Although in some respects more technical in their subjects and style than Darwin's "Journal," the books here reprinted will never lose their value and interest for the originality of the observations they contain. Many parts of them are admirably adapted for giving an insight into problems regarding the structure and changes of the earth's surface, and in fact they form a charming introduction to physical geology and physiography in their application to special domains. The books themselves cannot be obtained for many times the price of the present volume, and both the general reader, who desires to know more of Darwin's work, and the student of geology, who naturally wishes to know how a master mind reasoned on most important geological subjects, will be glad of the opportunity of possessing them in a convenient and cheap form.
The three introductions, which my friend Professor Judd has kindly furnished, give critical and historical information which makes this edition of special value.
Of the remarkable "trilogy" constituted by Darwin's writings which deal with the geology of the "Beagle," the member which has perhaps attracted least attention, up to the present time is that which treats of the geology of South America. The actual writing of this book appears to have occupied Darwin a shorter period than either of the other volumes of the series; his diary records that the work was accomplished within ten months, namely, between July 1844 and April 1845; but the book was not actually issued till late in the year following, the preface bearing the date "September 1846." Altogether, as Darwin informs us in his "Autobiography," the geological books "consumed four and a half years' steady work," most of the remainder of the ten years that elapsed between the return of the "Beagle," and the completion of his geological books being, it is sad to relate, "lost through illness!"
Concerning the "Geological Observations on South America," Darwin wrote to his friend Lyell, as follows:--"My volume will be about 240 pages, dreadfully dull, yet much condensed. I think whenever you have time to look through it, you will think the collection of facts on the elevation of the land and on the formation of terraces pretty good."
"Much condensed" is the verdict that everyone must endorse, on rising from the perusal of this remarkable book; but by no means "dull." The three and a half years from April 1832 to September 1835, were spent by Darwin in South America, and were devoted to continuous scientific work; the problems he dealt with were either purely geological or those which constitute the borderland between the geological and biological sciences. It is impossible to read the journal which he kept during this time without being impressed by the conviction that it contains all the germs of thought which afterwards developed into the "Origin of Species." But it is equally evident that after his return to England, biological speculations gradually began to exercise a more exclusive sway over Darwin's mind, and tended to dispossess geology, which during the actual period of the voyage certainly engrossed most of his time and attention. The wonderful series of observations made during those three and a half years in South America could scarcely be done justice to, in the 240 pages devoted to their exposition. That he executed the work of preparing the book on South America in somewhat the manner of a task, is shown by many references in his letters. Writing to Sir Joseph Hooker in 1845, he says, "I hope this next summer to finish my South American Geology, then to get out a little Zoology, and HURRAH FOR MY SPECIES WORK!"
It would seem that the feeling of disappointment, which Darwin so often experienced in comparing a book when completed, with the observations and speculations which had inspired it, was more keenly felt in the case of his volume on South America than any other. To one friend he writes, "I have of late been slaving extra hard, to the great discomfiture of wretched digestive organs, at South America, and thank all the fates, I have done three-fourths of it. Writing plain English grows with me more and more difficult, and never attainable. As for your pretending that you will read anything so dull as my pure geological descriptions, lay not such a flattering unction on my soul, for it is incredible." To another friend he writes, "You do not know what you threaten when you propose to read it--it is purely geological. I said to my brother, 'You will of course read it,' and his answer was, 'Upon my life, I would sooner even buy it.'"
In spite of these disparaging remarks, however, we are strongly inclined to believe that this book, despised by its author, and neglected by his contemporaries, will in the end be admitted to be one of Darwin's chief titles to fame. It is, perhaps, an unfortunate circumstance that the great success which he attained in biology by the publication of the "Origin of Species" has, to some extent, overshadowed the fact that Darwin's claims as a geologist, are of the very highest order. It is not too much to say that, had Darwin not been a geologist, the "Origin of Species" could never have been written by him. But apart from those geological questions, which have an important bearing on biological thought and speculation, such as the proofs of imperfection in the geological record, the relations of the later tertiary faunas to the recent ones in the same areas, and the apparent intermingling of types belonging to distant geological epochs, when we study the palaeontology of remote districts,--there are other purely geological problems, upon which the contributions made by Darwin are of the very highest value. I believe that the verdict of the historians of science will be that if Darwin had not taken a foremost place among the biologists of this century, his position as a geologist would have been an almost equally commanding one.
But in the case of Darwin's principal geological work--that relating to the origin of the crystalline schists,--geologists were not at the time prepared to receive his revolutionary teachings. The influence of powerful authority was long exercised, indeed, to stifle his teaching, and only now, when this unfortunate opposition has disappeared, is the true nature and importance of Darwin's purely geological work beginning to be recognised.
The two first chapters of the "Geological Observations on South America," deal with the proofs which exist of great, but frequently interrupted, movements of elevation during very recent geological times. In connection with this subject, Darwin's particular attention was directed to the relations between the great earthquakes of South America--of some of which he had impressive experience--and the permanent changes of elevation which were taking place. He was much struck by the rapidity with which the evidence of such great earth movements is frequently obliterated; and especially with the remarkable way in which the action of rain-water, percolating through deposits on the earth's surface, removes all traces of shells and other calcareous organisms. It was these considerations which were the parents of the generalisation that a palaeontological record can only be preserved during those periods in which long-continued slow subsidence is going on. This in turn, led to the still wider and more suggestive conclusion that the geological record as a whole is, and never can be more than, a series of more or less isolated fragments. The recognition of this important fact constitutes the keystone to any theory of evolution which seeks to find a basis in the actual study of the types of life that have formerly inhabited our globe.
In his third chapter, Darwin gives a number of interesting facts, collected during his visits to the plains and valleys of Chili, which bear on the question of the origin of saliferous deposits--the accumulation of salt, gypsum, and nitrate of soda. This is a problem that has excited much discussion among geologists, and which, in spite of many valuable observations, still remains to a great extent very obscure. Among the important considerations insisted upon by Darwin is that relating to the absence of marine shells in beds associated with such deposits. He justly argues that if the strata were formed in shallow waters, and then exposed by upheaval to subaerial action, all shells and other calcareous organisms would be removed by solution.
Following Lyell's method, Darwin proceeds from the study of deposits now being accumulated on the earth's surface, to those which have been formed during the more recent periods of the geological history.
His account of the great Pampean formation, with its wonderful mammalian remains--Mastodon, Toxodon, Scelidotherium, Macrauchenia, Megatherium, Megalonyx, Mylodon, and Glyptodon--this full of interest. His discovery of the remains of a true Equus afforded a remarkable confirmation of the fact- -already made out in North America--that species of horse had existed and become extinct in the New World, before their introduction by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. Fully perceiving the importance of the microscope in studying the nature and origin of such deposits as those of the Pampas, Darwin submitted many of his specimens both to Dr. Carpenter in this country, and to Professor Ehrenberg in Berlin. Many very important notes on the microscopic organisms contained in the formation will be found scattered through the chapter.
Darwin's study of the older tertiary formations, with their abundant shells, and their relics of vegetable life buried under great sheets of basalt, led him to consider carefully the question of climate during these earlier periods. In opposition to prevalent views on this subject, Darwin points out that his observations are opposed to the conclusion that a higher temperature prevailed universally over the globe during early geological periods. He argues that "the causes which gave to the older tertiary productions of the quite temperate zones of Europe a tropical character, WERE OF A LOCAL CHARACTER AND DID NOT AFFECT THE WHOLE GLOBE." In this, as in many similar instances, we see the beneficial influence of extensive travel in freeing Darwin's mind from prevailing prejudices. It was this widening of experience which rendered him so especially qualified to deal with the great problem of the origin of species, and in doing so to emancipate himself from ideas which were received with unquestioning faith by geologists whose studies had been circumscribed within the limits of Western Europe.
In the Cordilleras of Northern and Central Chili, Darwin, when studying still older formations, clearly recognised that they contain an admixture of the forms of life, which in Europe are distinctive of the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods respectively. He was thus led to conclude that the classification of geological periods, which fairly well expresses the facts that had been discovered in the areas where the science was first studied, is no longer capable of being applied when we come to the study of widely distant regions. This important conclusion led up to the further generalisation that each great geological period has exhibited a geographical distribution of the forms of animal and vegetable life, comparable to that which prevails in the existing fauna and flora. To those who are familiar with the extent to which the doctrine of universal formations has affected geological thought and speculation, both long before and since the time that Darwin wrote, the importance of this new standpoint to which he was able to attain will be sufficiently apparent. Like the idea of the extreme imperfection of the Geological Record, the doctrine of LOCAL geological formations is found permeating and moulding all the palaeontological reasonings of his great work.
In one of Darwin's letters, written while he was in South America, there is a passage we have already quoted, in which he expresses his inability to decide between the rival claims upon his attention of "the old crystalline group of rocks," and "the softer fossiliferous beds" respectively. The sixth chapter of the work before us, entitled "Plutonic and Metamorphic Rocks--Cleavage and Foliation," contains a brief summary of a series of observations and reasonings upon these crystalline rocks, which are, we believe, calculated to effect a revolution in geological science, and-- though their value and importance have long been overlooked--are likely to entitle Darwin in the future to a position among geologists, scarcely, if at all, inferior to that which he already occupies among biologists.
Darwin's studies of the great rock-masses of the Andes convinced him of the close relations between the granitic or Plutonic rocks, and those which were undoubtedly poured forth as lavas. Upon his return, he set to work, with the aid of Professor Miller, to make a careful study of the minerals composing the granites and those which occur in the lavas, and he was able to show that in all essential respects they are identical. He was further able to prove that there is a complete gradation between the highly crystalline or granitic rock-masses, and those containing more or less glassy matter between their crystals, which constitute ordinary lavas. The importance of this conclusion will be realised when we remember that it was then the common creed of geologists--and still continues to be so on the Continent--that all highly crystalline rocks are of great geological antiquity, and that the igneous ejections which have taken place since the beginning of the tertiary periods differ essentially, in their composition, their structure, and their mode of occurrence, from those which have made their appearance at earlier periods of the world's history.
Very completely have the conclusions of Darwin upon these subjects been justified by recent researches. In England, the United States, and Italy, examples of the gradual passage of rocks of truly granitic structure into ordinary lavas have been described, and the reality of the transition has been demonstrated by the most careful studies with the microscope. Recent researches carried on in South America by Professor Stelzner, have also shown the existence of a class of highly crystalline rocks--the "Andengranites"--which combine in themselves many of the characteristics which were once thought to be distinctive of the so-called Plutonic and volcanic rocks. No one familiar with recent geological literature--even in Germany and France, where the old views concerning the distinction of igneous products of different ages have been most stoutly maintained--can fail to recognise the fact that the principles contended for by Darwin bid fair at no distant period to win universal acceptance among geologists all over the globe.
Still more important are the conclusions at which Darwin arrived with respect to the origin of the schists and gneisses which cover so large an area in South America.
Carefully noting, by the aid of his compass and clinometer, at every point which he visited, the direction and amount of inclination of the parallel divisions in these rocks, he was led to a very important generalisation-- namely, that over very wide areas the direction (strike) of the planes of cleavage in slates, and of foliation in schists and gneisses, remained constant, though the amount of their inclination (dip) often varied within wide limits. Further than this it appeared that there was always a close correspondence between the strike of the cleavage and foliation and the direction of the great axes along which elevation had taken place in the district.
In Tierra del Fuego, Darwin found striking evidence that the cleavage intersecting great masses of slate-rocks was quite independent of their original stratification, and could often, indeed, be seen cutting across it at right angles. He was also able to verify Sedgwick's observation that, in some slates, glossy surfaces on the planes of cleavage arise from the development of new minerals, chlorite, epidote or mica, and that in this way a complete graduation from slates to true schists may be traced.
Darwin further showed that in highly schistose rocks, the folia bend around and encircle any foreign bodies in the mass, and that in some cases they exhibit the most tortuous forms and complicated puckerings. He clearly saw that in all cases the forces by which these striking phenomena must have been produced were persistent over wide areas, and were connected with the great movements by which the rocks had been upheaved and folded.
That the distinct folia of quartz, feldspar, mica, and other minerals composing the metamorphic schists could not have been separately deposited as sediment was strongly insisted upon by Darwin; and in doing so he opposed the view generally prevalent among geologists at that time. He was thus driven to the conclusion that foliation, like cleavage, is not an original, but a superinduced structure in rock-masses, and that it is the result of re-crystallisation, under the controlling influence of great pressure, of the materials of which the rock was composed.
In studying the lavas of Ascension, as we have already seen, Darwin was led to recognise the circumstance that, when igneous rocks are subjected to great differential movements during the period of their consolidation, they acquire a foliated structure, closely analogous to that of the crystalline schists. Like his predecessor in this field of inquiry, Mr. Poulett Scrope, Charles Darwin seems to have been greatly impressed by these facts, and he argued from them that the rocks exhibiting the foliated structure must have been in a state of plasticity, like that of a cooling mass of lava. At that time the suggestive experiments of Tresca, Daubree, and others, showing that solid masses under the influence of enormous pressure become actually plastic, had not been published. Had Darwin been aware of these facts he would have seen that it was not necessary to assume a state of imperfect solidity in rock-masses in order to account for their having yielded to pressure and tension, and, in doing so, acquiring the new characters which distinguish the crystalline schists.
The views put forward by Darwin on the origin of the crystalline schists found an able advocate in Mr. Daniel Sharpe, who in 1852 and 1854 published two papers, dealing with the geology of the Scottish Highlands and of the Alps respectively, in which he showed that the principles arrived at by Darwin when studying the South American rocks afford a complete explanation of the structure of the two districts in question.
But, on the other hand, the conclusions of Darwin and Sharpe were met with the strongest opposition by Sir Roderick Murchison and Dr. A. Geikie, who in 1861 read a paper before the Geological Society "On the Coincidence between Stratification and Foliation in the Crystalline Rocks of the Scottish Highlands," in which they insisted that their observations in Scotland tended to entirely disprove the conclusions of Darwin that foliation in rocks is a secondary structure, and entirely independent of the original stratification of the rock-masses.
Now it is a most significant circumstance that, no sooner did the officers of the Geological Survey commence the careful and detailed study of the Scottish Highlands than they found themselves compelled to make a formal retraction of the views which had been put forward by Murchison and Geikie in opposition to the conclusions of Darwin. The officers of the Geological Survey have completely abandoned the view that the foliation of the Highland rocks has been determined by their original stratification, and admit that the structure is the result of the profound movements to which the rocks have been subjected. The same conclusions have recently been supported by observations made in many different districts--among which we may especially refer to those of Dr. H. Reusch in Norway, and those of Dr. J. Lehmann in Saxony. At the present time the arguments so clearly stated by Darwin in the work before us, have, after enduring opposition or neglect for a whole generation, begun to "triumph all along the line," and we may look forward confidently to the near future, when his claim to be regarded as one of the greatest of geological discoverers shall be fully vindicated.
JOHN W. JUDD.