Charles Naudin (1815-1899)
Charles Naudin (1815-1899) was a French botanist who studied hybridization and heredity over the course of his long life. In 1852, he published an important paper on evolution entitled Considérations philosophique sur l’espèce et la variété (Philosophical considerations on species and varieties) in Revue Horticole (pdf here). In this important paper, Naudin writes that artificial selection is essentially based upon nature’s natural process of selection and that the line between species and varieties is artificial. In addition, Naudin wrote of deep time and the progressive nature of the fossil record, and importantly, that life should be classified based on genealogy.
After On the Origin of Species was published (1859), Darwin received a letter from the French botanist Joseph Decaisne, who argued that Naudin had already advanced the central ideas of artificial and natural selection. Darwin was sufficiently miffed by this letter (no longer extant) to write (letter here) his good friend and colleague Joseph Hooker (December 23, 1859): “I am surprised that Decaisne shd say it was same as mine. Naudin gives artificial selection as well as a score of English writers; & when he says species were formed in same manner I though the paper would certainly prove exactly the same as mine. But I cannot find on word like the Struggle for existence & Natural Selection.”
A few key passages from Naudin (my translation):
“We do not believe that nature has proceeded to form its species in a manner that we ourselves use to create our varieties; rather, it is nature’s process that we have applied to our practices… [T]o start a new lineage, we choose among the large number of individuals… those that seem to deviate from the specific type in ways that suit us, and, with a rational selection and follow up of the products obtained, we do, after an undetermined number of generations, create artificial varieties or species that meet more or less the ideal type that we were aiming for.”
“Such, in our ideas, is the course followed by nature; like us, it wanted to form races to fit them to its needs; and with a relatively small number of primordial kinds, it successively gave birth and at various times, to all the plant and animal species that inhabit the globe… Nature has operated on a huge scale and with immense resources; we, on the contrary, we do so with extremely limited means; but between its processes and ours, between its results and those we get, the difference is only in quantity; between its species and those we create, there are only the more and less.”
“[A] perfect and rigorous classification of organic beings of the same kingdom, same order, same family, would be nothing other than the genealogical tree of the same species, indicating the relative ancientness of each, degré de spéciéité [unifying characters?], and line of ancestors from which it is descended.”
For a brief treatment of the life and intellectual contributions of Charles Naudin, click here.