The Crayfish / An Introduction to the Study of Zoology. The International Scientific Series, Vol. XXVIII

The Crayfish / An Introduction to the Study of Zoology. The International Scientific Series, Vol. XXVIII

Thomas Henry Huxley

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  • EAN: 9788832522761
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In writing this book about Crayfishes it has not been my intention to compose a zoological monograph on that group of animals. Such a work, to be worthy of the name, would require the devotion of years of patient study to a mass of materials collected from many parts of the world. Nor has it been my ambition to write a treatise upon our English crayfish, which should in any way provoke comparison with the memorable labours of Lyonet, Bojanus, or Strauss Durckheim, upon the willow caterpillar, the tortoise, and the cockchafer. What I have had in view is a much humbler, though perhaps, in the present state of science, not less useful object. I have desired, in fact, to show how the careful study of one of the commonest and most insignificant of animals, leads us, step by step, from every-day knowledge to the widest generalizations and the most difficult problems of zoology; and, indeed, of biological science in general.

It is for this reason that I have termed the book an “Introduction to Zoology.” For, whoever will follow its pages, crayfish in hand, and will try to verify for himself the statements which it contains, will find himself brought face to face with all the great zoological questions which excite so lively an interest at the present day; he will understand the method by which alone we can hope to attain to satisfactory answers of these questions; and, finally, he will appreciate the justice of Diderot’s remark, “Il faut être profond dans l’art ou dans la science pour en bien posséder les éléments.”

And these benefits will accrue to the student whatever shortcomings and errors in the work itself may be made apparent by the process of verification. “Common and lowly as most may think the crayfish,” well says Roesel von Rosenhof, “it is yet so full of wonders that the greatest naturalist may be puzzled to give a clear account of it.” But only the broad facts of the case are of fundamental importance; and, so far as these are concerned, I venture to hope that no error has slipped into my statement of them. As for the details, it must be remembered, not only that some omission or mistake is almost unavoidable, but that new lights come with new methods of investigation; and that better modes of statement follow upon the improvement of our general views introduced by the gradual widening of our knowledge.

I sincerely hope that such amplifications and rectifications may speedily abound; and that this sketch may be the means of directing the attention of observers in all parts of the world to the crayfishes. Combined efforts will soon furnish the answers to many questions which a single worker can merely state; and, by completing the history of one group of animals, secure the foundation of the whole of biological science.
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