2012  •  

Development before Darwin

Lead Presenter: Arjun Poudel

Development before Darwin -Arjun P. Poudel English Department This essay presents my interdisciplinary research, part of my work on a dissertation toward a Ph.D., on the pre-Darwinian history of the concepts of “development” and “evolution,” a history that I’ll argue is still highly relevant and useful for our understanding of social and historical change. What does it mean for something to become developed from a long-term historical perspective? How is evolution different from development from such a perspective? What does it mean to say that the West is developed and most of the Rest underdeveloped? Through a historical investigation into the concept of development that was applied to three scientific, architectural and legal landmarks of the Western Enlightenment, this essay demonstrates that the concept of development defined entrepreneurship and innovation long before it came to be applied to individual growth by biologists. The three landmarks are Christiaan Huygens’ invention of the pendulum clock based on his theory of the curvature of cycloid (an invention that helped rationalize the Western society as a whole), the Scottish architectural style introduced by Robert Adam and based on developed surface drawings, and the work of the US founding fathers collected in The Federalist Papers, work that has helped revolutionize state constitution and organization for over two centuries. I’ll demonstrate what I call the three different models of innovation inherent in the three above-mentioned landmarks to be based on three different topologies, namely temporal (isochrony), diagrammatic (metrical space) and textual (signification).