Adrian Desmond

Published On


Page Range

pp. 159–174


  • English

Print Length

16 pages

5. Perfectibility

  • Adrian Desmond (author)
With Reform Bill agitation leading to renewed labour activism, Richard Carlile showed his capitalist mettle by moving against the unions and co-operatives. Saull, supporting the co-operators, and acting as treasurer to the National Union of the Working Classes, became alienated from his old mentor. He was appalled at Carlile’s Malthusianism, which also sat ill with Sir Richard Phillips’ notion of the ‘pabulum’ providing adequately for all life at each geological revolution. Saull’s committee-work for co-operative associations are discussed as he developed his progressive palaeontology. When Robert Owen returned from America, a police spy reported that Saull was one of his best friends. The spy further revealed that in 1831 Saull leased Albion Hall as a platform for Owen to deliver his first London lectures. Saull’s relationship, as an Owenite, with his friend Henry Hetherington’s Owen-disdaining radicals is teased out, as is his mediating work with Hetherington’s NUWC fighting the “Taxes on Knowledge”. Saull’s reinvigorated Owenite, perfectibilist faith was now strengthening his geological understanding.


Adrian Desmond


Adrian Desmond was educated at University College London and Harvard University, where he was Stephen Jay Gould's first history of science PhD student. He has two MSc's, one in history of science, another in vertebrate palaeontology, and a PhD for his work on radical Victorian evolutionists. For twenty years he was an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London. He is the multi-award-winning author of nine books, which include: The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London, Darwin, Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple, Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest, Darwin’s Sacred Cause (with James Moore)