Article ID: CBB001422092

The History and Reception of Charles Darwin's Hypothesis of Pangenesis (2014)


This paper explores Charles Darwin's hypothesis of pangenesis through a popular and professional reception history. First published in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication (1868), pangenesis stated that inheritance can be explained by sub-cellular “gemmules” which aggregated in the sexual organs during intercourse. Pangenesis thereby accounted for the seemingly arbitrary absence and presence of traits in offspring while also clarifying some botanical and invertebrates' limb regeneration abilities. I argue that critics largely interpreted Variation as an extension of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), while pangenesis was an extension of natural selection. Contrary to claims that pangenesis was divorced from natural selection by its reliance on the inheritance of acquired characters, pangenesis's mid nineteenth-century reception suggests that Darwin's hypothesis responded directly to selection's critics. Using Variation's several editions, periodical reviews, and personal correspondence I assess pangenesis popularly, professionally, and biographically to better understand Variation's impact on 1860s and 70s British evolutionism and inheritance.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article James G. Lennox; (2021)
Accentuate the negative: Locating possibility in Darwin’s ‘long argument’ (/isis/citation/CBB202149987/)

Article Derek Partridge; (2018)
Darwin’s Two Theories, 1844 and 1859 (/isis/citation/CBB074913080/)

Article Theunissen, Bert; (2012)
Darwin and His Pigeons. The Analogy Between Artificial and Natural Selection Revisited (/isis/citation/CBB001221001/)

Book Donohue, Kathleen; (2011)
Darwin's Finches: Readings in the Evolution of a Scientific Paradigm (/isis/citation/CBB001033158/)

Thesis Pajewski, Alessandro; (2012)
The Face of Nature: Hume and Darwin on Analogy and Emotion (/isis/citation/CBB001561023/)

Chapter Engels, Eve-Marie; (2009)
Charles Darwins geheimnisvolle Revolution (/isis/citation/CBB001023713/)

Thesis Jeffrey Thomas Wright; (2016)
Darwin, Huxley, and the Nineteenth-Century Rhetoric of Science (/isis/citation/CBB948034428/)

Article Haufe, Chris; (2012)
Darwin's Laws (/isis/citation/CBB001221610/)

Book Gardiner, Brian; Milner, Richard; Morris, Mary; (2008)
Survival of the Fittest: A Special Issue of the Linnean Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Darwin-Wallace Theory of Evolution (/isis/citation/CBB001035140/)

Article Travis, Anthony S.; (2010)
Raphael Meldola and the Nineteenth-Century Neo-Darwinians (/isis/citation/CBB001230067/)

Book Sober, Elliott; (2011)
Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards? Philosophical Essays on Darwin's Theory (/isis/citation/CBB001230081/)

Article Smith, Charles H.; (2005)
Alfred Russel Wallace, Past and Future (/isis/citation/CBB001035141/)

Article Deichmann, Ute; (2010)
Gemmules and Elements: On Darwin's and Mendel's Concepts and Methods in Heredity (/isis/citation/CBB001230066/)

Article Richards, Robert J.; (2012)
Darwin's Principles of Divergence and Natural Selection: Why Fodor Was Almost Right (/isis/citation/CBB001221609/)

Book Costa, James T.; (2014)
Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species (/isis/citation/CBB001422067/)

Article Polizello, Andreza; Pereira Martins, Lilian Al-Chueyr; (2012)
Modelos microscópicos de herança no século XIX (/isis/citation/CBB001212015/)

Authors & Contributors
Richards, Robert John
Glickman, Stephen E.
Engels, Eve-Marie
Glaubrecht, Matthias
Donohue, Kathleen
Gardiner, Brian O. C.
Journal of the History of Biology
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal for General Philosophy of Science
Journal of Biogeography
Filosofia e História da Biologia
University of Chicago Press
Linnean Society of London
Prometheus Books
Harvard University Press
University of Chicago
Natural selection
Species concept (biology)
Darwin, Charles Robert
Wallace, Alfred Russel
Vries, Hugo Marie de
Spencer, Herbert
Galton, Francis
Weismann, August
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
Southeast Asia
United States
United States. Dept. of Agriculture
Linnean Society of London

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment