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Gould Was Right

In response to:

Back to Evolution from the February 19, 1981 issue

To the Editors:

The aphorism “a hen is merely an egg’s way of making another egg” embodies one of the most fundamental truths in biology.

In my review of Stephen Jay Gould’s admirable The Panda’s Thumb [NYR, February 19] I chided the author for attributing this remark to Samuel Butler, saying that Butler, in his Notebooks, quoted it as a saying already well known and in common use. Perhaps Butler was too modest to say “as I have myself so wisely remarked…” because he refers to a well-known book by A.D. Darbishire entitled Breeding and the Mendelian Discovery and Darbishire himself attributes the same to Samuel Butler, so Gould was right after all. I am sorry.

P.B. Medawar

Harrow, Middlesex, England

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