Top positive review
This has become possible in recent years because so many older texts have been digitised and are now available at the touch of a button in any location where there is a computer and good internet link
12 November 2017
Mike Sutton seems to have drawn on two important sources for this book: one his own research, and the other the work of W. J. Dempster who published three books on Patrick Matthew, and who was able to demonstrate conclusively that Matthew was the first to state the theory of natural selection in 1831. Sutton's research uses new techniques of comparing word patterns and phrases in texts. This has become possible in recent years because so many older texts have been digitised and are now available at the touch of a button in any location where there is a computer and good internet link. This makes some forms of historical research very much easier and quicker than hitherto, or in some cases even possible at all. Sutton has completed such an exercise. The result of his research confirms and adds much to what Dempster had already pointed out: that C Darwin was not original in suggesting that natural selection could be a cause of speciation in nature. Patrick Matthew was the first to provide a full description of the process and used examples to support his case. Despite the comments of another reviewer, Matthew DID suggest speciation. (I do wish reviewers would read the books they cite before making statements about them). The new information provided by Sutton is that it is very probable that both Darwin and Wallace knew of Matthew's book long before either made any public statement about natural selection. He also makes clear, (as does Dempster), the reasons why Matthew's work was well known to leading naturalists of the day, and their links with Darwin and Wallace. It is well known and fully documented that Darwin tried hard to conceal his sources and intellectual influences because he was enormously ambitious and wanted the fame and respect enjoyed by his grandfather Erasmus prior to his fall from favour in the later 1790's. It was well known among many of Darwin's contemporaries that there was nothing original in his writings on evolution, (which is why he was never made a member of the French Academy of Sciences), but that did not stop his friends from promoting his name and image. Sutton repeatedly emphasises Darwin's glory seeking but not make clear the reasons for this which is a shame. He does however set out his evidence in full for the reader to assess for themselves, and I would strongly commend anyone who is interested in this period to read this book carefully.
A word of warning: the book could have been much better edited: there are sentences which are very difficult to make any sense from, and passages which read as though one is in a courtroom rather than trying to follow an historical argument. It is also at time unneccesarily repetitive. Putting that on one side his case is, in the opinion of this author, proved beyond reasonable doubt: both C Darwin and A Wallace were plaigarists. Sutton provides many examples of where both authors change the word order in phrases, and use whole passages where the word order has only been slightly altered. One or two examples may have been coincidence: Sutton shows that there were an impossibly large number of coincidences if this were the case. That some members of the Royal Society, (including at least one former president), would deny this is of no consequence: the evidence speaks for itself. As the title of the books suggests (it translates as nothing by word - the motto of the Royal Society), we should review the evidence and make our judgements based on that alone. Unfortunateley academic scientists and historians have been and continue to be less than honest both in the 19th century and since. The politics of academe have and always will be used to distort or conceal the truth about ideas and events: history is full of such examples and Sutton has revealed another one.