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FromThe Crayfish, by T. H. Huxley, 1879


"Dio dei me dyscherainein paidikos pen peri pon atimoteron zoon episkephysin en pasi gar tois physikois enesti ti phanmaston." -- Aristotle, De Partibus, I. 5.

"Qui enim Autorum verba legentes, rerum ipsarum imagines (eorum verbis comprehensa) sensibus propriis non abstrahunt, hi non veras Ideas, sed falsa Idola et phantasmata inania mente concipiunt. . . .

"Insurro itaque in aurem tibi (amice Lector!) ut quæcunque à nobis in hisce. . . . exercitationibus tractbuntur, ad exactam experientiæ truntinam pensites: fidemque iis non aliter adhibeas, nisi quatenus eadem indubitato sensuum testimonio firmissime stab liri deprehenderis." -- Harvey, Exercitationes de Generatione. Præfatio.

"Le seule et vraie Science est la connaissance des faits: l'esprit ne peut pas y supplèer et les faits sont dans les sciences ce qu'est l'expérience dans la vie civile."

"Le seul et le vrai moyen d'avancer la science est de travailler à la description et à l'histoire des differentes choses qui en font l'objet." -- Buffon, Discours de la manière d'étudier et de trailer l'Histoire Naturelle.

"Ebenso hat mich auch die genäuere Untersuchung unsers Krebes gelehret, dass, so gemein und geringschätzig solcer auch den meisten zu seyn scheinet, sich an selbigem doch so viel Wunderbares findet, dass es auch den grossten Naturforscher schwer fallen sollte solches alles deutlich zu beschreiben." -- Roesel v. Rosenhof. Insecten Belustigungen.--"Der Flusskrebs hiesiges Landes mit seinen merkwurdigen Eigenschaften."

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 on 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.

In the Appendix, I have added a few notes respecting points of detail with which I thought it unnecessary to burden the text; and, under the head of Bibliography, I have given some references to the literature of the subject which may be useful to those who wish to follow it out more fully.

I am indebted to Mr. T. J. Parker, demonstrator of my biological class, for several anatomical drawings; and for valuable aid in supervising the execution of the woodcuts, and in seeing the work through the press.

Mr. Cooper has had charge of the illustrations, and I am indebted to him and to Mr. Coombs, the accurate and skilful draughtsman to whom the more difficult subjects were entrusted, for such excellent specimens of xylographic art as the figures of the Crab, Lobster, Rock Lobster, and Norway Lobster.

T.H. H.

November, 1879.

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