Friday, 12 June 2015

A.P. De Candolle's anticipation of natural selection (1820)

[For information on further anticipators visit: Natural Selection before Darwin and Wallace.]


In 1820 Augustin-Pyramus de Candolle (1778–1841) published his Essai élémentaire de Géographie Botanique. (Extrait du 18.e volume du Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles.) In it he wrote (p. 26):
"Toutes les plantes d'un pays, toutes celles d'un lieu donné, sont dans un état de guerre les unes relativement aux autres. Toutes sont douées de moyens de réproduction et de nutrition plus ou moins efficaces. Les premières qui s'établissent par hasard dans une localité donnée, tendent, par cela même qu'elles occupent l'espace, à en exclure les autres espèces: les plus grandes étouffent les plus petites; les plus vivaces remplacent celles dont la durée est plus courte; les plus fécondes s'emparent graduellement de l'espace que pourraient occuper celles qui se multiplient plus difficilement."

My translation:
"All the plants of a country, all those of a given location, are in a state of war with each other. All are equipped with means of reproduction and more or less effective nutrition. The first that establish themselves by chance in a given location, tend, by the mere fact that they occupy the ground, to exclude other species: the biggest stifle the smaller; the more perennial replace those with a shorter duration; the most fertile gradually seize the space that could otherwise be filled by slower multiplying ones."

By the way, Lyell also gave a translation in his Principles of Geology, Vol. 2, first published in 1832. As the first edition has not yet been digitized by any body, I'll give the passage from the second edition (p. 136f therein):
"Equilibrium in the number of species, how preserved.—'All the plants of a given country,' says De Gandolle, in his usual spirited style, 'are at war one with another. The first which establish themselves by chance in a particular spot, tend, by the mere occupancy of space, to exclude other species—the greater choke the smaller, the longest livers replace the replace those which last for a shorter period, the more prolific gradually make themselves masters of the ground, which species multiplying more slowly would otherwise fill.'"

By yet another way, Frank N. Egerton (2010. History of Ecological Sciences, Part 34: A Changing Economy of Nature. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 91:21–41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/0012-9623-91.1.21) also quoted Lyell's translation.