The phrenologist George Combe's "Constitution of Man" (1827) offers an anti-evangelical philosophy of progressive natural laws capable of serving as a guide to life and conduct. It was one of the most controversial and influential works of the 19th century, selling an astonishing 350,000 copies and remaining in print from 1828 until 1899. (In comparison, Darwin's "Origin of Species" sold only 50,000 copies.) Countless books, pamphlets and articles were written to oppose, condemn, praise and especially to imitate it. Volume One of this set contains a newly typeset text of the 8th edition of the "Constitution" from 1847, with its original illustrations. As the last edition published in Combe's lifetime, this is the version of most interest to scholars, including as it does an additional chapter on science and religion. Volumes Two and Three are made up of early British and American responses to Combe's classic work, chronologically ordered from 1827 to 1879. This material - much of it very rare - has never been collected before. Its reprinting here, alongside the best text of the "Constitution" itself and prefixed by John van Wyhe's new introduction, should be of interest to students and scholars of 19th-century debates between science and religion. It should also be welcomed by specialists in the history of psychology, phrenology, heredity and educational reform.
John van Wyhe is a historian of science and one of the world's leading experts on Darwin, Wallace and the history of evolutionary theory.
He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, Department of History and a Fellow of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore. He is the founder and Director of both Darwin Online and Wallace Online. He lectures and broadcasts around the world.
His research has resolved some of the most intractable mysteries and debunked some of the most long-standing myths in the field such as Darwin's delay, when Darwin received Wallace's evolution essay, whether Darwin was the naturalist or companion on HMS Beagle, where the legend of Darwin's finches comes from, whether Darwin lost his faith when his daughter Annie died and the legendary version of the life of A.R. Wallace as told by amateurs for the past decades.
His book Dispelling the Darkness, completely overturns the traditional story of Darwin, Wallace and how the theory of evolution by natural selection was conceived and made known to the world based on the most in-depth research programme ever undertaken on Wallace's voyage including editing Wallace Online, Wallace's voyage letters and notebooks to modern scholarly standards. As Janet Browne has written "The story of Wallace will never be the same again."