The History of Animals
Format: Global Grey edition
Pages (PDF): 312
Publication Date: This translation by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, 1910
Available formats: Global Grey PDF
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The History of Animals is one of the major texts on biology by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, written in the fourth century BC. 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). The book is thus an attempt to apply philosophy to part of the natural world. The book 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. Some of these were long considered fanciful before being rediscovered in the nineteenth century. 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. He did however make somewhat uncritical use of evidence from other people, such as travellers and beekeepers.
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