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I UNDERTOOK the inquiry of which this volume is the result, after reading the recent work of
M. de Candolle, in which he analyses the salient events in the history of 200 scientific men who have lived during the two past centuries, deducing therefrom many curious conclusions which well repay the attention of thoughtful readers. It so happened that I myself had been leisurely engaged on a parallel but more extended investigation--namely, as regards men of ability of all descriptions, with the view of supplementing at some future time my work on
Hereditary Genius. The object of that book was to assert the claims of one of what may be called the
"pre-efficients" of eminent men, the importance of which had been previously overlooked; and I had yet to work out more fully its relative efficacy, as compared with those of education, tradition, fortune, opportunity, and much else. It was therefore with no ordinary interest that I studied M. de Candolle's work, finding in it many new ideas and much confirmation of my own opinions; also not a little criticism (supported, as I conceive, by very imperfect biographical
evidence) of my published views on heredity. I thought it best to test the value of this dissent at once, by limiting my first publication to the same field as that on which M. de Candolle had worked--namely, to the history of men of science, and to investigate their sociology from wholly new, ample, and trustworthy materials. This I have done in the present volume; and I am confident that
one effect of the evidence here collected will be to strengthen the utmost claims I ever made for the recognition of the importance of hereditary influence.
A few of my results, and some of the evidence on which they were based, were given by me at a Friday evening lecture, February, 1874, before the Royal Institution. I have incorporated parts of that lecture
into this volume, with emendations and large additions.
It had been my wish to work up the materials I possess with much minuteness; but some months of careful labour made it clear to me that they were not
sufficient to bear a more strict or elaborate treatment than I have now given to them.
Histoire des Sciences et des Savants depuis deux
Siecles. Par Alphonse de Candolle. Corr. Inst. Acad. Sc. de Paris, &c.