The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, with observations on their habits

Overview

Darwin in his Introduction states the following: "The share which worms have taken in the formation of the layer of vegetable mould, which covers the whole surface of the land in every moderately humid country, is the subject of the present volume... I was led to keep in my study during many months worms in pots filled with earth, I became interested in them, and wished to learn how far they acted consciously, and how much mental power they displayed. I was the more desirous to learn something on this head, as ...
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The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms (Barnes & Noble Digital Library): with Observations on Their Habits

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Overview

Darwin in his Introduction states the following: "The share which worms have taken in the formation of the layer of vegetable mould, which covers the whole surface of the land in every moderately humid country, is the subject of the present volume... I was led to keep in my study during many months worms in pots filled with earth, I became interested in them, and wished to learn how far they acted consciously, and how much mental power they displayed. I was the more desirous to learn something on this head, as few observations of this kind have been made, as far as I know, on animals so low in the scale of organization and so poorly provided with sense-organs, as are earth-worms.

Charles Darwin, born on February 12, 1809, was a famous English biologist and the father of evolution, grew up in England and as a young man he earned a reputation among scientists as an amateur naturalist, particularly in the identification of beetles. He started to study medicine but changed his career to study theology at Cambridge. In 1831, at age 22, Darwin was invited to travel as an unpaid naturalist on the voyage of the Beagle, an expedition that lasted for years. Darwin was observant, well read and prepared for such an opportunity. During these five years, he studied the animals, plants, land formations and fossils of many countries and islands, and kept a journal and specimens for future studies. One of the places that Darwin visited during his trip was the Galapagos archipelago. He stayed there for five weeks and studied the flora and fauna of the islands. His first task upon return was to review his journal and organize his collections. By the time he had finished, at the age of 29, he had developed much of his theory on the evolution of species. But Darwin was not ready to publish his theory until he had gathered enough supporting evidence. He spent 20 years on this task, and in 1859 he finally published On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. When this work was first published, the edition sold out immediately, but the newspapers and scientific journals attacked Darwin's theory.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781148540153
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 4/4/2010
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 9.69 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Scientist Charles Darwin once asserted that "a scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections -- a mere heart of stone." Indeed, his objective take on evolution asserted in The Origin of Species shook the foundations of traditional religion to its core.

Biography

Robert Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809, into a wealthy and highly respected family. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a doctor and the author of many works, including his well-known Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, which suggested a theory of evolution. Charles's father, Robert Waring Darwin, was also a prosperous doctor; his mother, Susannah, was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the renowned Wedgwood potteries. The Darwins and the Wedgwoods had close and long-standing relations, and Charles was to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

In 1825 at age sixteen, Darwin matriculated at Edinburgh University to study medicine. There, his early interest in natural history developed, and he studied particularly crustaceans, sea creatures, and beetles. Nauseated by the sight of blood, however, he decided that medicine was not his vocation, left Edinburgh in 1827 and entered Christ's College, Cambridge University, with no clear sense of possible vocation, theology itself being an option. At Cambridge he became friends with J. S. Henslow, a clergyman who was also professor of botany. Although Darwin was to graduate from Cambridge with a B.A. in theology, he spent much time with Henslow, developing his interest in natural science. It was Henslow who secured a position for Darwin on an exploratory expedition aboard the HMS Beagle.

In December 1831, the year he graduated from Cambridge, Darwin embarked upon a five-year voyage to Africa and South America, acting as a companion to the captain, Robert Fitzroy. Darwin spent more time in land expeditions than at sea, where he was always seasick, but during the long voyages he continued his collecting and, cramped in his tiny cabin, meticulously wrote up his ideas. Several years after his return, at the time of the birth of his first son, William, Darwin fell ill. It is conjectured that while in South America he had contracted Chagas's disease, but whatever the cause, the effects were debilitating for the rest of Darwin's life.

By the time he returned to London in 1835, many of his letters, some to scientists like Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick, had been read before scientific societies, and he was already a well known and respected naturalist. His first published book, an account of his voyage aboard the Beagle, entitled Journal of Researches, appeared in 1839 and was widely popular. He married the same year; soon after, the family moved from London to a secluded house at Down, in Kent, where Darwin wrote initial sketches of his theory and then preparing himself for the full exposition, spent eight years writing a detailed set of definitive monographs on barnacles.

In 1858, when Darwin was halfway through writing his book, "Natural Selection," A. R. Wallace sent him a paper called, "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type." In language similar to Darwin's own, Wallace laid out the argument for natural selection. Wallace asked Darwin to help get the paper published -- obviously an alarming development for a man who had given twenty years of his life to getting the argument for natural selection right. Darwin's scientific friends advised him to gather materials giving evidence of his priority but to have the Wallace paper read before the Linnaean Society, along with a brief account of his own ideas. Immediately after the reading, Darwin began work on his "abstract" of "Natural Selection." The result was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859. Despite the controversy it generated, it was an immense success and went through five more editions in Darwin's lifetime.

Darwin devoted the rest of his life to researching and writing scientific treatises, drawing on his notebooks and corresponding with scientists all over the world, and thus developing and modifying parts of his larger argument.

Darwin never traveled again and much of his scientific work was done in his own garden and study at home. Others, particularly his "bulldog," T. H. Huxley, fought the battle for evolution publicly, and as Darwin remained quietly ailing at home, his family grew -- he had ten children -- and so did his reputation. Although he was always ill with symptoms that made it impossible for him to work full days, he produced an enormous volume of work. His death, on April 19, 1882, was a national event. Despite the piety of his wife, Emma, Darwin had fallen away from religion as he reflected both on the way nature worked and on the way his favorite daughter, Annie, died painfully from an unknown feverish illness, when she was ten. Nevertheless, ironically, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Origin of Species.

Good To Know

Darwin was born on the same day as U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

He broke his longtime snuff habit by keeping his snuff box in the basement and the key to it in the attic.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      February 12, 1809
    2. Place of Birth:
      Shrewsbury, England
    1. Date of Death:
      April 19, 1882
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Theology, Christ’s College, Cambridge University, 1831

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Chapter I. Habits of Worms 8
Nature of the sites inhabited
Can live long under water
Nocturnal
Wander about at night
Often lie close to the mouths of their burrows, and are thus destroyed in large numbers by birds
Structure
Do not possess eyes, but can distinguish between light and darkness
Retreat rapidly when brightly illuminated, not by a reflex action
Power of attention
Sensitive to heat and cold
Completely deaf
Sensitive to vibrations and to touch
Feeble power of smell
Taste
Mental qualities
Nature of food
Omnivorous
Digestion
Leaves before being swallowed, moistened with a fluid of the nature of the panereatie secretion
Extra-stomachal digestion
Calciferous glands, structure of
Calcareous concretions formed in the anterior pair of glands
The calcaieous matier primarily an excretion, but secondarily serves to nentralise the acids generated during the digestive process
Chapter II. Habits of Worms 55
Manner in which worms seize objects
Their power of suction
The instinct of plugging up the mouths of their burrows
Stones piled over the burrows
The advantages thus gained
Intelligence shown by worms in their manner of plugging up their burrows
Various kinds of leaves and other objects thus used
Triangles of paper
Summary of reasons for believing that worms exhibit some intelligence
Means by which they excavate their burrows, by pushing away the earth and swallowing it
Earth also swallowed for the nutritious matter which it contains
Depth to which worms burrow, and the construction of their burrows
Burrows lined with castings, and in the upper part with leaves
The lowest part paved with little stones or seeds
Manner in which the castings are ejected
The collapse of old burrows
Distribution of worms
Tower-like castings in Bengal
Gigantic castings on the Nilgiri Mountains
Castings ejected in all countries
Chapter III. The Amount of Fine Earth Brought Up by Worms to the Surface 129
Rate at which various objects strewed on the surface of grass-fields are covered up by the castings of worms
The burial of a paved path
The slow subsidence of great stones left on the surface
The number of worms which live within a given space
The weight of earth ejected from a burrow, and from all the burrows within a given space
The thickness of the layer of mould which the castings on a given space would form within a given time if uniformly spread out
The slow rate at which mould can increase to a great thickness
Conclusion
Chapter IV. The Part Which Worms Have Played in the Burial of Ancient Buildings 176
The accumulation of rubbish on the sites of great cities independent of the action of worms
The burial of a Roman villa at Abinger
The floors and walls penetrated by worms
Subsidence of a modern pavement
The buried pavement at Beaulieu Abbey
Roman villas at Chedworth and Brading
The remains of the Roman town at Silchester
The nature of the debris by which the remains are covered
The penetration of the tesselated floors and walls by worms
Subsidence of the floors
Thickness of the mould
The old Roman city of Wroxeter
Thickness of the mould
Depth of the foundations of some of the buildings
Conclusion
Chapter V. The Action of Worms in the Denudation of the Land 230
Evidence of the amount of denudation which the sand Las undergone
Subaerial denudation
The deposition of dust
Vegetable mould, its dark colour and fine texture largely due to the action of worms
The disintegration of rocks by the humus-acids
Similar acids apparently generated within the bodies of worms
The action of these acids facilitated by the continued movement of the particles of earth
A thick bed of mould checks the disintegration of the underlying soil and rocks
Particles of stone worn or triturated in the gizzards of worms
Swallowed stones serve as millstones
The levigated state of the castings
Fragments of brick in the castings over ancient buildings well rounded. The triturating power of worms not quite insignificant under a geological point of view
Chapter VI. The Denudation of the Land 259
Denudation aided by recently ejected castings flowing down inclined grass-covered surfaces
The amount of earth which annually flows downwards
The effect of tropical rain on worm castings
The finest particles of earth washed completely away from castings
The disintegration of dried castings into pellets, and their rolling down inclined surfaces
The formation of little ledges on hill-sides, in part due to the accumulation of disintegrated castings
Castings blown to leeward over level land
An attempt to estimate the amount thus blown
The degradation of ancient encampments and tumuli
The preservation of the crowns and furrows on land anciently ploughed
The formation and amount of mould over the Chalk formation
Chapter VII. Conclusion 305
Summary of the part which worms have played in the history of the world
Their aid in the disintegration of rocks
In the denudation of the land
In the preservation of ancient remains
In the preparation of the soil for the growth of plants
Mental powers of worms
Conclusion
Index 315
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    I haven't gotten too far into this edition of the book yet, but I've already found that this edition excludes any figures that were found in previous editions. I don't know why they left them out, but it's pretty frustrating.

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