Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate, 1844-1944. Peter J. Bowler. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1986. 318 pp. $32.50.

Peter Bowler, a historian of science specializing in evolution, has approached the complex arena of human evolution from a fresh perspective. He has intertwined the themes of orthogenesis, Lamarckian use-inheritance, evolutionary convergence, vitalism and natural selection into a thoroughly engrossing view of ideas on human evolution prior to the modern synthesis of the late 1940s. Those were the days when virtually every hominid fossil discovered was christened with a first and last name—Pithecanthropus erect us, Eoanthropus dawsoni and so on.

This book is not about the fossil discoveries themselves and thus it does not parallel the obligate litany found in texts in human evolution. Instead it chronicles the often strange (to us) theoretical notions of our mostly anti-Darwinian or pre-Darwinian scientific predecessors. Well-known early paleontologists and anthropologists—Henry...

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