READ (The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits) Author Charles Darwin

Some other animals however still lowly organised namely corals have done far conspicuous work in having constructed innumerable reefs and islands in the great oceans but these are almost confined to the tropical zonesDarwin s The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms is a wonderfully entertaining book and a worthy final volume from our greatest naturalist Highly recommendedFree electronic versions of Darwin s earthworms book are widely available on the internet for example via Project Gutenberg or on the Darwin Online websiteReferencesDarwin CR 1837 On certain areas of elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian oceans as deduced from the study of coral formations Read 31 May Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 2 552 554 Available at Darwin OnlineDarwin CR 1838 On the Formation of Mould Read 1 November 1837 Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 2 574 576 Available at Darwin OnlineDarwin CR to Horner Leonard 29 Aug 1844 Darwin Correspondence Databasehttpswwwdarwinprojectacukentry 771 accessed on Fri Oct 16 2015Darwin CR to Hooker JD 6 May 1858 Darwin Correspondence Databasehttpwwwdarwinprojectacukentry 2269 accessed on Fri Oct 16 2015Darwin CR 1881 The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on their Habits London John Murray Available at Darwin OnlineHealey E 2002 Emma Darwin the inspirational wife of a genius London Review Books Darwin s little book on earthworms was the last of his scientific works published in the ear before his death in 1882 and than 20 The Upanishads years after the great work On the Origin of Species The Formation of Vegetable Mould has an autumnal feeling much of it is based on observations and experiments by Darwin and his sons William and Horace in the gardens and fields surrounding their home Down House in Kent Darwin s interest in worms and their contribution to the geology of landforms long preceded the formulation of his evolutionary theory He first published on worms in 1837 and concluded that the entirety of the vegetable humus that constitutes the surface soil of England has passed many times and continued to pass through their intestinal canals Millions upon millions of tons eachear in his estimate In this last work Darwin links evolutionary theory and geology in his response to Mr DT Fish who disputed his account of the magnitude of the effects of bioturbation of the English land surface by worms Fish thought worms too small and weak to be capable of the stupendous work attributed to them Darwin responded Here we have an instance of that inability to sum up the effects of a continually recurrent cause which has so often retarded the progress of science as formerly in the case of geology and recently in that of the principle of evolution Though Darwin was mainly concerned with effects of bioturbation of the soil by worms his observation of their habits led him wonder how far they acted consciously and how much mental power they displayed In his second chapter he discusses the uestion of their intelligence at some length concluding that their behaviour in manoeuvring leaves to shield THE MOUTHS OF THEIR BURROWS SHOWED A DEGREE OF mouths of their burrows showed a degree of in their behaviour suggestive of a capacity TO LEARN BY EXPERIENCE HE TESTED learn by experience He tested by restricting their choice of leaves to unfamiliar varieties and small triangles of paper and observing the attempts to draw the unfamiliar leaves and paper into their burrows He concluded that deaf and blind as they were the worms acuired a tactile notion of the shape of these objects and learned by experience the ways in which they might be manipulated His observations led him to surmise that they might deserve to be called intelligent for they then act in nearly the same manner as would a man in similar circumstances There is much else besides in praise of worms Darwin devotes another chapter to the ways in which the remnants of Roman buildings in particular their tessellated floors have been preserved under the steady accumulation of vegetable mould from worm castsDarwin must have enjoyed writing this last little book about worms There is a sense of uiet exuberance in his prose And moments of delight for the reader as in the sinuous Latinity of his discussion of their gizzards In the same manner as gallinaceous and struthious birds swallow stones to aid in the trituration of their foods so it appears to be with terricolous worms The gizzards of thirty eight of our common worms were opened My edition of The Formation of Vegetable Mould which I rescued from the discard pile of a charity bookshop is a curiosity in its own right It was published in California in 1976 by the Bookworm Publishing Company an imprint apparently now defunct with a catalogue that included such titles as Harnessing the Earthworm Let an Earthworm be Winter Magic your Garbageman and Raising the African Night Crawler The patience of this man was incredible I m not a scientist at all but I am fascinated by Darwin s collaborations experiments ceaseless measuring I loved this book As I read my respect for Darwin s curiosity and mental acumen leapt at least two AU This was his last published work and the result of than 40ears of observation of worms worm castings and landscape He seeks to understand just how important earth worms and their waste product are to our soil and along the way learns that worms are rather remarkable Makes me want to re visit another great book about a different worm C Elegans Wow This is a perfect book for those who have moved beyond Mary Applehof s Worms Eat My Garbage Also a great book for the avid amateur vermiculturist In fact if Bird Habitats in Britain you are really into worms parts of this book will makeou laugh aloud and sayHa Yes I Have seen them do thatIf The Guitar Style of Jerry Reed you read it in public people giveou funny looks But I suppose it s better than reading Mein Kampf in public. This work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.

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Egetable mould Darwin writesHere we have an instance of that inability to sum up the effects of a continually recurrent cause which has often retarded the progress of science as formerly in the case of geology and recently in that of the principle of evolutionDarwin s theory of evolution like his great friend and inspiration Charles Lyell s uniformitarian theorising about geological change relied on the accumulation of a large number of small changes taking place over a very long time Many critics argued as some religiously motivated critics still do that the small changes we can still observe taking place today the movement of sand particles down a river say or the slight physical variations in an animal s offspring do not have sufficient power to bring about far greater changes that we cannot observe directly over geologicalevolutionary timescales the formation of the Grand Canyon say or the evolution of new species Darwin s earthworm book demonstrates small change writ large If the humble earthworm burrowing unnoticed beneath out feet every day can over mere tens or hundreds of ears alter our physical landscape and bury beyond sight our ruins who can deny what cumulative small changes are capable of achieving over much longer timescalesSmall change writ large was a recurring theme in Darwin s work In this he was heavily influenced by Lyell s Principles of Geology which he first read during the Beagle voyage later writing to a friendI have always thought that the great merit of the Principles was that it altered the whole tone of one s mind therefore that when seeing a thing never seen by Lyell one et saw it partially through his eyesIn one of his first scientific papers presented at the Geological Society in 1837 less than a Riders of the Sea year after his return from the Beagle voyage Darwin correctly explained how the various forms of coral reef form slowly over time as the nearby land subsides Later that sameear again at the Geological Society he presented a paper On the formation of mould in which he credited his maternal uncle and future father in law Josiah Wedgwood II with having drawn his attention to how various substances which had been spread over Wedgwood s fields ears earlier were now to be found buried beneath several inches of soil a phenomenon that Wedgwood attributed to the action of earthworms It was an observation that triggered Darwin s long standing interest in worms an interest which was to culminate over four decades later in his final hugely entertaining bookAs we have already seen part of the joy of Darwin s earthworms book are his meticulous descriptions Here he is for example describing a worm burrowingthe worm inserts the stretched out and attenuated anterior extremity of its body into any little crevice or hole and then as Perrier remarks the pharynx is pushed forwards into this part which conseuently swells and pushes away the earth on all sides The anterior extremity thus serves as a wedgeand here he is describing worms sucking on broad flat objects The pointed anterior extremity of body after being into contact with an object of this kind was brought into contact with an object of this kind was within the adjoining rings so that it appeared truncated and became as thick as the rest of the body This part could then be seen to swell a little and this I believe is due to the pharynx being pushed a little forwards Then by a slight withdrawal of the pharynx or by its expansion a vacuum was produced beneath the truncated slimy end of the body whilst in contact with the object and by this means the two adhered firmly togetherDarwin wasn t just a wonderful observer he also loved to carry out what he self deprecatingly referred to as fool s experiments His earthworms book describes some characteristically surreal examples Who else but Darwin would get his son to play the bassoon to pots of earthworms to establish whether they could hear And who else would then for good measure get his wife who had received tuition from none other than Fr d ric Chopin in her outh to play the piano to them Then there were the tiny triangles of paper representing leaves that Darwin presented to his worms to assess their intelligence The fact that they often grabbed the triangles by their most sharply pointed corners thereby making it easier to drag them down into their burrows is an indication Darwin claims that they are intelligent than we generally give them credit forDarwin dedicates a considerable proportion of this book to estimating the amount of soil shifted by worms be it in levelling fields eroding landscapes or burying ancient monuments The former archaeologist in me shuddered to read how he had arranged for a hole to be dug alongside one of the fallen Druidical stones at Stonehenge to assess how deeply they had sunk into the soil having been undermined by worms He and his sons paid similar visits to recently excavated Roman villas and other ancient sitesDarwin rounds off his last book with a typical Darwinian flourish reminiscent of his justly famous closing entangled bank paragraph from On the Origin of Species in which he returns to his half hidden agenda of small change writ largeWhen we behold a wide turf covered expanse we should remember that its smoothness on which so much of its beauty depends is mainly due to all the ineualities having been slowly levelled by worms It is a marvellous reflection that the whole of the superficial mould over any such expanse has passed and will again pass every few ears through the bodies of worms The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man s inventions but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth worms It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly organised creatures. Tions introduced by the digitization process Though we have made best efforts the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience We believe. This is one of Darwin s obscure works and as such I think it gives a special measure of the man s calibre as a scientist and observer On the one hand it is all of a piece with his Lyellian gradualism to show what lowly earthworms can achieve across millennia of small scale vomiting On the other hand it shows Darwin s thoroughness and mastery of method in even the lowliest of details drawing on accounts of giant earthworms from foreign explorers observations of leaf consumption in pots of earth measurements of deposits over tombstones the folk knowledge of farmers and the observations of archaeologistsDarwin establishes how worms contribute to the creation of humus rich soil how they use gizzard stones to grind vegetable matter how they can survive months of inundation how they produce terracing on pasture and how they manage to move megatonnes of soil downwards and out to sea from river basins He establishes fittingly given his most famous work how small causes add up to geological effects He shows how rocks descend into fields how burial mounds are reshaped how earth piles against the largest boulders and how traces of buried walls remain discernible in fields an important consideration for archaeologists How many of us would have presumed that worms are so interestingAnother small masterpiece from one of science s largest figures and eminently readable and engaging into the bargain I learnt about this work from R Dawkins and was uite courious what Darwin had to tell us about those ubiuitous creatures earth worms Darwin was an expert on long term phenomena he discovered evolution and was fascinated by tectonics This is another phenomenon worms forming mould changing rocks into a fertile fields in span of many ears and centuriesThis work is not an easy reading as it includes a lots of sometimes boring facts about worms their habits their influence on shaping grounds all over the world but it nicely shows his chiefly scientific approach to the problem He wants to convince readers that worms play crucial role in formation of mould which is in turn crucial for our crops and for many animals and plants and for me at least he succeeds as he provides a plenty of observations statistics and arguments in favour of his hypotheses later theories and then broadly accepted factsI see the book as a window to his and in general a scientific approach to observe describe and explain natural phenomena around us In this it is very similar to On the origin of species I like Darwin viz my interest in Stephen Jay Gould and I found this the first of his books I ve read enjoyable in spite of what I confess as the tediousness of scientific precision tiresome to read but entirely admirable in conscientious thoroughness Also a tribute to the loyalty and dedication of Darwin s sons who are recorded as doing a lot of fieldwork and measurement for him and to the extended Wedgwood and Darwin families whose houses clearly often accommodated the old feller when he was doing his researchesAnd of course it s a testament to the magnificence of a creature so often maligned by our choice of it as the metaphor to describe someone lowly and worthless Wow This is a perfect book for those who have moved beyond Mary Applehof s Worms Eat My Trash Also a great book for the avid amateur vermiculturist In fact if The TV Writer's Workbook: A Creative Approach To Television Scripts you are really into worms parts of this book will makeou laugh aloud and sayHa Yes I Have seen them do thatIf NV Level 3 Health and Social Care you read it in public people giveou funny looks But I suppose it s better than reading Mein Kampf in public Fascinating and someway poeticFor what I know it was Darwin s last work Of course it is a technical essay stuffed with calculations and descriptions of experiments but it transmits the wonder Darwin felt in front of nature the same way On The Origin of Species doesActually it was one of the first scientific works to prove the fundamental role of earthworms in nature Charles Darwin describing an earthworm taking a crapA worm after swallowing earth whether for making its burrow or for food soon comes to the surface to empty its body The ejected earth is thoroughly mingled with the intestinal secretions and is thus rendered viscid After being dried it sets hard I have watched worms during the act of ejection and when the earth dried it sets hard I have watched worms during the act of ejection and when the earth in a very liuid state it was ejected in little spurts and when not so liuid by a slow peristaltic movement It is not cast indifferently on any side but with some care first on one and then on another side the tail being used almost like a trowel As soon as a little heap is formed the worm apparently avoids for the sake of safety protruding its tail and the earthy matter is forced up through the previously deposited soft mass The mouth of the same burrow is used for this purpose for a considerable timeThis is pure Darwin exuisite observation of the apparently trivial Although his great theory of evolution by means of Natural Selection is central to our understanding of life s grandeur Darwin had something of a soft spot for the lowliest of creatures He spent eight ears studying barnacles investigated how bees form honeycombs and even took time to observe ants when he was supposed to be convalescing at his favourite hydropathy establishmentBut Darwin knew it was important to sweat the small stuff As he is uick "to point out in the introduction to his final book The Formation of " point out in the introduction to his final book The Formation of Mould Through the Action of Wormsthe maxim de minimis lex non curat the law does not care about trifles does not apply to scienceAlthough at face value his earthworms book might seem charmingly eccentric bordering on worm obsessed at times Darwin had a half hidden agenda Responding to a Mr Fish who writing in the Gardeners Chronicle had dismissed Darwin s earlier hypothesising about the contribution made by earthworms to the formation of the topmost layer of soil the This is a pre 1923 historical reproduction that was curated for uality uality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfec. ,

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The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits