In 1813 Dr. W.C. Wells read before the Royal Society "An Account of a White Female, part of whose skin resembles that of a Negro"; but his paper was not published until his famous "Two Essays upon Dew and Single Vision" appeared in 1818. In this paper he distinctly recognises the principle of natural selection, and this is the first recognition which has been indicated; but he applies it only to the races of man, and to certain characters alone. After remarking that negroes and mulattoes enjoy an immunity from certain tropical diseases, he observes, firstly, that all animals tend to vary in some degree, and, secondly, that agriculturists improve their domesticated animals by selection; and then, he adds, but what is done in this latter case "by art, seems to be done with equal efficacy, though more slowly, by nature, in the formation of varieties of mankind, fitted for the country which they inhabit. Of the accidental varieties of man, which would occur among the first few and scattered inhabitants of the middle regions of Africa, some one would be better fitted than others to bear the diseases of the country. This race would consequently multiply, while the others would decrease; not only from their in ability to sustain the attacks of disease, but from their incapacity of contending with their more vigorous neighbours. The colour of this vigorous race I take for granted, from what has been already said, would be dark. But the same disposition to form varieties still existing, a darker and a darker race would in the course of time occur: and as the darkest would be the best fitted for the climate, this would at length become the most prevalent, if not the only race, in the particular country in which it had originated." He then extends these same views to the white inhabitants of colder climates. I am indebted to Mr. Rowley, of the United States, for having called my attention, through Mr. Brace, to the above passage of Dr. Wells' work.
The Hon. and Rev. W. Herbert, afterward Dean of Manchester, in the fourth volume of the "Horticultural Transactions", 1822, and in his work on the "Amaryllidaceae" (1837, pages 19, 339), declares that "horticultural experiments have established, beyond the possibility of refutation, that botanical species are only a higher and more permanent class of varieties." He extends the same view to animals. The dean believes that single species of each genus were created in an originally highly plastic condition, and that these have produced, chiefly by inter-crossing, but likewise by variation, all our existing species.
In 1826 Professor Grant, in the concluding paragraph in his well-known paper ("Edinburgh Philosophical Journal", vol. XIV, page 283) on the Spongilla, clearly declares his belief that species are descended from other species, and that they become improved in the course of modification. This same view was given in his Fifty-fifth Lecture, published in the "Lancet" in 1834.
In 1831 Mr. Patrick Matthew published his work on "Naval Timber and Arboriculture", in which he gives precisely the same view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself in the "Linnean Journal", and as that enlarged in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr. Matthew very briefly in scattered passages in an appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr. Matthew himself drew attention to it in the "Gardeners' Chronicle", on April 7, 1860. The differences of Mr. Matthew's views from mine are not of much importance: he seems to consider that the world was nearly depopulated at successive periods, and then restocked; and he gives as an alternative, that new forms may be generated "without the presence of any mold or germ of former aggregates." I am not sure that I understand some passages; but it seems that he attributes much influence to the direct action of the conditions of life. He clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection.