Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation

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Copyright: This work is in the public domain in the USA only.

The bodies of space, their arrangements and formation -- Constituent materials of the earth and of the other bodies of space -- The earth formed: era of the primary rocks -- Commencement of organic life: sea plants, corals, etc. -- Era of the old red sandstone: fishes abundant -- Secondary rocks; era of the carboniferous formation; land formed; commencement of land plants -- Era of the new red sandstone; terrestrial zoology commences with reptiles; first traces of birds -- Era of the oolite; commencement of mammalia -- Era of the cretaceous formation -- Era of the tertiary formation: mammalia abundant -- Era of the superficial formations: commencement of present species -- General considerations respecting the origin of the animated tribes -- Particular considerations respecting the origin of the animated tribes -- Hypothesis of the development of the vegetable and animal kingdoms -- MacLeay system of animated nature; this system considered in connexion with the progress of organic creation, and as indicating the natural status of man -- Early history of mankind -- Mental constitution of animals -- Purpose and general condition of the animated creation -- Note conclusory.

Originally published anonymously in 1844, Vestiges proved to be as controversial as its author expected. Integrating research in the burgeoning sciences of anthropology, geology, astronomy, biology, economics, and chemistry, it was the first attempt to connect the natural sciences to a history of creation. The author, whose identity was not revealed until 1884, was Robert Chambers, a leading Scottish writer and publisher. Vestiges reached a huge popular audience and was widely read by the social and intellectual elite. It sparked debate about natural law, setting the stage for the controversy over Darwin's Origin. In response to the surrounding debate and criticism, Chambers published Explanations: A Sequel, in which he offered a reasoned defense of his ideas about natural law, castigating what he saw as the narrowness of specialist science.With a new introduction by James Secord, a bibliography of reviews, and a new index, this volume adds to Vestiges and Explanations Chambers's earliest works on cosmology, an essay on Darwin, and an autobiographical essay, raising important issues about the changing meanings of popular science and religion and the rise of secular ideologies in Western culture.