by craig on April 28, 2013 8:48 pm in Uncategorized
Can anyone find a full online version of K.M. Lyell’s 1881 Life, Letters and Journals of Charles Lyell, Bart. ? Normally google books or similar have such out of copyright books online free if of any interest, but all I can find is this limited preview of a Cambridge University Press edition. It is in my chain of thought today and I don’t want to break off and come back.
I have been struck quite frequently in both manuscript and published writings that Alexander Burnes plainly was no creationist and had a strikingly “modern” world view for someone born in 1805. Some of his observations of animal life take evolution as read, and his understanding of geological processes seems almost solecistic. One reason he survived journeys which Gerard, Moorcroft and Trebeck did not was that he dosed himself with quinine when the British army treated malaria with leeches. Burnes and Gerard contracted malaria together in Balkh and Termez – still malarial today – precisely where Moorcroft and Trebeck had done so fatally a decade previously. Gerard, a medical doctor, refused Burnes’ offered quinine for more traditional treatment (camomile!) and eventually died of his malaria.
Burnes was very directly a child of the Scottish Enlightenment and his range of knowledge across a wide variety of academic disciplines is truly striking. I early made a transcript of an account of a dinner in the Shalimar gardens near Lahore around 1837 with two eminent British palaeontologists, whom I find described in encyclopaedias as among the founders of the science. I can’t immediately put my hands on the transcript to give you their names, but Burnes plainly could discuss the subject intelligently. He was a friend and correspondent of Charles Lyell and sent him fossils. Burnes is quoted at length in Lyell’s Principles of Geology, a book as ground-breaking in its time as The Origin of Species and very much part of the same intellectual movement. (Yes, I know Lyell was building on Hutton). Lyell and Darwin were close and their relationship is a field of study in itself.