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The singular impact of Darwin in fields other than biology can be attributed largely to one man, Herbert Spencer (1820- 1903). It was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the expression "survival of the fittest." Although neglected today except by historians of the nineteenth century thought, Spencer's influence on his own time was so great that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was able to wonder if "any writer of English except Darwin has done so much to affect our whole way of thinking about the universe." Herbert Spencer was born into a traditionally nonconformist English family of modest means. He refused a university education and trained for a career as a civil engineer. He was employed first as an engineer and later as an editor of the Economist, a publication advocating free trade. By 1853 his major ideas were fixed and he spent his remaining years systematizing and propounding them. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XV: Biology and the Rise of the Social Sciences. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.