First edition. The eminent zoologist Edwin S. Goodrich FRS, FLS, FZS (1868-1946) was educated in France and England, before enrolling in 1888 at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, where he encountered the Jodrell Professor of Zoology, Sir Edwin Ray Lankester. Under the influence of Lankester – who had known Darwin and studied with his distinguished disciples Ernst Haeckel and Anton Dohrn – Goodrich changed direction and embarked on the study of zoology. In 1891 Lankester was appointed to the Linacre Chair of Zoology at Oxford, where Goodrich joined him as his assistant, entering Merton College as a commoner in 1892; ‘[w]hile much of his time was taken up with his own researches, demonstrating and teaching, Goodrich was also responsible for reorganizing the exhibition cases of the University Museum. This he did with much gusto, but with regard only to the scientific visitor – his attitude being that “one need seek neither to attract the nursery-maid nor to amuse children, nor … satisfy the idle curiosity of the sightseer” [...], an attitude which would now be considered curatorially, if not politically, incorrect’ (ODNB). A series of scholarships and fellowships enabled him to travel and study in Naples, India, and Sri Lanka, before he was appointed Aldrichian Demonstrator in Comparative Anatomy in 1898 and in 1900 he was elected a fellow of Merton. A special professorship of comparative embryology was created for Goodrich in 1919 and in 1921 he was appointed to the Linacre Chair, holding the position until his resignation in 1945. ‘Goodrich’s first paper, an account of a large and rare squid which had been caught off Salcombe, Devon, was published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association in 1892, and his researches in the dozen years which followed [...] led to his being elected FRS in 1905. For more than half a century he worked without intermission on nearly all the groups of the animal kingdom, in every case making contributions to knowledge of the first importance’ (op. cit.).
The Evolution of Living Organisms was Goodrich’s first book, and was written for ‘The People’s Books’ series, an ambitious series of popular books for a lay audience written by leading figures in the field (for example, the title on Women’s Suffrage, also published in 1912, was written by Millicent Garrett Fawcett). Goodrich’s book was, nonetheless, written within the best traditions of Victorian popular scientific works and was an early example of the synthesis of Darwinism and genetics that would characterise the progress of evolutionary debates in the coming decades; as P.J. Bowler commented, it ‘presented an overview that included a discussion of the new ideas of heredity [Mendel’s ideas had been rediscovered in 1900] and the renewed interest in the selection theory. He made it clear that evolution was as much a record of life’s failures and blind alleys as it was of the occasional progressive steps. Goodrich also linked the latest developments in evolutionism to the debates over a nonmaterial life force, throwing his weight behind the mechanists’ (Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century Britain (Chicago and London, 2009), p. 46).
Michael Ruse judged that Goodrich’s book was ‘the chief direct contribution that he made to the story of evolution’ and was remarkable for its ‘full and comprehensive discussion of Mendelism as known at that point [...]. Through vigorous argument, the causal framework of evolution was shown to be natural selection brought on by a struggle for existence. But, as Goodrich stressed, selection demands a theory of heredity. And Goodrich showed that Mendelism, supposing that there are factors passed on uncontaminated from generation to generation, according to fixed laws, provides such a theory. The effects of selection are preserved, and not swamped or blended out of existence by sexual reproduction. Moreover, it is a reasonable assumption that every now and then there appear some new variations. [...] Hence, even though these changes would occur entirely without regard to the predicament of their possessors, it is also reasonable to suppose that over time genuine evolution will occur’ (Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology (Cambridge, MA and London, 2009), p. 287). Indeed, Ruse characterises The Evolution of Living Organisms elsewhere as the book ‘that (to the best of my knowledge) first synthesizes selection and Mendelian genetics in a full fashion’ (Defining Darwin: Essays on the History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Biology (Amherst, NY, 2009), p. 72).
Following this first edition, The Evolution of Living Organisms was reprinted in 1914, and then succeeded by a second, ‘entirely revised’ edition in 1919, before Goodrich enlarged the text into a more comprehensive treatment of the subject, published by the Clarendon Press as Living Organisms: An Account of their Origin & Evolution (Oxford, 1924).