History of Animals

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"Historia animalium" redirects here. History of Animals_sentence_0

For the book by Conrad Gessner, see Historia animalium (Gessner). History of Animals_sentence_1

History of Animals (Greek: Τῶν περὶ τὰ ζῷα ἱστοριῶν, Ton peri ta zoia historion, "Inquiries on Animals"; Latin: Historia Animalium, "History of Animals") is one of the major texts on biology by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who had studied at Plato's Academy in Athens. History of Animals_sentence_2

It was written in the fourth century BC; Aristotle died in 322 BC. History of Animals_sentence_3

Generally seen as a pioneering work of zoology, Aristotle frames his text by explaining that he is investigating the what (the existing facts about animals) prior to establishing the why (the causes of these characteristics). History of Animals_sentence_4

The book is thus an attempt to apply philosophy to part of the natural world. History of Animals_sentence_5

Throughout the work, Aristotle seeks to identify differences, both between individuals and between groups. History of Animals_sentence_6

A group is established when it is seen that all members have the same set of distinguishing features; for example, that all birds have feathers, wings, and beaks. History of Animals_sentence_7

This relationship between the birds and their features is recognized as a universal. History of Animals_sentence_8

The History of Animals contains many accurate eye-witness observations, in particular of the marine biology around the island of Lesbos, such as that the octopus had colour-changing abilities and a sperm-transferring tentacle, that the young of a dogfish grow inside their mother's body, or that the male of a river catfish guards the eggs after the female has left. History of Animals_sentence_9

Some of these were long considered fanciful before being rediscovered in the nineteenth century. History of Animals_sentence_10

Aristotle has been accused of making errors, but some are due to misinterpretation of his text, and others may have been based on genuine observation. History of Animals_sentence_11

He did however make somewhat uncritical use of evidence from other people, such as travellers and beekeepers. History of Animals_sentence_12

The History of Animals had a powerful influence on zoology for some two thousand years. History of Animals_sentence_13

It continued to be a primary source of knowledge until in the sixteenth century zoologists including Conrad Gessner, all influenced by Aristotle, wrote their own studies of the subject. History of Animals_sentence_14

Context History of Animals_section_0

Aristotle (384–322 BC) studied at Plato's Academy in Athens, remaining there for some 17 years. History of Animals_sentence_15

Like Plato, he sought universals in his philosophy, but unlike Plato he backed up his views with detailed observation, notably of the natural history of the island of Lesbos and the marine life in the island's lagoon at Pyrrha. History of Animals_sentence_16

This study made him the earliest natural historian whose written work survives. History of Animals_sentence_17

No similarly detailed work on zoology was attempted until the sixteenth century; accordingly Aristotle remained highly influential for some two thousand years. History of Animals_sentence_18

His writings on zoology form about a quarter of his surviving work. History of Animals_sentence_19

Aristotle's pupil Theophrastus later wrote a similar book on botany, Enquiry into Plants. History of Animals_sentence_20

Book History of Animals_section_1

Approach History of Animals_section_2

In the History of Animals, Aristotle sets out to investigate the existing facts (Greek "hoti", what), prior to establishing their causes (Greek "dioti", why). History of Animals_sentence_21

The book is thus a defence of his method of investigating zoology. History of Animals_sentence_22

Aristotle investigates four types of differences between animals: differences in particular body parts (Books I to IV); differences in ways of life and types of activity (Books V, VI, VII and IX); and differences in specific characters (Book VIII). History of Animals_sentence_23

To illustrate the philosophical method, consider one grouping of many kinds of animal, 'birds': all members of this group possess the same distinguishing features—feathers, wings, beaks, and two bony legs. History of Animals_sentence_24

This is an instance of a universal: if something is a bird, it has feathers and wings; if something has feathers and wings, that also implies it is a bird, so the reasoning here is bidirectional. History of Animals_sentence_25

On the other hand, some animals that have red blood have lungs; other red-blooded animals (such as fish) have gills. History of Animals_sentence_26

This implies, in Aristotle's reasoning, that if something has lungs, it has red blood; but Aristotle is careful not to imply that all red-blooded animals have lungs, so the reasoning here is not bidirectional. History of Animals_sentence_27

Contents History of Animals_section_3

Book I The grouping of animals and the parts of the human body. History of Animals_sentence_28

Aristotle describes the parts that the human body is made of, such as the skull, brain, face, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, thorax, belly, heart, viscera, genitalia, and limbs. History of Animals_sentence_29

Book II The different parts of red-blooded animals. History of Animals_sentence_30

Aristotle writes about limbs, the teeth of dogs, horses, man, and elephant; the elephant's tongue; and of animals such as the apes, crocodile, chameleon, birds especially the wryneck, fishes and snakes. History of Animals_sentence_31

Book III The internal organs, including generative system, veins, sinews, bone etc. History of Animals_sentence_32

He moves on to the blood, bone marrow, milk including rennet and cheese, and semen. History of Animals_sentence_33

Book IV Animals without blood (invertebrates) – cephalopods, crustaceans, etc. History of Animals_sentence_34

In chapter 8, he describes the sense organs of animals. History of Animals_sentence_35

Chapter 10 considers sleep and whether it occurs in fish. History of Animals_sentence_36

Books V and VI Reproduction, spontaneous and sexual of marine invertebrates, birds, quadrupeds, snakes, fish, and terrestrial arthropods including ichneumon wasps, bees, ants, scorpions, spiders, and grasshoppers. History of Animals_sentence_37

Book VII Reproduction of man, including puberty, conception, pregnancy, lactation, the embryo, labour, milk, and diseases of infants. History of Animals_sentence_38

Book VIII The character and habits of animals, food, migration, health, animal diseases including bee parasites, and the influence of climate. History of Animals_sentence_39

Book IX Social behaviour in animals; signs of intelligence in animals such as sheep and birds. History of Animals_sentence_40

A Book X is included in some versions, dealing with the causes of barrenness in women, but is generally regarded as not being by Aristotle. History of Animals_sentence_41

In the preface to his translation, D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson calls it "spurious beyond question". History of Animals_sentence_42

Observations History of Animals_section_4

Further information: Aristotle's biology History of Animals_sentence_43

The History of Animals contains a large number of eye-witness observations, in particular of marine biology, in sharp contrast to Plato's "symbolic zoology". History of Animals_sentence_44

Aristotle's style and precision can be seen in the passage where he discusses the behaviour and anatomy of the cephalopods, mentioning the use of ink against predators, camouflage, and signalling. History of Animals_sentence_45

This is D'Arcy Thompson's translation: History of Animals_sentence_46

His observations were almost all accurate, according to the philosopher Anthony Preus, though Mario Vegetti argues that Aristotle sometimes let theory cloud observation. History of Animals_sentence_47

Some of Aristotle's observations were not taken seriously by science until they were independently rediscovered in the 19th century. History of Animals_sentence_48

For example, he recorded that male octopuses have a hectocotylus, a tentacle which stores sperm and which can transfer it into the female's body; sometimes it snaps off during mating. History of Animals_sentence_49

The account was dismissed as fanciful until the French naturalist Georges Cuvier described it in his 1817 Le Règne Animal. History of Animals_sentence_50

Aristotle also noted that the young of the dogfish grow inside their mother's body attached by a cord to something like a placenta (a yolk sac). History of Animals_sentence_51

This was confirmed in 1842 by the German zoologist Johannes Peter Müller. History of Animals_sentence_52

Aristotle noted, too, that a river catfish which he called the glanis cares for its young, as the female leaves after giving birth; the male guards the eggs for forty or fifty days, chasing off small fish which threaten the eggs, and making a murmuring noise. History of Animals_sentence_53

The Swiss American zoologist Louis Agassiz found the account to be correct in 1890. History of Animals_sentence_54

Aristotle's methods of observation included dissection (Aristotle's lost companion work, The Dissections, contained illustrations of these), so he observed animal anatomy directly, though his interpretations of the functions of the structures he observed were subject to error. History of Animals_sentence_55

Like other classical authors such as Pliny the Elder, Aristotle also gathered evidence from travellers and people with specialised knowledge, such as fishermen and beekeepers, without much attempt to corroborate what they said. History of Animals_sentence_56

Apparent errors History of Animals_section_5

The text contains some claims that appear to be errors. History of Animals_sentence_57

Aristotle asserted that the females of any species have a smaller number of teeth than the males. History of Animals_sentence_58

This apparently readily falsifiable claim could have been a genuine observation, if as Robert Mayhew suggests women at that time had a poorer diet than men; but the claim is not true of other species either. History of Animals_sentence_59

Thus, Philippa Lang argues, Aristotle may have been empirical, but he was quite laissez-faire about observation, "because [he] was not expecting nature to be misleading". History of Animals_sentence_60

In other cases, errors may have been wrongly attributed to Aristotle. History of Animals_sentence_61

Katrin Weigmann wrote "[Aristotle's] statement that flies have four legs was repeated in natural history texts for more than a thousand years despite the fact that a little counting would have proven otherwise." History of Animals_sentence_62

However, the historian and philosopher of biology John S. Wilkins notes that Aristotle did not say "all flies have four legs"; he wrote that one particular animal, the ephemeron or mayfly, "moves with four feet and four wings: and, I may observe in passing, this creature is exceptional not only in regard to the duration of its existence, whence it receives its name, but also because though a quadruped it has wings also." History of Animals_sentence_63

Mayflies do in fact walk on four legs, the front pair not being adapted for walking, so, Wilkins concludes, Aristotle was correct. History of Animals_sentence_64

More generally, Aristotle's biology, described across the five books sometimes called On Animals and some of his minor works, the Parva Naturalia, defines what in modern terms is a set of models of metabolism, temperature regulation, information processing, inheritance, and embryogenesis. History of Animals_sentence_65

All of these are wrong in the sense that modern science has replaced them with different models, but they were scientific in that they attempted to explain observed phenomena, proposed mechanisms, and made testable predictions. History of Animals_sentence_66

Translations History of Animals_section_6

The Arabic translation comprises treatises 1–10 of the Kitāb al-Hayawān (The Book of Animals). History of Animals_sentence_67

It was known to the Arab philosopher Al-Kindī (d. 850) and commented on by Avicenna among others. History of Animals_sentence_68

It was in turn translated into Latin, along with Ibn Rushd (Averroes)'s commentary on it, by Michael Scot in the early 13th century. History of Animals_sentence_69

English translations were made by Richard Cresswell in 1862 and by the zoologist D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson in 1910. History of Animals_sentence_70

A French translation was made by Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire in 1883. History of Animals_sentence_71

Another translation into French was made by J. Tricot in 1957, following D'Arcy Thompson's interpretation. History of Animals_sentence_72

A German translation of books I–VIII was made by Anton Karsch, starting in 1866. History of Animals_sentence_73

A translation of all ten books into German was made by Paul Gohlke in 1949. History of Animals_sentence_74

Influence History of Animals_section_7

Further information: Aristotle's biology § Influence History of Animals_sentence_75

The comparative anatomist Richard Owen said in 1837 that "Zoological Science sprang from [Aristotle's] labours, we may almost say, like Minerva from the Head of Jove, in a state of noble and splendid maturity". History of Animals_sentence_76

Ben Waggoner of the University of California Museum of Paleontology wrote that History of Animals_sentence_77

Walter Pagel comments that Aristotle "perceptibly influenced" the founders of modern zoology, the Swiss Conrad Gessner with his 1551–1558 Historiae animalium, the Italian Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605), the French Guillaume Rondelet (1507–1566), and the Dutch Volcher Coiter (1534–1576), while his methods of looking at time series and making use of comparative anatomy assisted the Englishman William Harvey in his 1651 work on embryology. History of Animals_sentence_78

Armand Marie Leroi's 2014 book The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science and BBC documentary Aristotle's Lagoon set Aristotle's biological writings including the History of Animals in context, and propose an interpretation of his biological theories. History of Animals_sentence_79


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History of Animals.