Transformism, Evolution, and Romanticism

In recent years, there has been a tendency among historians of pre-Darwinian biology in France, notably Goulven Laurent, to see Darwinian evolutionary theory as little more than an advanced version of Lamarck's transformism. This article starts from a critique of that position, and then seeks to elucidate the implications for non-scientific discourses in the period between Lamarck and Darwin. It seeks to demonstrate that the protagonists of the 1830 querelle des analogues – the "fixist Cuvier and the "transformist Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire – are inappropriately associated respectively with conservatism and progressivism, and, more generally, that French Romantic historiography can be better understood as anticipating an evolutionary mode of thought rather than as developing a transformist mode of thought. (RS)
Somerset, Richard
Volume 2000-2001 Fall-Winter; 29(1-2): 1-20