11. His “sexual” classifications was somewhat uncomfortable

12. Doubled the number of species known to John Ray

13. The multitude of (at least terrestrial) species known (and other he suspected yet to be discovered) left Linnaeus with another problem: how was it is possible to accommodate all of them in Noah's Ark during “the flood”?

Georges louis leclerc compte de buffon french 1707 1788

Georges Louis Leclerc, Compte de Buffon(French, 1707-1788)

  • Species could not have migrated from a single point of origin

  • Different species had been created where they were found today

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • He substituted the “seven days” of creation by “seven epochs”

  • Epoch 1: origin of the Universe

  • Epoch 2: the cooling of earth

  • Epoch 3: the formation of a worldwide ocean

  • Epoch 4: the arisen of life in, and so on

  • Epoch 7: when man appeared

  • He said that the Earth was created 168,000 yrs ago (in private manuscripts)

James hutton scottish 1726 1797

James Hutton(Scottish, 1726-1797)

  • Internal heat of the Earth was pushing upwards land masses that were originally submerged under the seas

  • The Earth was very dynamic

  • It had been around much longer that was previously believed

Georges cuvier french 1769 1832

Georges Cuvier(French, 1769-1832)

  • “Give me a bone of an animal and I will tell you how is the rest”

  • Founder of modern comparative anatomy and paleontology

  • The extinction of species had been more common than previously assumed

  • If all creatures had been created by God, then why so many had become extinct?, how come such “imperfections” could have been produced by divine design?

Jean baptiste pierre antoine de monet chevalier de lamarck french 1744 1829

Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck (French, 1744-1829)

  • The first to study and classified invertebrates in depth

  • He may have coined the term biology in 1802

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • The idea of evolution was a central element of this new science

  • In 1809 he proposed his “Theory of Transformation” based on the inheritance of acquired characters by use and disuse

  • Fossils represented species that had evolved into new ones

  • Believed in spontaneous generation

Evolution before darwin ancient cultures

  • Needs created by a changing environment, are experienced by a “sentiment interieur,” an unconscious reaction to external stimuli found in animals with Central Nervous System, able to direct “Vital Fluids” that promote changes in parts of the body and that those changes were inherited by the next generation

  • He provided very little empirical evidence for his theories (the teeth in baleen whales that appear in the fetus but was reabsorbed later may have been the exception)

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