The adaptation of animals and plants to the conditions under which they live has always excited the interest, and also the imagination, of philosophers and scientists; for this relation between the organism and its environment is one of the most characteristic features of living things. The question at once suggests itself: How has such a relation been brought about? Is it due to something inherent in the living matter itself, or is it something that has been, as it were, superimposed upon it? An example may make my meaning clearer. No one will suppose that there is anything inherent in iron and other metals that would cause them to produce an engine if left to themselves. The particular arrangement of the pieces has been superimposed upon the metals, so that they now fulfil a purpose, or use. Have the materials of which organisms are composed been given a definite arrangement, so that they fulfil the purpose of maintaining the existence of the organism; and if so, how has this been accomplished? It is the object of the following pages to discuss this question in all its bearings, and to give, as far as possible, an idea of the present state of biological thought concerning the problem. I trust that the reader will not be disappointed if he finds in the sequel that many of the most fundamental questions in regard to adaptation are still unsettled.