It follows from these observations that animals have certain fixed and natural characters which resist the effects of every kind of influence, whether proceeding from natural causes or human interference; and we have not the smallest reason to suspect that time has any more effect on them than climate.
"I am aware that some naturalists lay prodigious stress upon the thousands which they can call into action by a dash of their pens. In such matters, however, our only way of judging as to the effects which may be produced by a long period of time is by multiplying, as it were, such as are produced by a shorter time. With this view I have endeavored to collect all the ancient documents respecting the forms of animals; and there are none equal to those furnished by the Egyptians, both in regard to their antiquity and abundance. They have not only left us representatives of animals, but even their identical bodies embalmed and preserved in the catacombs.
"I have examined, with the greatest attention, the engraved figures of quadrupeds and birds brought from Egypt to ancient Rome, and all these figures, one with another, have a perfect resemblance to their intended objects, such as they still are to-day.
"From all these established facts, there does not seem to be the smallest foundation for supposing that the new genera which I have discovered or established among extraneous fossils, such as the paleoetherium, anoplotherium, megalonyx, mastodon, pterodactylis, etc., have ever been the sources of any of our present animals, which only differ so far as they are influenced by time or climate. Even if it should prove true, which I am far from believing to be the case, that the fossil elephants, rhinoceroses, elks, and bears do not differ further from the existing species of the same genera than the present races of dogs differ among themselves, this would by no means be a sufficient reason to conclude that they were of the same species; since the races or varieties of dogs have been influenced by the trammels of domesticity, which those other animals never did, and indeed never could, experience."
To Cuvier's argument from the fixity of Egyptian mummified birds and animals, as above stated, Lamarck replied that this proved nothing except that the ibis had become perfectly adapted to its Egyptian surroundings in an early day, historically speaking, and that the climatic and other conditions of the Nile Valley had not since then changed. His theory, he alleged, provided for the stability of species under fixed conditions quite as well as for transmutation under varying conditions.
But, needless to say, the popular verdict lay with Cuvier; talent won for the time against genius, and Lamarck was looked upon as an impious visionary. His faith never wavered, however. He believed that he had gained a true insight into the processes of animate nature, and he reiterated his hypotheses over and over, particularly in the introduction to his Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertebres, in 1815, and in his Systeme des Connaissances Positives de l'Homme, in 1820. He lived on till 1829, respected as a naturalist, but almost unrecognized as a prophet.
While the names of Darwin and Goethe, and in particular that of Lamarck, must always stand out in high relief in this generation as the exponents of the idea of transmutation of species, there are a few others which must not be altogether overlooked in this connection. Of these the most conspicuous is that of Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, a German naturalist physician, professor of mathematics in the lyceum at Bremen.
It was an interesting coincidence that Treviranus should have published the first volume of his Biologie, oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur, in which his views on the transmutation of species were expounded, in 1802, the same twelvemonth in which Lamarck's first exposition of the same doctrine appeared in his Recherches sur l'Organisation des Corps Vivants. It is singular, too, that Lamarck, in his Hydrogelogie of the same date, should independently have suggested "biology" as an appropriate word to express the general science of living things. It is significant of the tendency of thought of the time that the need of such a unifying word should have presented itself simultaneously to independent thinkers in different countries.