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Victorian Scientific NaturalismCommunity, Identity, Continuity$
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Bernard Lightman and Gowan Dawson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226109503

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226109640.001.0001

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“The Great O. versus the Jermyn St. Pet”: Huxley, Falconer, and Owen on Paleontological Method

“The Great O. versus the Jermyn St. Pet”: Huxley, Falconer, and Owen on Paleontological Method

(p.27) 1 “The Great O. versus the Jermyn St. Pet”: Huxley, Falconer, and Owen on Paleontological Method
Victorian Scientific Naturalism

Gowan Dawson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the paleontological dispute from 1856 to 1857 between Thomas Henry Huxley, Hugh Falconer, and Richard Owen, and its role in forging a sense of solidarity and community amongst the nascent scientific naturalists. In this dispute Huxley criticized Georges Cuvier's method of paleontological reconstruction—it relied on the law of necessary correlation, to Huxley a quasi-theological doctrine. Joseph Hooker, Charles Darwin, and Herbert Spencer (as well as, seemingly, Charles Lyell) backed Huxley, and even Falconer eventually changed his mind and vehemently endorsed his erstwhile antagonist. The Cuvierian controversy begun by Huxley brought together the leading lights of the emergent scientific young guard more than three years before the publication of On the Origin of Species, providing them with a key secular principle, as well as a mutual bête noire in Owen, that would both be important later during the debates over Darwin's naturalistic mode of species transmutation.

Keywords:   Paleontology, Thomas Henry Huxley, Hugh Falconer, Richard Owen, Georges Cuvier, Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker, Military Metaphor, Crimean War, Correlation

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