To pursue science because it satisfies the human spirit, withaut any del us ian as to the possible applica tian af his results to the relief af pain ar paverty, that is to be a “pure” scientist. Such a scientist is Henry Fairfield Osbarn, ane of the faremast palamtalagists af America. When in 1906 he was tendered the great hanar af election as secretary af the Smithsanian Institution, he gave as ane reasan far declining the past the fact that palrntalogy was of nO immediate use to saciety and he wauld, therefore, not feel justified in asking for appropriatians to enable him to carry on his costly researches at the probalble expense of work mare likely to yield results af practical value to the rest of us. But he gave as another reason the fact that the material; equipment and assistants necessary for carrying on his researches were located in New York-and with his work he wauld stay. Praf. Osborn was born at Fairfield, Conn., August 8th, 1857, a descendant af merchants an bath sides of the family. He received his collegiate educatian at Princetan, and cammenced his career as organizer and manager of scientific research even befare he was graduated by organizing and leading the pa!rantological sectian of the Princeton scientific expedition to Colarado and Wyoming in 1877. He studied gealogy under Arnald Guyat, anatamy under Wm. H. Welch, comparative anatomy under Huxley, and embryalagy under Balfaur. While in England he was very much awed and inspired by a casual meeting with Charles Darwin when the latter wag visiting Huxley's laboratory. He taught natural science at Princetan and studied in Europe until 1891, when he was appainted the first Da Casta professor of bialogy (after 1895, of zoolagy) at Calumbia University. Here he organized the biology department and established the Calumbia University Biolagical Series, of which he edited the first ten volumes. In 1891 he was also appointed curator of vertebrate palrntology at the American Museum of Natural History. During the twenty years of his active adminis' tration he braught together a collection of vertebrate fossils that is remarkable not only for 'being the largest -in the world, and for being prepared in the most skillful and instructive manner, but also for the richness of some of its series-that of the horse, for example, being practically complete from early Tertiary times down to living forms of to-day. In 1910 he retired from active teaching and administration to devate himself to research. Prof. Osborn's contributions to knowledge are chiefly his collection of vast numbers of facts about the structure and distribution in space and time of vertebrate fassils, and his co-ordination of facts of palrontology in relation to the theory of evolution. He always insists that palrntology is a branch of biology, not of gealagy, to which it is joined only through the fortunate accident that fossils are found in the rocks. To mistake the position of fossils in the rocks, he says, “as indicative of their scientific affinities, is as logical as it wauld be to bracket Protozoa, which are principally aquatic organisms, under hydrology, or the Insecta, because of their aerial life, under meteorolagy.” And he aecordingly attempts to interpret the facts of palrntology in terms of organic evolution. Among his earlier stUdies was that on the history of mammalian teeth, which have given the comparative anatomist and evolutionist a great deal of com-.fort as weH as trouble. Teeth of primitive mammals, like tne teeth of reptiles, have a crown consisting ot a simple cone. The complex molars were believed by many odontalogists and embryologists to have arisen by a process of “concrescence;” i. e., the simple teeth were supposed to have grown together in groups as the. jaw-'bones gradually became shorter, and formed the compound teeth, just as separate petals were supposed to be “-fuzed together” in such flowers as the gentian or the pumpkin. Osborn, on the basis of mammalian fossils, early came to the conclusion that the complex molars of this class of animals have resulted from the successive addition of cusps to an originally simple toath which attained a tri-tubercu-late form during the Mesozoic period. As a result of further st)dies he found that with the exception of : few aberrant forms all orders of mammals have shown the tri-tuberculate type of malar teeth, and that the original cone has always been represented by the front cusp on the inner edge in the upper molars, and 'by the front cusp on the outer edge in the lower molars. He also f o und that the successively appear- ing new cusp always foHowed a definite order_ On the one hand, he developed from these studies an exact descriptive nomendature of the mammalian teeth which replaced the conflicting and confusing terminologies of earlier writers from the time of Owen; and on the other hand, he developed the theory of “determinate variation” in the evolutian of organisms. This idea, which he later renamed the doctrine or “rectigradation,” he found to be practically identical with the “orthogenesis” of Eimer and other writers, and with the “mutations” of Waagen, and extended it to other structures. The cusps of the molar teeth do not appear “fortuitously” and then survive in accordance with their relative fitness, as would be required by the Darwinian theory, nor do they appear fully farmed in a discantinuous manner, in the sense of DeVries's theory; they appear at definite points, at frst too small to have any adaptive or selective value, and become w i th succeeding ages larger and larger until they are of adaptive value. In other words, they are determinate in their origins; they develop gradually; and they are adaptive in the direction of their development from the very start. In his earlier studies Osborn considered these facts favorable to the kinetogenic theory advanced by Ryder and Cope; that is practically the neo-Lamarckian view of the evolutian of structures being directed by the habits and needs af the organisms. But later Osborn saw that of all the structures in the bady the teeth are least Osborn's modification of Weismann's germ.plasm diagram. According to Osborn heredity, ontogeny, selection, llld environtnent are inseparable in any discussion of evolution. able to show any such influence because they are fully formed before they emerge from the gums and they cannot improve with use, on the contrary, the more they are used, the more they are worn away; whatever virtues or fitness the teeth of an individual may show are congenital. The recti gradations are thus not in themselves the result of selection nor of saltation, neither can they be accounted for on La· marckian principles; they arise because af some inherent tendency or potentiality to vary in a determinate direction. What this internal determining factor is we do not knaw. It is not the same as Nigeli': “internal perfecting principle,” since it operates in a direction parallel to ontogeny, that is, it causes evolution to proceed in adaptation to new external conditions. For example, certain Eocene monkeys had became herbivorous, and their teeth developed So mUt;1 like the ungulate type that their fossils were at first olassed with ungulates. The S'me principle of hereditary ancestral control of variatian was afterward faund by Osborn to be illustrated by the origin of horns and other organs; and other workers found parallel facts in various series of fossils. The date at which characters develop is determined by external factars, but the nature of the characters is determined by internal factors, at present “unknown.” Thus a comparison of Eocene horses with contemporary titanotheres shaws that the horse was developing the cusps more rapidly; but both groups were developing the cusp in the same predetermined order. The law is illustrated also by the fact that similar characters have arisen simult1-neously in gro'lps af animals of common ancestry in Switzerland iT Patagonia and in Wyoming. On the other hand, (ertain characters seem to be less firmly bound up with hereditary control. An example of this is the shape of the head, which Osborn found in a number of contemporary Mid-Eocene branches of titanotheres, of undoubtedly cammon ancestry, -0 show a tendency to diverge into narrow and broan-skulled types. In each diverging branch, however, once a tendency had established itself, the developmGnt proceeded to the limit without reversal. From a study of fossil horses, in the course 0' which Osborn built up the history of this group in a very satisfactory manner, he passed to a thorough study of the titanotheres, which, of all extinct animals furnish the most complete series of fossils. Here his earlier generalizations have been amply confirmed, ana the “unknown factors of evolution” are still there to be discovered. Instead of minimizing the difficulties unearthed by the palrntologists, Osbarn thinks that scientif·c progress can be assured only if we frankly admit the limits of our knowledge in certain directions; he does not say we cannot know, but merely that here we do not know. A good summary of his evolution creed was given by him in his address before the Palrntological Section of the International Zoological Congress in 1907: 1. Many origins of new characters are due to some internal action in heredity. 2. Many important adaptive characters arise deter-minately, definitely and by extremely slow stages. 3. Degrees of similarity in such origins correspond to degrees of kinship. 4. Degrees of kinship also affect to a certain extent, but not absolutely, the time of appearance, or the time of the origin, or the rate of evolution. 5. The origins find expression not spontaneously, or irrespective of conditions, or from purely internal mechanical causes, but through some entirely unknown and at present inconceivable relation to ontogeny (habit and use) and to selection. 6. If such origins do spring from internal hereditary principles, as they appear to do in many cases, rapid origins (mutations of DeVries) may be simply due to the same law operating with a different velocity. In all his discussions of evolution Prof. Osborn emphasizes the fact that th8 four recJgnizd factors-heredity, ontogeny, envirompent and selectinn-are inseparable; and he criticises much of current debate because now one factor and now another is treated as if it acted uninfluenced by the others. He would modify Weismann's well-known diagram showing the continuous line to represent the germ-plasm, by placing the four factors in a series wherein each is shown as influencing all the others, and being in turn influenced by ther. His philosophy attempts to harmonize the findings of the experimentalists, of the field naturalists, and af the palrontologists; the last, he says, have the best perspective, for they see the evolution of characters through long ages, without regard to particular organisms or species in which, for the time, they are perhaps being manHested. Prof. Osborn's career is a splendid refutation of the prevailing cynical conception of “human nature,” which can find no incentive to noble endeavor except in the pursuit of material gain guided by self-interest. And it also vindicates the “pure” scientist against the charge of impracticality and inefficiency; for every institution with which he has been connected shows the work of a master in efficient organization and administration. Artificial Snails SNAILS the only genuine part of which are the shells are now being sold in Paris, and it is said that the imitation of the real article is so c10se that many epicures have a high opinion of the sham product. But it is to be presumed that they do not know-that the snails are artificial, and they are certainly ignorant of the method by which the snails are manufactured. Snail-shells, it seems, are bought from the dustmen and rag-pickers, and after being cleaned are flled with “lights” or cats' meat, the soft flesh being cut into corkscrew form, so as to fit the shell, by a skillfully designed machine. The receptacle is then sealed by means of liquid fat, and the escargot is ready for the consumer. The secret came out in consequence of an action brought by a man employed at the snail-factory to recover damages far a finger mutilated by one of the machines. The artificial snails find a ready market.
This article was originally published with the title "Henry Fairfield Osborn" in Scientific American 105, 4, 79 (July 1911)