The formative years: the biologist’s viewpoint
GEDDES, IN HIS STUDENT DAYS, WAS TO DEVOTE himself full time to the study of biology at possibly one of the most exciting periods in the history of the discipline. The concept of evolution had penetrated scientific and social thinking in every direction.1 Geddes, as an enthusiastic student, was aware that every question about the universe, its inception and evolution, had to be asked afresh and new answers found. He was determined that in his own studies he would try and find a new cosmology. In good evolutionary fashion, he made his starting point an exploration of former great eras in cosmological thought, the periods of the cultural flowering of ancient Greece, Rome, and the European Renaissance. He was steeped in the idea, common to natural scientists of the time, that the crucial dilemma of modern science, preventing the formulation of a satisfactory new cosmology, was that the sciences of mind and matter had become separated.2 This was the legacy of the scientific discoveries of the Renaissance period which had ushered in a ‘mechanical’ or ‘chemical’ approach to the universe. Modern biology, with its understanding of life and evolution was the antidote and the way forward.