Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (publ. 1859) is a pivotal work in scientific literature and arguably the pivotal work in evolutionary biology. The book’s full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It was controversial because it contradicted religious beliefs which underlay the then current theories of biology. Darwin’s book was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and added to through continuing investigations and experiments since his return.
The Anatomy of Melancholy is a book by Robert Burton, first published in 1621. On its surface, the book is a medical textbook in which Burton applies his large and varied learning in the scholastic manner to the subject of melancholia (which includes what is now termed clinical depression).
Though presented as a medical text, The Anatomy of Melancholy is as much a sui generis work of literature as it is a scientific or philosophical text, and Burton addresses far more than his stated subject. In fact, the Anatomy uses melancholy as the lens through which all human emotion and thought may be scrutinized, and virtually the entire contents of a 17th-century library are marshalled into service of this goal.
Burton is forthright about his intentions in writing the Anatomy — "I write of melancholy by being busy to avoid melancholy," he concedes. This acknowledged desire to distract and amuse himself motivated Burton to produce a wide-ranging document, containing digressions and commentary. Whatever its strengths as a medical text or as a historical document, it is the Anatomy's vast breadth — addressing topics such as digestion, goblins, the geography of America, and others — and the particularly characteristic voice of its author that are most commonly cited by its admirers as the main sources of its appeal. Both satirical and serious in tone, the Anatomy is "vitalized by (Burton's) pervading humour", and Burton's digressive and inclusive style, often verging on a stream of consciousness, consistently informs and animates the text.
Thomson, J. Arthur
The Outline of Science, Volume 1 was written specifically with the
man-on-the-street in mind as the target audience. Covering
scientific subjects ranging from astronomy to biology to elementary
physics in clear, concise and easily understood prose, this
popular science work is largely as relevant today as when first
published in 1922. Special emphasis is given to the principles
of biological adaptation and evolution, especially how they relate to
the rise of the human species from lower orders. Also included are
the basics of the (then) fairly new concept of relativity and its impact
on emerging scientific theories.
Since first posted at Project Gutenberg in 2006, the text of
The Outline of Science, Volume 1 has consistently ranked in the
"Top 100 EBooks" category.
Thomson, J. Arthur
In The Outline of Science, Thomson gives us a window into scientific thinking as it stood in 1922 on the big, the little, and the biological. With straightforward language intended for a general audience, this book covers astronomy from the Solar System to the Milky Way, the submicroscopic makeup of matter from protons and electrons, and the evolution of simple living beings into the varied fauna of the world today. Thomson cites many examples that would have been familiar to his readers of the day and notes where scientific understanding leaves off and conjecture begins. He clearly shows how the accumulation of observation and experiment stacked up to form the body of knowledge reported in the book. For even the scientifically well-versed, there will be interesting nuggets, for investigation into how the world came to be as it was, was both wide and deep.
To a modern listener, what was not known may be as interesting as what was. With the 100-inch Mt. Wilson reflector the largest telescope in the world, the existence of galaxies outside the Milky Way was suspected but not confirmed. Neutrons, soon to become important in the field of nuclear energy and atomic bombs, were as yet unguessed-at, yet the prospect of liberating the immense energy of the atom was already a keen interest. Although the famous Michaelson-Morley experiment had already been seen as disproof of an all-pervading "ether" which facilitated the flow of energy across empty space, scientists still retained ether as a place-holder for properties they could measure but not explain - an approach very similar to the "dark matter" of modern cosmology.
Regardless of your personal sentiments on Darwin's theory of evolution, Thomson provides well-chosen examples that illustrate why this theory arose. He examines not only the fossil record but the evidences present in modern living beings that the process of evolution is by no means finished, but ongoing.
Even at that time, Thomson worried over the future of energy sources. He contemplated the exhaustion of the coal fields and indeed, the eventual exhaustion of all usable energy in the universe, foreshadowing our concept of entropy.
Summary by Mark F. Smith.
In 1623, Francis Bacon expressed his aspirations and ideas in New Atlantis. Released in 1627, this was his creation of an ideal land where people were kind, knowledgeable, and civic-minded. Part of this new land was his perfect college, a vision for our modern research universities. Islands he had visited may have served as models for his ideas.
The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison with the second (Malthus).
The happiness of all human beings, men and women, depends largely on their rational solution of the sexual problem. Sex and the part it plays in human life cannot be ignored.
Shackleton's most famous expedition was planned to be an attempt to cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea south of the Atlantic, to the Ross Sea south of the Pacific, by way of the Pole. It set out from London on 1 August 1914, and reached the Weddell Sea on January 10, 1915, where the pack ice closed in on the Endurance. The ship was broken by the ice on 27 October 1915. The 28 crew members managed to flee to Elephant Island, bringing three small boats with them. Shackleton and five other men managed to reach the southern coast of South Georgia in one of the small boats (in a real epic journey). Shackleton managed to rescue all of the stranded crew from Elephant Island without loss in the Chilean's navy seagoing steam tug Yelcho, on August 30, 1916, in the middle of the Antarctic winter.
In this work, Kropotkin points out what he considers to be the fallacies of the economic systems of feudalism and capitalism, and how he believes they create poverty and scarcity while promoting privilege. He goes on to propose a more decentralised economic system based on mutual aid and voluntary cooperation, asserting that the tendencies for this kind of organisation already exist, both in evolution and in human society.
The famous physicist Sir Isaac Newton lectured on optics from 1670 - 1672. He worked on refraction of light into colored beams using prisms and discovered chromatic aberration. He also postulated the corpuscular form of light and an ether to transmit forces between the corpuscles. His "Opticks", first published 1704 contains his postulates about the topic. This is the fourth edition in English, from 1730, which Newton corrected from the third edition before his death.
A handbook of Egyptian archaeology, issued by the British Museum, considered suitable for British tourists traveling to Egypt in the 19th Century.
Burgess, Thornton W.
Peter Rabbit goes to school, with Mother Nature as his teacher. In this zoology book for children, Thornton W. Burgess describes the mammals of North America in the form of an entertaining story, including plenty of detail but omitting long scientific names. There is an emphasis on conservation.
Muir, M. M. Pattison
A light journey through the history of chemistry, from its start in the obscure mysteries of alchemy to what was, for the author, the cutting edge of the development of modern atomic theory ... and whose developing blind ends we can now see with the advantage of hind sight.
Mill, John Stuart
Part 1 lays out the framework for Positivism as originated in France by Auguste Comte in his Cours de Philosophie Positive. Mill examines the tenets of Comte's movement and alerts us to defects. Part 2 concerns all Comte's writings except the Cours de Philosophie Positive. During Comte's later years he gave up reading newspapers and periodicals to keep his mind pure for higher study. He also became enamored of a certain woman who changed his view of life. Comte turned his philosophy into a religion, with morality the supreme guide. Mill finds that Comte learned to despise science and the intellect, instead substituting his frantic need for the regulation of change.
Whitehead, Alfred North
In The Concept of Nature, Alfred North Whitehead discusses the interrelatedness of time, space, and human perception.
The idea of objects as 'occasions of experience', arguments against body-mind duality and the search for an all-encompassing 'philosophy of nature' are examined, with specific reference to contemporary (Einstein, with whose theory of relativity he has some complaints) and ancient (Plato, Aristotle) approaches.
Burgess, Thornton W.
The Burgess Bird Book for Children is a zoology book written in the form of a story featuring Peter Rabbit. Peter learns from his friend Jenny Wren all about the birds of North America, and we meet many of them in the Old Orchard, the Green Meadow, and the Green Forest. (summary by Laurie Anne Walden)
Wells, H. G.
Wells considered this book one of his most important, a natural follow-up to such works as his Man of the Year Million and The Time Machine. His goal was to get people to think and act in new ways. The book starts with a look at how humans get along socially and how they carry out their business ventures. It then discusses how these elements influence others, such as politics, the world of work, and education. H. G. tried to make clear how the current social order was disintegrating without preparing another to take its place. He then traced the roots of democracy, which in its present state he saw as unworkable. Instead, he proposed a new republic. He also critiqued modern warfare.
Fort, Charles Hoy
The Book of the Damned was the first published nonfiction work of the author Charles Fort (first edition 1919). Dealing with various types of anomalous phenomena including UFOs, strange falls of both organic and inorganic materials from the sky, odd weather patterns, the possible existence of creatures generally held to be mythological, disappearances of people under strange circumstances, and many other phenomena, the book is historically considered to be the first written in the specific field of anomalistics.
Brooks, David Marshall
Plain speaking is necessary in any discussion of religion, for if the freethinker attacks the religious dogmas with hesitation, the orthodox believer assumes that it is with regret that the freethinker would remove the crutch that supports the orthodox. And all religious beliefs are "crutches" hindering the free locomotive efforts of an advancing humanity. There are no problems related to human progress and happiness in this age which any theology can solve, and which the teachings of freethought cannot do better and without the aid of encumbrances.
Langstroth, L. L.
Langstroth revolutionized the beekeeping industry by using bee space in his top opened hive. In the summer of 1851 he found that, by leaving an even, approximately bee-sized space between the top of the frames holding the honeycomb and the flat coverboard lying above, he was able to quite easily remove the latter, which was normally well cemented to the frames with propolis making separation hard to achieve. Later he had the idea to use this discovery to make the frames themselves easily removable. He found that, if he left a small space (less than 1/4 inch or 6.4 mm) between the combs, or between the combs and the sides of his hives, the bees would fill it with propolis thus cementing the combs into the hive. On the other hand, when he left a larger space (more than 3/8 inch or 9.5 mm) the bees would fill it with comb which had a similar effect.
Serviss, Garrett P.
Astronomy is known as the oldest of the sciences, and it will be the longest-lived because it will always have arcana that have not been penetrated."-Excerpt from the Preface of Curiosities of the Sky by Garrett Serviss
Powell, John Wesley
John Wesley Powell was a pioneer American explorer, ethnologist, and geologist in the 19th Century. In 1869 he set out to explore the Colorado and the Grand Canyon. He gathered nine men, four boats and food for ten months and set out from Green River, Wyoming, on May 24. Passing through dangerous rapids, the group passed down the Green River to its confluence with the Colorado River (then also known as the Grand River upriver from the junction), near present-day Moab, Utah. The expedition's route traveled through the Utah canyons of the Colorado River, which Powell described in his published diary as having …wonderful features—carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches, mounds and monuments. From which of these features shall we select a name? We decide to call it Glen Canyon. (Ironically, now almost completely submerged by Lake Powell, behind the Glen Canyon Dam.) One man (Goodman) quit after the first month and another three (Dunn and the Howland brothers) left at Separation Rapid in the third, only two days before the group reached the mouth of the Virgin River on August 30 after traversing almost 1,500 km. The three who left the group late in the trip were later killed—probably by Indians.
Powell retraced the route in 1871-1872 with another expedition, producing photographs, an accurate map, and various papers, including ethnographic reports of the area's Native Americans and a monograph on their languages.
This book tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.