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The Evolution of Life

Abstract

THIS volume is the third of a series being issued in France under the designation of the “Petite Encyclopédie du XXe Siècle.” The object of the work, as set forth in the preface, is the very praiseworthy one of spreading a sound knowledge of the achievements of modern science among the intelligent public in a popular way. As the author points out, the mental equipment of the man of culture of the present time consists of art, literature and belles-lettres. Of modern science he knows nothing and cares to know nothing. Even among scientific workers themselves the extreme specialisation necessitated by original work often pre Now, vents a general perspective of the whole subject being gained. The trees prevent the individual hewer of wood from seeing the forest as a whole. We have long recognised the need for imparting scientific “culture” to the reading and thinking public in this country, and many excellent series of popular works by our foremost men of science might be mentioned. How far the present work is likely to give French readers a sound idea of modern evolution is very difficult for an English reviewer to judge. The author deals with the subject in a way that has been made familiar by the writings of Haeckel, and we cannot say that he sheds any new light on the various questions or that his treatment is particularlylucid. Here and there Dr. Laloy lets fall a suggestive analogy or makes a remark which shows that on many of the fundamental questions of modern biology his views are at any rate sound. If he admits of being pigeon-holed at all, we should says that as regards the origin of life he is a neo-vitalist. His suggestion that protoplasm may have arisen in the first place by the direct combination of carbon with water and the subsequent combination of the carbohydrate with nitrogen under the influence of the electric discharge (p. 28) is based upon a statement of Berthelo's—that cellulose and dextrin can “fix” nitrogen under the influence of the silent electric discharge. This view is not likely to find favour, we imagine, until we have some more substantial basis of fact to support it.

L'Évolution de la Vie.

Par le Dr. Laloy, Sous-Bibliothécaire de la Faculté de Médecine de Bordeaux. Pp. xii + 240. (Paris: Libraire C. Reinwald; Schleicher Frères, 1902.) Price fr. 2.50.

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M., R. The Evolution of Life . Nature 65, viii–ix (1902). https://doi.org/10.1038/065viiib0

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