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PECULIARITIES & THE MACABRE

Man Is But A Worm

Caricature of Charles Darwin 'Man Is But A Worm.' by a Punch Magazine Artist, c. 1881-1882.
Caricature of Charles Darwin, 'Man Is But A Worm', from Punch Magazine. 1

Endlessly fascinated by earthworms for most of his life, Charles Darwin finally culminated his interests in his last book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits. In it he describes an experiment testing the reaction of worms to sound by using a piano and other musical instruments.

“Worms do not possess any sense of hearing. [ ] “When placed on a table close to the keys of a piano, which was played as loudly as possible, they remained perfectly quiet.” He further added, “Although they are indifferent to undulations in the air audible by us, they are extremely sensitive to vibrations in any solid object. When the pots containing two worms which had remained quite indifferent to the sound of the piano, were placed on this instrument, and the note C in the bass clef was struck, both instantly retreated into their burrows.” [ 2 ]

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Page Sources

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[1]
Punch Magazine Artist, and uploaded by Pharos.  Caricuture of Charles Darwin 'Man Is But A Worm.'  1881/1882.  Punch Magazine or The London Charivari, London.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Nov. 2005.  Web.  30 Sept. 2015.  Public Domain.
[2]
Darwin, Charles.  The Formation of Vegetable Mould:  Through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits.  New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1862, pgs. 26 – 27.  Google Books.  Web.  29 Aug. 2015.
Additional References:
  • "Charles Darwin & Evolution 1809 – 2009."  Darwin200.Christs.Cam.  Christ’s College, Cambridge, 2009.  Web.  29 Aug. 2015.
  • "Charles Darwin and Earthworms."  Science Learn.  The University of Waikato, 12 June 2012.  Web.  29 Aug. 2015.
  • "Earthworms Activity."  DarwinProject.AC.UK.  Darwin Correspondence Project, University of Cambridge, n.d.  Web.  29 Aug. 2015.
  • Cameron, Julia Margaret, and uploaded by Davepape.  Portrait of Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) In His Later Years.  1868.  Reprint from Charles Darwin: 'His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters, edited by Francis Darwin,' London, 1892.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 15 Feb. 2008.  Web.  30 Sept. 2015.  Public Domain