Richard Owen (Hardcover)

Victorian Naturalist

By Nicolaas A. Rupke

Yale University Press, 9780300058208, 480pp.

Publication Date: April 27, 1994

List Price: 80.00*
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Description

Richard Owen (1804-92) was, after Darwin, the leading naturalist of nineteenth-century Britain. A distinguished anatomist and paleontologist, he was influential in Victorian scientific reform and in the debate over natural selection. Leader of the nineteenth-century museum movement, he founded London's monumental Natural History Museum, wrote and published copiously, and won every professional honor. This first full-fledged biography of Owen presents the complete range of his scientific and intellectual achievements.

Nicolaas Rupke discusses Owen's epic power struggles with colleagues, the most notorious of which were with Darwin and Huxley. As a renowned opponent of natural selection, Owen became the bête noire of the Darwinian evolution debate. Rupke argues, however, that Owen should no longer be judged by the evolution dispute that was only a minor part of his work yet has come to dominate his memory. Instead, Rupke emphasizes and throws new light on a wide area of Owen's other activities. In particular, he explains the central division in Owen's scientific oeuvre between the functionalism of Oxbridge natural theology and the transcendentalism of German nature philosophy. Rupke shows that this was a fundamental extension of the intellectual and political maneuvering for control of Victorian cultural institutions and an inextricable part of the rise to public authority of the most articulate proponents of the scientific study of nature.