We are all familiar with the “march of progress,” the representation of evolution that depicts a series of apelike creatures becoming progressively taller and more erect before finally reaching the upright human form. Its emphasis on linear progress has had a decisive impact on public understanding of evolution, yet the image contradicts modern scientific conceptions of evolution as complex and branching.
This book is the first to examine the origins and history of this ubiquitous and hugely consequential illustration. In a story spanning more than a century, from Victorian Britain to America in the Space Age, Gowan Dawson traces the interconnected histories of the two most important versions of the image: the frontispiece to Thomas Henry Huxley’s Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature (1863) and “The Road to Homo Sapiens,” a fold-out illustration in the best-selling book Early Man (1965). Dawson explores how the recurring appearances of this image pointed to shifting scientific and public perspectives on human evolution, as well as indicated novel artistic approaches and advancements in technology.
“This book is, simply put, extraordinary. Gowan Dawson transforms this single image into a precise, broad-ranging, and original history of evolution and the popular understanding of it.”—George Levine, author of Darwin the Writer and Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the World
“Gowan Dawson examines two iconic images of human evolution, exploring in fascinating detail the complexities surrounding their creation and their unique impact on how evolution has been understood.”—Ian Tattersall, author of Understanding Human Evolution and Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins
“Monkey to Man shows how the visual image of human evolution was created and manipulated, revealing the many ways by which the origins of human beings have been established. Gowan Dawson is at the top of his game.”—Janet Browne, author of The Quotable Darwin and Charles Darwin: A Biography
“Gowan Dawson has unearthed a lost history of the iconic visual representation of evolution that began with T. H. Huxley in the 1860s: the march of human progress. His skillful analysis of skeletal images in books and museum exhibits is chock full of fascinating surprises.”—Bernard Lightman, author of Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences
“With unexpected twists and an epic cast of characters, Monkey to Man uncovers the surprising story behind the central icon of modern evolutionary science.”—James A. Secord, author of Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age