Sunday, 14 June 2015

Blyth's anticipation of natural selection (1835)

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

Blyth, Edward (1835) "An Attempt to classify the "Varieties" of Animals, with Observations on the marked Seasonal and other Changes which naturally take place in various British Species, and which do not constitute Varieties." The Magazine of Natural History 8: 40-46.
"It is a general law of nature for all creatures to propagate the like of themselves: and this extends even to the most trivial minutiae, to the slightest individual peculiarities; and thus, among ourselves, we see a family likeness transmitted from generation to generation. When two animals are matched together, each remarkable for a certain given peculiarity, no matter how trivial, there is also a decided tendency in nature for that peculiarity to increase; and if the produce of these animals be set apart, and only those in which the same peculiarity is most apparent, be selected to breed from, the next generation will possess it in a still more remarkable degree; and so on, till at length the variety I designate a breed, is formed, which may be very unlike the original type.
      The examples of this class of varieties must be too obvious to need specification: many of the varieties of cattle, and, in all probability, the greater number of those of domestic pigeons, have been generally brought about in this manner. It is worthy of remark, however, that the original and typical form of an animal is in great measure kept up by the same identical means by which a true breed is produced. The original form of a species is unquestionably better adapted to its natural habits than any modification of that form; and, as the sexual passions excite to rivalry and conflict, and the stronger must always prevail over the weaker, the latter, in a state of nature, is allowed but few opportunities of continuing its race. In a large herd of cattle, the strongest bull drives from him all the younger and weaker individuals of his own sex, and remains sole master of the herd; so that all the young which are produced must have had their origin from one which possessed the maximum of power and physical strength; and which, consequently, in the struggle for existence, was the best able to maintain his ground, and defend himself from every enemy. In like manner, among animals which procure their food by means of their agility, strength, or delicacy of sense, the one best organised must always obtain the greatest quantity; and must, therefore, become physically the strongest, and be thus enabled, by routing its opponents, to transmit its superior qualities to a greater number of offspring. The same law, therefore, which was intended by Providence to keep up the typical qualities of a species, can be easily converted by man into a means of raising different varieties; but it is also clear that, if man did not keep up these breeds by regulating the sexual intercourse, they would all naturally soon revert to the original type. Farther, it is only on this principle that we can satisfactorily account for the degenerating effects said to be produced by the much-censured practice of "breeding in and in." There would almost seem, in some species, to be a tendency, in every separate family, to some particular kind of deviation; which is only counteracted by the various crossings which, in a state of nature, must take place, and by the above-mentioned law, which causes each race to be chiefly propagated by the most typical and perfect individuals." Blyth (1835, 45f)