Science Fiction Studies

#2 = Volume 1, Part 2 = Fall 1973


David Y. Hughes and Robert M. Philmus

The Early Science Journalism of H.G. Wells: A Chronological Survey

This survey offers abstracts of H. G. Wells's science journalism, from his earliest surviving efforts up to 1901 (with exception made for "The Scepticism of the Instrument," included as an appendix to A Modern Utopia (1905) but also essentially related to these early writings, especially "The Rediscovery of the Unique," and thus an important nexus between Wells's interest in science and his later sociological concerns).1 Without claiming to be exhaustive, the listing comprises 60 articles derived from a comprehensive sifting of periodical contributions (some of them reprinted in Certain Personal Matters) attributed to Wells by Geoffrey H. Wells or by Gordon N. Ray, augmented by 30 previously unnoticed articles that we assign to Wells on the basis of evidence found in the Wells Archive at the University of Illinois (see below: CPM, GHW, GNR, and H&P). We have included all the essays and reviews that we deem relevant to Wells's science fiction, as well as two uncollected short stories of a somewhat essayistic nature (#2-3).

The 90 items listed here--most of them unsigned and unreprinted-make up an otherwise unavailable record of Wells's overt scientific beliefs and shifts in belief in the period before Anticipations--before, that is, he turned his attention decisively toward sociological issues. While his science journalism prepares for that development, it does not reveal Wells as committed to any particular blueprint for society. It does, however, reveal him as committed to science in its literary use as a basis for science fiction.

The reviews and essays fall into three groups, partly overlapping. One group involves science education or science popularization; one expresses a more or less passive delight in the wonders and mysteries of science; and the third deliberately challenges received opinion by proposing novel or paradoxical ideas and backing them up with an appeal to science. Of course, all three types reveal Wells as attempting to widen the reader's range of perceived possibilities and to encourage his power and desire to extend it for himself.

EDUCATION AND POPULARIZATION. Having dropped science teaching in 1893, Wells as a journalist urged reform. The core of his position is the need for a sequence of studies. Mind and hand should be trained in integrated class and laboratory work leading step by step through the intellectual hierarchy of the sciences. Common sense dictates that studies like metallurgy or physiology should rest on prior study of physics and chemistry. Science consists neither in technical proficiency nor in pure knowledge of fact but in a method of discovery, and science teaching must impart that method. Wells is Baconian, largely--he stresses inferential reasoning and slights mathematics--but he prizes the inductive method itself, not its material fruits. (See # # 36, 47, 51.)

He is consistently Baconian concerning fields of learning as well as ways of teaching. He mistrusts both the a priori state of academic psychology and the non-repeatable data of psychic research. In a lighter vein, he intimates that "pure" reason may be unhygienic; he shows up the usual "proofs" that the earth is round as false inductions; and he deplores the taxonomic pedantry of the South Kensington Science Library, which catalogues the lives of entomologists under "Insects" and the subject "Meteorology" before 1891 under "Physics" and after 1891 under "Astronomy." Lastly, recalling his education as having been in many ways a typical one, he finds all his teachers deficient in the faculty of significant inductive generalization, even at the Royal College of Science, except of course T. H. Huxley. (See## 8, 10, 23, 26, 44, 53, 89, 90.)

In "Scientific Research as a Parlour Game" (#72) and especially in "Popularizing Science" (#32), Wells states the requirements of works of popularized science. Primarily, he urges the imparting of a sense of intellectual discovery to the reader. The popularizer must shuck off specialized language as a mark of "intellectual parochialism" and employ general literary (or at least literate) English; his delight in technical problems must be subsumed by the larger scheme that gives them significance; and he must build up this scheme in an orderly causal and logical sequence in support of an opening generalization, so as to give the reader an idea of scientific method. The result, says Wells, is the pleasure of "inductive reading." Since his model of what the popular exposition of scientific ideas should be like closely parallels the plan of a number of his science fantasies, it is significant that he also remarks that "the fundamental principles of construction that--underlie such stories as Poe's 'Murders in the Rue Morgue, or Conan Doyle's 'Sherlock Holmes' series, are precisely those that should guide a scientific writer" (#32).

At this time, in mid-1894, he had done little science popularization himself; he alludes instead to his experience "as a reviewer for one or two publications" (#32), evidently referring to his Pall Mall Gazette science reviews (listed for the first time in this survey). In these reviews, he develops the critical principles that later work well for him in his Saturday Review popularizations. The PMG reviews employ the technique of evaluation through direct quotation (an analogue of the inductive policy). Among them are slashing attacks on jargon, bad construction, false sentimentality, sham induction, and amateurish theorizing: faint commendations of technical guides and supernumerary surveys of already familiar fields; and unreserved recommendations of original research presented lucidly as an imaginative and encompassing vision (e.g., # 22).

Wells's own popularizations, despite their brevity, succeed through causal connection of illustration and generalization. Sometimes these essays begin by asking the question, what general principle does a given set of phenomena illustrate, the answer being unknown. This provides "inductive reading": the quality or significance of a phenomenon is revealed or problematically raised as a function of its illustrating a principle of things. For example: no conspicuously colored or scented flower exists without relation to insects (#70); or, a recent transit of Mercury, though a minor event, might, under proper conditions of weather and geographical accessibility, have helped determine the presence or absence of an atmosphere on that planet as well as the extent of its curious orbital aberrancies (#41). In general, the expository essays on science manifest a reasonable care for accuracy, a strong emphasis on factual up-to-dateness, and a sure eye for salient, problem-focusing detail (the erratic behavior of Mercury that Wells singles out for attention, for instance, not long afterwards gave Einstein evidence for his Theory of Relativity). (Other examples of basically neutral expository essays: # # 45, 52, 62, 66, 80, 82.)

THE WONDERS AND MYSTERIES OF SCIENCE; that is, the secrets of nature that science discloses. Essays with such titles as "A Vision of the Past" (#3), "An Excursion to the Sun" (#15), "From an Observatory" (#43), and "Through a Microscope" (#54) are exercises in dissolving the limitations of human perception. Through science we can imagine having telescopic or microscopic eyesight or conceive of a life span enduring through eons. Science thus can aid imagination and enlarge human understanding. True, some deficiencies may not be remediable. If the moon were brighter, we might never suspect the existence of the stars (#43); the human brain, not merely the eye, is doubtless a provisional and unreliable instrument (#90), a mere "bye-product" of the evolutionary process 60); and science itself is merely a match-flare that "man has just got alight," beyond which is "darkness still" (#4). Yet these arguments of human limitation bespeak wonders and mysteries in nature discoverable, if at all, only through the scientific method. Case in point: precise measurement of the weight and density of gases reveals the existence of argon, the otherwise unsuspected element in the air we breathe 61, 68 ,74).

At times Wells appears almost ready to abandon Baconian principles outright and commit himself to a belief in a universe of unpredictables. At other times he faces what he calls the "Calvinism of Science" (## 76, 84). That is, when science enables man to take his bearings against the immensities of nature, his sense of wonder and mystery and his fine free, sense of enlarged vision may be overshadowed by a feeling of impotence amid inexorable forces (## 2, 43). The ability to envision the man of the year million confers no power to alter the cosmic forces that will have shaped him (#12). This awareness on Wells's part permits him to see that the scientific enterprise is apt to be regarded as a "systematized Fetishism," a substitute for religious magic in offering cosmic correspondences among phenomena well beyond the pale of cause and effect (# 88).

On the other hand, always alive to the dialectical possibilities of the "opposite idea" ( # 5), Wells attributes to science "The Rediscovery of the Unique" (# 4). Man is finally liberating himself from "the trim clockwork thought" of the 18th century as evolutionary biology now teaches that "All being is unique." There are no principles, no ontological generalizations, but only individualities--"unique threads flying," in Goethe's figure of the loom of time. Perhaps nothing is impossible in nature and perhaps nothing is repeated. Perhaps, Wells suggests in "The 'Cyclic' Delusion," the only universal principle is change, that is, novelty and death in a cosmos moving "from the things that are past and done with for ever to things that are altogether new" ( # 39). Yet such a view renders science powerless to reveal nature's secrets because it amounts to dissolving the system of uniformities upon which all science rests. For that reason, Wells is only sporadically tempted by unpredictability.

UNORTHODOX SPECULATION was congenial fare to Wells. In part it was a matter of intellectual play. Civilization was engendered by the flint and could have been engendered by nothing else (#29); "mimetic" coloration is not protective but irrelevant since most predators hunt at night and by smell (#59); not only are rigid skeletons not needed for support of musculature, as witness the octopus, but silica skeletons--if rigidity be desired--would far surpass the lime-salt structures actually possessed by vertebrates ( # 81); on the moon there may be considerable and continuous change, the possibility of which is discounted without reckoning that such change might be invisible to us (# 77). These are fair samples of sheer speculative play.

The most paradoxical of Wells's notions have to do with man's place in nature, a theme so pervasive in these early essays (as in his science fiction) that it is possible here to suggest only the briefest outline of his thought. His starting point is unorthodox from any standpoint but that of mainstream British biology, especially as exemplified by Thomas Huxley. Wells did not really regard evolution as a "theory" at all. Whatever its consequences might be, it was the central fact of biology, geology, and solar physics. The corollary was that homo sapiens is an accident and an episode. Essay after essay--at least until about 1896--hammers away at the anthropocentric fallacy. Life could be built out of compounds other than carbon ( #48) and might somewhere have reached or surpassed man's present mental level (## 30, 79). Animals (## 3, 50) and plants (#82) possess nervous organizations higher than is commonly recognized, while the human brain is an instrument of dubious precision ( # 90). Man, moreover, remains subject both to instinctual drives inherited from ape-like ancestors and to the accidents and necessities imposed on him by nature ( # 84); so that from both within himself and without he faces powerful adversaries to his humanity. Natural law is as amoral and un-"human" as it is universal and absolute ( # # 19, 28, 76).

After Wells came around to accepting--by early March 1895-Weismann's Theory of Germ Plasm2 (which directly opposed the older Lamarckian theory that acquired characteristics are inheritable), he gradually but decisively turned his attention away from the long-range prospects of evolutionary change through natural selection (as in The Time Machine) and towards the immediate possibilities of what he termed "artificial evolution" ( # 84)--meaning education and behavioral engineering. Having discovered in The Island of Doctor Moreau that mind presents more of an obstacle to "individual plasticity" than does man's physical form, he concluded that man may be redeemed from the bondage of cosmic biological laws only through education ( # 85), which confirms him in his capacity of "artificial man," "the highly plastic creature of tradition, suggestion, and reasoned thought" ( # 84). Here Wells speaks as he would for years to come; and by 1897 he already imagines the vanguard of the New Republicans, Samurai, and Open Conspirators. "We may dream," he writes, "of an informal, unselfish, unauthorized body of workers, a real and conscious apparatus of education and moral suggestion . . . shaping the minds and acts and destinies of men" (#86).

NOTES

1We intend to explore this aspect of Wells's thought in some detail in. introductory material for an anthology of Wells's hitherto unreprinted writings, H. G. Wells and the Poetry of Science.

2For the dating of Wells's conversion to Weismannism, cf # 52; see also "Incidental Thoughts on a Bald Head," CPM, pl58, first printed PMG 60 (Mar. 1, 1895):10.

SOURCES

CPM. Wells's Certain Personal Matters (1897), which collects ##12,

35, 43, 54--the only articles, of those listed in this survey, except for 90,

that have been reprinted.

EIA. Wells's Experiment in Autobiography (1934).

FR. Fortnightly Review

GHW. Geoffrey H. Wells, The Works of H. G. Wells 1887-1925: A Bibliography, Dictionary and Subject-Index (1926).

GM. Gentleman's Magazine.

GNR. Gordon N. Ray, "H. G. Wells's Contributions to the Saturday Review," The Library 16(1961):29-36.

GW. Geoffrey West [i.e., Geoffrey H. Wells], H. G. Wells: A Sketch for a Portrait (1930). This writer was not related to H. G. Wells.

H&P. Hughes and Philmus. Of the 30 previously unattributed articles, one is signed (#85), 13 are identifiable from Amy Catherine Wells's cue-titles (quoted in the attribution bracket that appears below in each entry), and 16 (of which six allude to, or are alluded to in, articles known to be by Wells) are included on grounds of style and content. We decided to record these items after studying all the issues of the Pall Mall Gazette from August 1893 through May 1895, the inclusive dates for Wells's contributions to that paper. For comparison we had twelve reviews in PMG that we knew to be Wells's, plus his work for the Saturday Review and, more generally, the body of his other essays and science fiction. Here we world like to acknowledge, in addition to the aid of published bibliographical sources, the kind assistance of Professor Harris Wilson, University of Illinois Wells Archive, and Professor J. P. Vernier, University de Rouen.

PMG. Pall Mall Gazette.

SR. Saturday Review.

SSJ. Science Schools Journal. Wells was one of the founders of this student magazine, and its first editor.

THE CHRONOLOGICAL SURVEY

# 1. Mammon. SSJ 1(Jan 1887):53-54. [GHW; signed "Walter Glockenhammer"]. Wells's thoughts on two paintings by G. F. Watts, Mammon and Visit to Aesculapius; together these canvases "signify ... that this nation is, as it were, two dissevered parts ... ease, elegance, and pleasure are floated to-day on an ocean of toil and ignorance and want."

#2. A Talk with Gryllotalpa. SSJ l(Feb 1887):87-88. [GHW; signed "Septimus Browne"]. A dialogue wherein the anthropocentric view of the world confronts the cosmic perspective of the "infinitesimal littleness of man.

#3. A Vision of the Past. SSJ 1 (June 1887):206-09. [GHW; signed "Sosthenes Smith"]. A vision of reptilians in the distant past: they have three eyes and believe the world was made for them, "the noblest of all beings who have ever existed or ever will exist." When the time traveller points out to them that this cannot be so for they will soon become extinct, they attempt to refute him with an argumentumm ad stomachum. But he saves himself from being eaten by waking up.

#4. The Rediscovery of the Unique. FR 50(July 1891):106-11 [Signed]. Science, by making available the technological means for measuring minute differences among apparently similar phenomena, substantiates the contention that "All being is unique, or, nothing is strictly like anything else."

#5. Zoological Retrogression. GM 271(Sept 1891):246-53. [Signed]. Contrary to popular belief, evolution is a process of twists and backslidings. Degeneration is common and not always a dead end but sometimes "a plastic process in nature." The degenerate upper Silurian mud-fish is the ancestor of the land animals; and who knows the future of the "last of the mud-fish family, man"? His varied existence and variable structure probably assure him "a long future of profound modification." Yet nature may even now be equipping some "humble" successor. "The Coming Beast must certainly be reckoned in any anticipatory calculations regarding the Coming Man."

#6. Ancient Experiments in Co-operation. GM 273(Oct 1892):418-422. [Signed]. The "element of individual competition [in the struggle for existence] is over-accentuated in current thought" while biological cooperation has been ignored. Wells gives a few examples of the kind of cooperation he is referring to, pointing out that man himself "is an aggregate of [cooperating] amoeboid individuals in a higher unity." The essay closes with speculation on the social significance of this fact.

#7. Concerning our Pedigree. GM 274(June 1893):575-80. [Signed]. Muses, with satirical overtones, on the evolutionary ancestry of man, which Wells follows from the anthropoid apes backwards in time.

#8. At the Royal College of Science. Educational Times 46(Sept 1 1893):393-95. [H&P. About 1893-94, this paper "paid Low 50 a year as editor, and another 50 a year for contributors. He and I found it convenient that I should be the contributors--all of them" (EIA 6:6)]. Things have changed little, Wells writes, since his student days at South Kensington; and he hopes that through brief "glimpses of the hall, the lift and staircase, a laboratory full of students, methodical teaching, and errant rebels sitting over rare books in the 'Dyce and Forster,' or cultivating art in the picture galleries" he can give the reader a student's view of that institution.

#9. On Extinction. Chambers's Journal 10(Sept 3 1893):623-24. [GHW]. Extinction--the "saddest chapter of biological science"--is a tragedy as true as any by a Shakespeare, a Sophocles, an Ibsen. Perhaps, moreover, the victims feel: perhaps the bison senses that those "seas of grass were once the home of myriads of his race, and are now his no longer." The loneliest of pinnacles is man's present triumph. Visions of the future must include the doom hit upon in "The Last Man" of Thomas Hood: "the earth desert through a pestilence, and two men, and then one man, looking extinction in the face."

#10. The Pure and Natural Man. PMG 57(Oct 16 1893):3. [GHW]. Wells's hero, a rigid logician, recognizing that "the essence of all civilized ills" is man's "entirely artificial life," has retired from society, gone nudist, and abstains altogether from the use of soap, an alkali.

#11. The Dream Bureau. PMG 57(Oct 25 1893):3. [H&P]. With increasing knowledge of dream-physiology, the time approaches for investigators "to bring the control of dreaming as a fine art into the realm of possibilities." We may imagine the dream-addict someday ordering up a night's supply, of any sort he pleases.

#12. The Man of the Year Million. PMG 57(Nov 6 1893):3. [Reprinted in CPM as "Of a Book Unwritten"; an apparently lost version, "The Past and Future of the Human Race," went back to 1885--see GW 5:1--or perhaps 1887--see EIA 9:1]. As man evolves, says Professor Holzkopf of Weissnichtwo, "the purely 'animal' about him is being, and must be, beyond all question, suppressed in his ultimate development." He forecasts the hypertrophy of the organs of intellect--hands, head, eyes--and the atrophy of the "animal" organs--nose, external ears, digestive tract. Our descendants, immersed in nutritive baths deep underground, will survive until the sun itself burns out.

#13. Angels, Plain and Coloured. PMG 57(Dec 6 1893):3. [GHW]. Catalogues angels: the common white angel of "the oleograph, the Christmas card, the illustrated good book, and the plaster cast"; the art angel of "fiery red and celestial blue," "of brightness rather than sentiment"; and the biblical angel of the Hebrew and of Milton, "a vast winged strength, sombre and virile."

#14. The Advent of the Flying Man. PMG 57(Dec 8, 1893):1-2. [GHW; but GHW inadvertently masks the identity of this unreprinted essay by confusing it with "The Flying Man," a short story reprinted in The Stolen Bacillus, which appeared in PMG 60(Jan 4 1895):1-2]. Portrays the flying man, present and future. The 19th and 20th centuries witness his fiascos and hardier triumphs. By A.D. 21,000 (Wells adopts the quasi-visionary tones of #12) batlike swarms darken the evening air, homing to suburban "rookeries" from the dome of St. Paul's. The flying man holds the future: "Even now the imaginative person may hear the beating of his wings."

#15. An Excursion to the Sun. PMG 58(Jan 6 1894):4. [H&P]. Praises the plain style and the "inhumanity and serene vastness" of subject of Sir Robert Ball's The Story of the Sun. The idea of electro-magnetic tides brushing by "our little eddy of planets," unsettling our compasses, making solar storms, then passing on to "the illimitable beyond" is "so powerful and beautiful as to well-nigh justify that hackneyed phrase, 'the poetry of science.'

# 16. Reminiscences of a Planet. PMG 58(Jan 15 1894):4. [H&P; allusion in #32]. Commends an "able and popular exposition of modern geology," Thomas Bonney's The Story of Our Planet. The earth's age and life-span are the main topics of this review.

#17. The Very Fine Art of Microtomy. PMG 58(Jan 24 1894):3. [GHW]. Describes the preparation of a variety of substances for observation under the microscope and whimsically envisions a time when the slides prepared in that day will become collector's items.

#18. The Province of Pain. Science and Art 8(Feb 1894):58-59. [Signed]. After tracing gradations of animal and human pain, Wells concludes that "the province of pain" may be no more than "a phase through which life must pass on its evolution from the automatic to the spiritual."

#19. The Good Intentions of Nature Explained. PMG 58(Feb 9 1894):4. [H&P]. Wells regrets Edith Carrington's Workers Without Wage, a children's nature book which holds up to "vile" man the "lowly goodness" of the "affectionate" spider and the "patient" snail. Hiding nature's 'cruelty from children is bad practice.

#20. Life in the Abyss. PMG 58(Feb 9 1894):4. [H&P]. In this review of Sidney J. Hickson's The Fauna of the Deep Sea, Wells recounts some oddities in a field just opening up. He concludes: "our knowledge is in a very pleasant phase; enough to stimulate the imagination, and not enough to cramp its play."

#21. The Modest Science. PMG 58(Feb 19 1894):4. [H&P; allusion in 51 ]. To the general reader, says Wells, H. N. Dickson's Meteorology is "exceptionally entertaining," combining "the most modern conclusions" with accurate folk-knowledge of the still unpredictable ways of the weather.

# 22. The Sun God and the Holy Stars. PMG 58 (Feb 24 1894):3. [H&P]. In this review of Norman Lockyer's The Dawn of Astronomy Wells focuses upon man's early closeness to the cycles of the sun and the stars. Now, Wells adds, churches look onto gas-lit streets where "the Great Democracy circulates for ever" and "the silent and eternal stars are forgotten."

#23. The Flat Earth Again. PMG 58(Apr 2 1894):3. [H&P; ACW: "The Flat Earth Again"]. A dialogue in which a "perverse person" challenges a schoolmaster to prove the earth round. "The point is that you teach things at school as proofs the world is round that are no more proofs than they are poetry."

# 24. Flint Implements, Old and New. PMG 58(Apr 3 1894):4. [H&P]. Recommends Worthington G. Smith's Man, the Primeval Savage to the general reader for its accounts both of ancient bones and implements and of modern forgeries of same.

#25. Decadent Science. PMG 58(Apr 5 1894):4. [H&P; allusions in 32, 72]. Demolishes Henry Pratt's Principia Nova Astronomica and its "brand-new" solar system, "a very nice affair, with a Central Sun, and a Polar Sun, and an Equatorial Sun, over and above the visible sun of your vulgar astronomers."

# 26. The Science Library, South Kensington. PMG 58(May 3 1894):2. [GHW]. Slashes the cataloguing system of the Science Library of the Royal College of Science.

#27. The "Polyphloisballsanskittlograph." PMG 58(May 8 1894):3. [H&P; cf #25]. Spoofs apparatuses of unknown function exhibited by unintelligible foreigners at Royal Society soirees.

#28. The New Optimism. PMG 58(May 21 1894):4. [H&P]. In reviewing Benjamin Kidd's Social Evolution, not only does Wells doubt Kidd's belief that nations survive in the struggle for existence by subordinating intellectual development to "virtue, altruism, and the habit of self-sacrifice," but he questions the name "optimism" for a creed which gives the future to Anglo-Saxons because they are "so stupid, so pious, so sentimental."

#29. The Foundation Stone of Civilization. PMG 58(May 22 1894):3. [GHW]. A cyclist with a tire ripped up by flints listens perforce to an old man's dissertation showing that flints attended the demise of savagery and were, in fact, "the only thing that could engender civilization."

#30. The Living Things That May Be. PMG 58(June 12 1894):4. [H&P; allusion to # 2:3]. Finding J. E. Gore's The Worlds of Space unimaginative with respect to extraterrestrial life, Wells suggests such possibilities as a silicon base for life outside the earth.

#31. More Bacon. PMG 58(June 22 1894):4. [ H&P; allusion in # 32]. Expounds the "scientific method" of Orville W. Owens Sir Francis Bacon's Cypher Story. Owen pasted up the pages of all of "Bacon's" works--The Faerie Queene, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Shakespeare's plays, and the rest--and rolled them back and forth on a thousand feet of canvas until every line mated with a physically distant one to produce a secret history of Elizabethan profligacy. Two earlier Bacon articles--"Mysteries of the Modern Press," PMG 58(Apr 23 1894):3, and "A Remarkable Literary Discovery," PMG 58(May 3 1894):3--may also be by Wells.

#32. Popularising Science. Nature, 50(July 26 1894):300-01. [Signed]. Begins by pointing out the need for popularizing science, then criticizes how scientists usually go about it (in language that is too technical and jargonized or absurdly and condescendingly simplistic). "Intelligent common people come to scientific books . . . for problems to exercise their minds upon ... there is a keen pleasure in seeing a previously unexpected generalisation skilfully developed."

#33. Luminous Plants. PMG 59(Aug 25 1894):4. [H&P; ACW: "Pr. v. Kerner"]. In the interests of the "general reader," Wells approves Anton Kerner von Marilaun's The Natural History of Plants (trans. F. W. Oliver). In particular the section on luminous lichens and seaweeds inspires him to regard the deepest growths (which overhang "the perpetual night of the plant world" and glow red in utilizing their chlorophyll) as emblems of apocalypse--"so to speak, the sunset of marine vegetation."

#34. The Pains of an Imagination. PMG 59(Sept 20 1894):3. [GHW] The author used to be cursed with a restless florid imagination that led him about as if tied by a string. But he cured himself of it: he proposed that it earn him a living by writing a book, and it has never troubled him since.

#35. The Extinction of Man. PMG 59(Sept 25 1894):3. [Reprinted with a slight addition in CPM]. Man is dominant today, but the fossil record never shows "a really dominant species succeeded by it own descendants." Man may be displaced by crustaceans, cephalopods, ants, or even plague bacilli--to name but four possibilities "out of a host of others."

#36. Science, in School and after School. Nature 50(Sept 27 1894):525-26. Mainly in school: a critique of the predominant pedagogical approach to science, which inculcates fact.-but not the method of discovery.

#37. Angels and Animalculae. PMG 59(Oct 9 1894):4. [H&P; ACW: "Angels & Animalculae"]. Wells cheerfully labels J. W. Thomas's Spiritual Law in the Natural World "what one may perhaps call the New Theology, theology 'up-to-date,' " scientifically smartened up.

# 38. A.D. 1900. PMG 59(Oct 12 1894):3. [ GHW ]. In 1900 the giving of a dinner party or the hanging of a picture may be forbidden by court order if either is deemed unwholesome by Mrs. Hallelujah, Mr. Peahen, or other guardians of public morality.

#39. The "Cyclic" Delusion. SR 78(Nov 10 1894):505-06. [GHW, GNR]. While the tendency to perceive every process as cyclical is "woven into the texture of our being," many times this perception is delusive--e.g., one day the sun will rise for the last time." On the cosmic level, "the main course is forward, from the things that are past and done with for ever to things that are altogether new."

#40. A Belated Botanist. PMG 59(Nov 13 1894):4. [H&P; ACW: "Belated Botanist"]. E. Sandford, author of A Manual of the Exotic Ferns and Selaginella, is "an extreme expression of the specialist type." Knowing all about the cultivation of ferns, he has not a suspicion of the findings of botany in the last forty years--facts of fertilization, reproduction, and classification--known to "almost any high-school girl."

#41. The Transit of Mercury. SR 78(Nov 24 1894):555. [GHW, GNR]. Discusses what is important about observing the planet Mercury as it crosses the sun's disc. (See our introduction.)

#42. Mountains out of Molecules. PMG 59(Nov 29 1894):4. [H&P; allusion in # 72 ]. Debunks both the thesis that "heat is a current of ether running in and out of molecules" and the overblown style of its presentation in Frederick Hovenden's What is Heat? A Peek into Nature's Most Hidden Secrets.

#43. From an Observatory. SR 78(Dec 1 1894):594-95. [Reprinted in CPM]. If our moon were brighter, the stars would be unsuspected: "We can imagine men just like ourselves without such an outlook." What an enlargement of vision it would be if that bright moon faltered in its luminosity, perhaps perturbed by the passing of a dark star, and the skies were unveiled. There is a fear of the night "that comes with knowledge, when we see in its true proportion this little life of ours."

#44. Peculiarities of Psychical Research. Nature 51(Dec 6 1894):121-22.[Signed]. A review of Frank Podmore's Apparitions and Thought Transference, and an attack on "research" into occult phenomena as unscientific because unverifiable by repeated experiment.

#45. Fallacies of Heredity. SR 78(Dec 8 1894):617-18. [GHW, GNR]. Raises, but leaves unanswered, the problem of what causes genetic "idiosyncrasy"--i.e., differences among offspring of the same parents, even between twins--which Wells finds one of the fascinating enigmas of heredity.

#46. The Rate of Change in Species. SR 78(Dec 15 1894):655-56. [GHW, GNR]. One thing biologists have not emphasized about evolution is that the rate of change in species, and hence their "plasticity," varies in direct proportion to their fecundity and the span between generations. Thus "The true heirs of the future are the small, fecund, and precocious creatures ... No doubt man is the lord of the whole earth to-day, but the lordship of the future is another matter."

#47. The Sins of the Secondary Schoolmaster. PMG 59(Dec 15 1894):1-2. [H&P; ACW: "Sins of the Schoolmaster"; this, the last of three parts, deals with science teaching; the two earlier parts appeared Nov 28 pp1-2 and Dec 8 pp1-2]. Generally ignorant of the present state of science, schoolmasters must needs teach it anyway. They do so mechanically, without sequential progression and without realizing that "not knowledge, but a critical and inquiring mental habit, is the aim of science teaching."

#48. Another Basis for Life. SR 78(Dec 22 1894):676-77 GHW, GNR]. There may be non-organic elements which "would afford the necessary material basis for a quasi-conscious and even mental superstructure," such as the silicon-aluminum cycle, which inspires Wells with "visions of silicon-aluminium organisms."

#49. Electricity. PMG 59(Dec 22 1894):4. [H&P]. A review of J. A. Fleming's Electric Lamps and Electric Lighting and R. Mullineux Walmsley's The Electric Current. The one is a "readable volume" for nontechnical people, the other a second-hand handbook of batteries, circuitry and "professorial disregard" of "the real substance of electrical engineering" today, the dynamo.

#50. The Mind in Animals. SR 78(Dec 22 1894):683-84. [GHW, GNR]. In this review of C. Lloyd Morgan's An Introduction to Comparative Psychology, Wells intimates that he has a higher opinion of animal intelligence than Morgan: "It may be that Professor Lloyd Morgan's dog, experimenting on Professor Lloyd Morgan with a dead rat or a bone, would arrive at a very low estimate indeed of the powers of the human mind."

#51. The Sequence of Studies. Nature 51(Dec 27 1894):195-96. [Signed]. Reviews three scientific textbooks and criticizes them all for the absence "of that progressive reasoning process which is the very essence of genuine scientific study"--that is, the process of establishing evidence for why something is a scientific fact.

# 52. The Biological Problem of To-day. SR 78(Dec 29 1894):703-04. [GHW, GNR]. A brief expository critique of August Weismann's Theory of Germ Plasm, against which the main objection is that the immortality of germ cells seems to be another version of mystical theories of the preformation of all individuals at the beginning of time. Cf #85.

#53. The Position of Psychology. SR 78(Dec 29, 1894):715. [GHW, GNR]. Uses George Trumbull Ladd's Psychology, Descriptive and Explanatory to launch an attack on the state of contemporary psychology, which Wells regards as being weighed down by unscientific assumptions.

#54. Through a Microscope. PMG 59(Dec 31 1894):3. [Reprinted, slightly modified, in CPM]. "All the time these creatures are living their Vigorous fussy little lives in this drop of water they are being watched by a creature of whose presence they do not dream." "Even so, it may be, the [observer] himself is being curiously observed."

#55. The Darwinian Theory. PMG 60(Jan 1 1895):4. [H&P; ACW: "Darwinian Lectures"]. For the general reader, A. Milnes Marshall's Lectures on the Darwinian Theory is "the clearest modern exposition"; and, says Wells, "when such dark speculations as those of Weismannism" are used by the "small fry of science" to belittle Darwin, Marshall's is "a needful tribute to the memory of the greatest biologist" of all time.

#56. About Telegraphs. PMG 60(Jan 5 1895):4. [H&P; ACW: "Telegraphs"]. Praises A. L. Ternant's The Telegraph (tr R. Routledge) for it.,, wide-ranging historical exposition of the development of various telegraph systems, ancient and modern.

#57. The Diseases of Trees. SR 79(Jan 19 1895):102-03. [GHW, GNR]. A review of R. Hartig's The Diseases of Trees, together with a brief discussion of plant pathology.

#58. The Limits of Individual Plasticity. SR 79(Jan 19 1895):89-90. [GHW, GNR]. "It often seems to be tacitly assumed that a living thing is at the utmost nothing more than the complete realization of its birth possibilities.... We overlook only too often the fact that a living being may also be regarded as raw material, as something plastic, something that may be shaped and altered . . . and... developed far beyond its apparent possibilities." "There is in science... some sanction for the belief that a living thing might be taken in hand and so moulded and modified that at best it would retain scarcely anything of its inherent form and disposition; that the thread of life might be preserved unimpaired while shape and mental superstructure were so extensively recast as even to justify our regarding the result as a new variety of being." Wells argues in favor of this idea by using familiar examples, such as those drawn from surgery: "If we concede the justification of vivisection, we may imagine as possible in the future, operators, armed with antiseptic surgery and a growing perfection in the knowledge of the laws of growth, taking living creatures and moulding them into the most amazing forms." Cf The Island of Doctor Moreau, 14.

#59. The Colours of Animals. PMG 60(Jan 25 1895):3. [H&P; ACW: "Mimicry of Animals"]. Whereas the man in the street supposes that "everything is trying its very best to resemble something else," the truth is that "many of such resemblances are still unaccountable and apparently quite accidental." Wells cites as his main source F. E. Beddard's Animal Colouration.

#60. Bye-Products in Evolution. SR 79(Feb 2 1895):155-56. [GHW, GNR]. "Modification . . . involved in the change [designated] A," required for successful adaptation, brings with it "other consequent changes . . . the directly unserviceable and yet absolutely necessary modifications B, C, and D"; hence, "a perfectly useless organ" may be just this kind of "bye-product" and does not necessarily pose an objection to the theory of natural selection. Wells then goes on to speculate on whether the higher attributes of mind might be such "bye-products" of evolutionary adaptation.

#61. The Newly Discovered Element. SR 79(Feb 9 1895):183-84. [GHW, GNR]. A popularized account of Lord Rayleigh's discovery of argon. "All their lives [people] had, without knowing it, been breathing argon."

#62. The Centre of Terrestrial Life. SR 79(Feb 16 1895):215. [GHW, GNR]. On the basis of the geological theory that continental land masses have persisted fundamentally unchanged in scope in geological time, Wells reasons that terrestrial life must have begun in the higher northern latitudes and "In the struggle for existence between the older and newer type [i.e., species], generally the newer prevailed and drove the older southwards."

#63. The Duration of Life. SR 79(Feb 23 1895):248. [GHW, GNR]. "The business of the animal seems to be, not to live its own life, but to reproduce its own kind, and the term of life at its disposal is adjusted accurately to the special difficulties of this purpose." The generalization also applies to man under natural conditions.

#64. Yards Sacred and Profane. PMG 60(Mar 4 1895):4. [H&P; ACW: "Measures"]. With a perfunctory nod to reform, Wells turns with relish from the rationalized standards urged in Wordsworth Donisthorpe's A System of Measures to Donisthorpe's account of such "natural" standards as the hand's-length or the ox's "furrow-long...... growing," says Wells, "visibly out of the soil." In spirit, this review recalls # 22.

# 65. The Visibility of Colour. PMG 60(Mar 7 1895):4. [H&P; ACW: "Colour Vision"; GNR links this cue-title to SR (Sept 14 1895), but ACW enters it under PMG only and in a group all published by mid-April; and, the SR (but not the PMG) review is uncommonly bland for Wells]. Wells welcomes W. de W. Abney's Colour Vision, "a fairly exhaustive account of the sensations of colour from the scientific side" and a work particularly stimulating to "the artist and art critic among those who find pleasure in untechnical scientific books addressed to the general reader."

66. Discoveries in Variation. SR 79(Mar 9 1895):312. [GHW, GNR]. A discussion of new biometric studies of variation in species, wherein Wells observes: "Variation occurs in every direction [i.e., all possibilities are tried], with complete symmetry; it does not occur in a definite direction as if it were following some inherent tendency of the animal to develop in a particular fashion. These minute variations offer a fair field for natural selection to reject or select."

# 67. Rudis Indigestaque Moles. PMG 60(Mar 13 1895):4. [H&P; ACW: "Rudis Indigestaque Moles"]. A review of Sir Archibald Geikie's Memoir of Sir A.C. Ramsay, in which one eminent geologist shuffles the life of another into a detritus "shaken up together and thrown down before the reader."

#68. The Strangeness of Argon. PMG 60(Mar 15 1895):3. [H&P; ACW: "Argonn"]. Many are the curious properties of argon, not least the lateness of its recognition. "Surely there are still wonders left in the world, and the healthy discoverer may keep a good heart yet, though Africa be explored." (See also # # 61 and 74). In PMG 60(Mar 18 1895):4, replying to factual criticisms, Wells, "without any indecent shame," admits to errors of detail and proposes that "occasional inaccuracies" are less injurious to the general reader than the "permanent boredom" visited upon same by technical writers.

#69. Death. SR 79(Mar 23 1895):376-77. [GHW, GNR]. Complex organisms are mortal but "death is not inherent in living matter. Protoplasm may live forever." Nevertheless, "mortal man and the immortal protozoa have the same barren immortality; the individuals 'perish, living on only in their descendants ... the type alone persists."

#70. Insects and Flowers. SR 79(Apr 6 1895):440-41. [GHW, GNR]. Discusses examples of pollination by various insects.

#71. Pygmy Philosophy. PMG 60(Apr 11 1895):4. [H&P; ACW: Pigmies"; GNR links this cue-title to SR (July 13, 1895), but ACW enters it under "Sat Review" and "PMG" in title-groups published no later than April, and only the PMG entry is crossed off (indicating publication); also, the SR review, but not the PMG review, is uncommonly colorless for Wells]. Rejects the efforts of J.L.A. de Quatrefages, in The Pygmies (trans. Frederick Starr), "to establish the high moral standards of these primitive people, and to imply the primordial elevation of humanity."

#72. Scientific Research as a Parlour Game. SR 79(Apr 20 1895):516. [GHW, GNR]. A review of I. W. Heysinger's The Source and Mode of Solar Energy, pointing out Heysinger's ignorance in equating solar energy with electricity and making a general attack on this kind of dilettantism.

#73. In the New Forest. SR 79(Apr 27 1895):544-45. [GHW, GNR]. Mentions some animals to be met with in the forest and raises some questions about their behavior.

#74. The Protean Gas. SR 79(May 4 1895):576-77. [GHW, GNR]. A quizzical discussion of the controversy surrounding the discovery of argon.

#75. The Influence of Islands on Variation. SR 80(Aug 17 1895):204-05. [GHW, GNR]. "Isolation on islands has played a larger part in the evolution of the animals and plants than is usually attributed to it" since this isolation, which according to modern geological findings is intermittent, gives rise in its periodicity to "an immense number of new species" among which natural selection takes place whenever the island resumes its connection with the mainland.

#76. Bio-optimism. Nature 52(Aug 29 1895):410-11. [Signed]. A review of The Evergreen by Patrick Geddes et al., in which Wells rejects Geddes' arguments against the idea that the struggle for existence is the prime mechanism in evolution: "As a matter of fact Natural Selection grips us more firmly than it ever did, because the doubts thrown upon the inheritance of acquired characteristics have deprived us of our trust in education as a means of redemption for decadent families." Moreover, "a static species is mechanical, an evolving species suffering." "The phenomena of degeneration rob one of any confidence that the new forms [of life] will be...'higher'... than the old."

#77. The Visibility of Change in the Moon. Knowledge 18(Oct 1895):230-31. [Signed]. While it is popularly believed that the lunar surface has not changed, there is every reason to suppose that it has, and that this change has escaped observation not only because the process of lunar transformation would be less noticeable than its terrestrial counterpart, but also because "the eye that watched [the moon] was set against the expectation of change."

#78. Concerning the Nose. The Ludgate l(Apr 1896):678-81. [Signed]. Light-hearted speculation, with satiric undertones, on the future evolution of the inexplicable human nose. "The nose of to-day ... is in . . . a transitory and developing stage. One may conceive 'advanced' noses, inspired with an evolutionary striving towards something higher, remoter, better-we know not what. We seem to need ideals here."

#79. Intelligence on Mars. SR 81(Apr 4 1896):345-46. [GHW, GNR]. Argues that if "there has been an evolution of protoplasm upon Mars, there is every reason to think that the creatures on Mars would be different from the creatures of earth, in form and function, in structure and in habit, different beyond the most bizarre imaginings of nightmare." "No phase of anthropomorphism is more naive than the supposition of men on Mars." A report in SSJ 2(Nov 1888):57-58, "Mr. Wells on the Habitability of the Planets," indicates that at least part of the substance of what Wells advances in his SR essay had already been formulated as early as October 1888.

#80. The Origin of the Senses. SR, 81(May 9 1896):471-72. [GHW, GNR]. A discussion of the evolution of the nose, from primitive chemotropic, and the eye, from primitive phototropic, mechanisms, and of the ear, as "an organ for translating vibrations into touches."

#81. Concerning Skeletons. SR 81(June 27 1896):646-47. [GHW, GNR]. Begins by raising the questions, why a skeleton of phosphate and carbonate of lime rather than of silica, which would be sturdier and more durable; and why a skeletal structure at all, which is "not simply explicable as a response to the need for support and armature"; then grants that these are as yet unanswerable questions, but suggests "that the line of advance in biology lies now along the path of physiological chemistry [i.e., biochemistry]."

#82. The Life-of Plants. SR 82(Aug 8 1896):131-32. [GHW, GNR]. Points out that the differences between animals and plants are not so great as most people imagine. All plants have at least local motion, with the "lower forms of plant life" moving "as actively as animal protoplasm"; moreover, the process whereby plants absorb and assimilate nourishment is not so mechanical as it is usually supposed to be.

#83. The Possible Individuality of Atoms. SR 82(Sept 5 1896):256-57. [GHW, GNR]. The fact that oxygen, for example, responds in more than one way to spectroscopic analysis means "that there are two kinds of oxygen, one with an atom a little heavier than the other. And this opens one's eyes to an amazing possibility ... that, after all, atoms might not be all exactly alike, that they might have individuality, just as animals have."

#84. Human Evolution, an Artificial Process. FR 60(Oct 1896):59095. [Signed]. Because for various reasons man is not as much subject to the rigors of natural selection as, say, rabbits, "man has undergone ... but an infinitesimal alteration in his intrinsic nature since the age of unpolished stone," especially since civilization impedes the workings of natural selection. Civilized man is a composite of the "natural man ... the culminating ape" and the "artificial man . . . the highly plastic creature of tradition, suggestion, and reasoned thought"; and save for the "padding of suggested emotional habits" (Wells's definition of morality), he is no different from the Paleolithic savage. Wells concludes by saying that "in Education lies the possible salvation of mankind from misery and sin"--i.e., the "suffering and 'elimination' " entailed by the evolutionary process.

#85. The Acquired Factor. Academy 51 (Jan 9 1897):37. [Signed]. Wells approves the constructive Weismannism of C. Lloyd Morgan's Habit and Instinct (so like his own position in # 84). Morgan infers from analysis of the proportionate shares of instinct and habit (i.e., education) in higher animals, including man, that the human body and instincts are no longer evolving. The mental environment alone evolves. Despite his brute ancestry, man can shape his world through science, art, and education, and so "cease to be driven, a dry leaf before the wind."

#86. Morals and Civilisation. FR 61(Feb 1897):263-68. [Signed]. "We must needs regard social organization and individual morality as determining one another." Wells takes sexual morality as an example of man's ethical progress and then asks whether "a rational code of morality" cannot be formulated at this point in man's history. "We may dream of an informed, unselfish, unauthorised body of workers, a real and conscious apparatus of education and moral suggestion ... shaping the minds and acts and destinies of men."

#87. Human Evolution: Mr. Wells Replies. Natural Science 10(Apr 1897):242-44. Defends the position taken in # 84 against objections raised by F. H. Perry Coste in Natural Science 1O(Mar 1897):184-87. "My interest in these theories [about the nature of man] lies chiefly in their application. . . . After Darwin it has become inevitable that moral conceptions should be systematically restated in terms of our new conception of the material destiny of man."

#88. On Comparative Theology. SR 85 (Feb 12 1898):212-13. [Signed]. A review of Grant Allen's The Evolution of the Idea of God (and of an anonymous work called The [Cabalistic] Canon), which recommends Allen's book as one "certainly ... to be read," but disagrees with Allen's notion that man could have come in only one way to the worship of God: "it is certain there are at least a dozen different ways ... by which a man may arrive at worshipping a stone."

"The modern method of inquiry, as Bacon described it, was of course a systematised Fetishism," says Wells: science, that is, depends on a fetishistic relation of cause and effect. Indeed, some scientists propound an "intensely superstitious science" based on cosmic correlations having nothing to do with cause and effect: witness the comparative anatomist's penchant for finding structural correspondences among, say, all invertebrates.

Another, much less interesting, review of Allen's book by Wells is "Grant Allen's 'Idea of God'," Daily Mail (Nov 27 1897):4. [Signed]. #89. Huxley. Royal College of Science Magazine (formerly SSJ) 13(April 1901):209-11. [Signed]. A reminiscence of his student days under T. H. Huxley: "I believed then he was the greatest man I was ever likely to meet, and I believe that all the more firmly today."

#90. The Scepticism of the Instrument. Mind 13(July 1904):379-93. [Signed; given first as a paper to the Oxford Philosophical Society, Nov 8 1903; reprinted, altered and abridged about 15%, as an appendix to A Modern Utopia (1905), and in the Atlantic Edition 9:335-54]. Develops ideas first bruited in ## 4 and 83. Wells mistrusts the uniformity of formal logic because: (1) it classifies "uniques as identically similar objects" under some term that automatically accumulates a specious significance thereby; (2) "it can only deal freely with negative terms by treating them as though they were positive", and (3) it projects onto the same plane ideas which in fact are stratified at various levels of meaning and thus renders contradictory notions whose real relation to one another is complementary. In Wells's-universe of uniques, "ethical, social and religious teaching [come] into the province of poetry." Since philosophy, too, is self-expression, this essay contains much autobiographical material.


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