|Early Family Background:
ancestor reported to be related to George Romanes was Hugh Rolmanus, from
Berwickshire, Scotland in 1539. In 1619 the name appears as Rolmanhous
and in 1778 the name had evolved to Romanes. In 1778 James Romanes
married Margaret Carrick. James became a merchant in Edinburgh, where
he started a small draper’s shop, which became very successful. The
business “Romanes and Peterson” is still a thriving establishment catering
to tourists from many countries around the world.
James and Margaret
had 12 children, but most of them died very young. One of the surviving
children was George John Romanes, who was born in 1807 in Smith Falls Ontario.
He attended Royal High School in Edinburgh and attended college at Edinburgh
University where he studied theology, graduating in 1826. George
Romanes became a minister and married Isabella Gair Smith in Beckwith Ontario
on August 12, 1835. A year later Isabella gave birth to one of their
John Romanes was born on May 23, 1848 in Kingston, Ontario Canada.
George was the fourth child out of five. James Romanes, his oldest
brother was born on August 4, 1836 in Smith Falls Ontario. He married
Margaret Wardrop in 1896 and died childless in Scotland on December 16,
1901. Robert Romanes, George’s second oldest brother was born on
December 29, 1838 in Smith Falls, Ontario and died at a very young age.
The third child was born on October 17, 1842 in Smith Falls, Ontario and
died unmarried in England in 1878. Georges younger sister Charlotte
Elizabeth Romanes was born in England and died unmarried in Scotland on
Soon after George’s
birth he was baptized into the families religion at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian
Church on June 13,1848. At the age of two his parents moved to Britain
and he never returned to Canada again. George’s father inherited
a family fortune in 1850 and resigned from Queen’s College to return to
Britain where he purchased a house at 18 Cornwall Terrace, Regents Park,
had a carefree, happy upbringing between continental visits to London and
Ross-Shire in the summers, and his family had become a general Christian
family. As a boy George had attended a prepatory school in London,
but after an attack of the measles he had to continue his education at
home. By the age of 17 Romanes had little formal education and his
parents sent him to a tutor to prepare him for college entrance to Brasenose
College in Oxford. George spent months in Heidelberg and other German
towns where he was frequently visited by his family and found his passion
for music and poetry. George also spent summers in Ross-Shire, Scotland
where he felt it was his second home.
George had thoughts
of following in his fathers foot steps in becoming a minister or taking
on holy orders in the Anglican church, but Charales Edmund Lister helped
change his view. Charales was a good friend of Romanes who went to
Cambridge and persuaded George to follow. In October of 1867 George
entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
died on January 19, 1871 right before he enter college in Cambridge.
His mother Isabella soon followed his father’s death only 12 years later
and died on January 2, 1883. When George entered college in Cambridge his
interests changed to natural sciences. George competed and won a
scholarship, taking honors in the Natural Science Tripos of 1870.
Romanes quickly dropped his ideas of holy orders and began to study medicine
and physiology. Typhoid fever struck Romanes in the spring of 1872
and this was when he wrote his successful Burney Prize Essay (1873) on
“Christian Prayer and General Laws.” A letter entitled “Nature” caught
Darwin’s attention, who quickly responded with a friendly note back to
Romanes. This began their lifelong friendship and an exchange of
many other letters. George and Darwin became intimate friends in
which Darwin eventually gave Romanes his notebooks on animal behavior.
Many of Romanes and Darwin’s letters are published in “The Life and Letters
of George John Romanes” by his wife Ethel Romanes, written after his death
and published in 1896.
Ethel, the only daughter of Andrew Duncan Esq of Liverpool on February
11,1879. For 11 years George and his wife lived in his childhood
home on Cornwell Terrace, which he inherited from his father. George
and his wife lived his last four years of winter at Oxford and in London,
but spent summers and early autumn in Ross-Shire, where for eight years
(1882-1890) he rented a house called “Geanies”, which belonged to a cousin
Captain Kenneth Murray of the 81st Regiment. The “Geanies” is where
George began to write his poetry. During his summers on the seacoast
George built a private laboratory equipped like a university where he did
a lot of his research.
fairly wealthy through out his whole life and he did not have to worry
about earning a living. The only part-time job Romanes ever held
was at University College in London where he did “research on nervous and
locomotor systems of medusae and echinoderms, which showed parallelism
in development of mental faculties of animals and man” (www.galenet.com).
The last 20 years of Romanes life was devoted to the study of invertebrate
George and Ethel
had two children a boy and girl. Their first child was Ethel Georgina
Romanes, who was born on February 19,1880. She became an Anglican
Nun, and died childless on August 26, 1914 of lung cancer. Their
second child was George Ernest Romanes, born in 1882. He married
Mina Alexandra Scott in 1905 in Cromarty, and died in 1910, he was survived
by children. In 1885 George had his first warning of illness, which
eventually incapacitated him and cut his career and work short. George
died on May 23,1894 of a brain tumor and was buried at Holywell Cemetery,
Oxford. Ethel Romanes died on March 30,1927 in Italy.
What is Animal Psychology?
are not machines
motivated, goal oriented, and have feelings
giving human qualities to animals
Method: the use of observational reports about animal behavior
by Analogy: A technique for studying animal behavior by assuming
that the same
mental process that occurs in the observer’s mind also occurs in the animals
was the first scientist in the field of animal psychology. Darwin
chose Romanes to carry on the aspect of his work, applying the theory of
evolution to the mind as Darwin applied it to the body.
Time Line Of Writings:
Evolution in Animals (1883)
Selection: An Additional Suggestion on the Origin of Species (1886)
Evolution in Man (1888)
- This applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to the development of the mind
and after Darwin (1890)
- This argued for the role of isolation in evolution
A Look at some of Romanes Books and Theory:
Animal Intelligence: (1881)
Was the first
book on comparative psychology, where animals and humans were compared.
Romanes wanted to promote animal intelligence as similar to humans.
Romanes derived his findings on animal intelligence from anecdotal observations
whose reports came from uncritical and untrained observers. Findings
also came through the technique of introspection by analogy. Romanes
collected data on behavior of protozoa, ants, spiders, reptiles, fish,
birds, elephants, monkeys, and domestic animals. Insects received
the most coverage in this book, there are almost 200 pages on insects.
His purpose was to show higher levels of animal intelligence and the similarities
they had to human intellectual functioning, through illustrating the continuity
in mental development. George wanted to show that there was “no difference”
between the acts of reasons performed by a crab and the acts of reason
performed by a human. This is when Romanes developed what he called
the “mental ladder”, which he showed various animal aspects in the order
of their degree of mental functioning. George Romanes found that
the nervous system of a jellyfish acted as a network of connected units.
If a jellyfish was poked in an area it would tighten up or contract around
the prodded area, this form of discovery was later revealed as the synapse.
ROMANES LADDER OF MENTAL FUNCTIONING
Levels of Intellectual Development
Use of tools
Recognition of pictures, understanding of words
Communication of ideas
Recognition of persons
Association by similarity
Association by contiguity
Starfish, Sea Urchins
Jellyfish, Sea Anemones
Consciousness, pleasure, pain
Mental Evolution in Animals: (1893)
This was George
Romanes final book and it was an attempt to relate animal instinct and
animal intelligence to evolution. One questioned discussed was whether
or not a learned skill can be inherited. Romanes theory was that
if an animal did an intelligent act, then the desire to repeat this skill
could be passed on.
first demonstrated that animals could show intelligence in Animal Intelligence.
Then Romanes tried to show that an animal that acts more advanced and humanlike
were higher on the evolutionary scale. Finally, he argued that language
could have appeared naturally, by natural selection.
to do his studies on the basis of hybrid sterility. He published
Physiological Selection: An Additional Suggestion on the Origin of Species.
He explained that it was obvious that reproductive isolation was more likely
to depend on the differences in chromosomal information than in the genetic
information. Romanes also believed there were barriers between species,
which protected them from infectious diseases; the two types are internal
and external. External barriers are hygienic measures and internal
barriers are each organism’s immune response.
clear up some problems faced with Darwin’s theories. He was able
to clear up the ideas on physiological selection. One of the most
significant barriers between closely related species would be the sterility
barrier. George Romanes used the example of height and eye color
and how on one knew what caused the different or same variations.
Romanes explained that a variation could happen and would make some organisms
more sterile with other members of the species, but may not affect the
somatic characteristics. This showed that from generation to generation
the cross of generations would result in a less fertile relationship.
George Romanes pointed out that successful variations seemed rare, but
possible. This type of evolution was call polytypic.
Final Words and Criticisms:
George Romanes is often
criticized because of his fine lines between the fact and subjective interpretation
of his data. Scientists also criticized Romanes’ deficiencies in
his data and research. Scientists do not favor his type of methods
used to study and collect data, such as the anecdotal method, which observations
could have been careless or biased and introspection by analogy because
the technique was eventually discarded. Even though Romanes work
does not match with modern science, Romanes is respected for his pioneering
efforts in helping and stimulating the development of comparative psychology
and helping to prepare the path for experimental studies of animal behavior.
It was George Romanes who first leaped into the giant step of observational
stages of comparative psychology.