The Elderly Darwin Fascinated by the Intelligence of Worms
This chapter focuses on the elderly Charles Darwin's fascination with worms, and especially the emergence of intelligence. Always seeking precision in his observations, Darwin made worm science the family business. His sons were his research assistants. Horace worked looking for worm castings in the cellar of a neighbor's house. Francis collected decomposing leaf fragments from worm burrows to test them for alkalinity. William was assigned the task of recording whether worms dragged leaves into their burrows by the stalk or leaf tip. This chapter examines Darwin's work with worms, including his worm and “vegetable mould” (humus) research, his scientific paper that describes the free-swimming larvae of Flustra, and his reconsideration of grandfather Erasmus Darwin's musings on the existence of primordial forms, like the living filament or “embryon fibre.” It also discusses Darwin's observations of branching organisms such as corallines and the work of worms as a metaphorical expression of his conception of evolution.
Cornell Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.