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1861h Ag/Evol


Matthew, P. The potato. Farmer’s Magazine, Ser. 3 Vol 20 (1861, Jul-Dec), pp.196-7

(Letter dated Aug 13)
Matthew describes his knowledge of potato growing.

The article originally appeared in the Mark Lane Express, before being copied in the Farmer’s Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture (Ireland) Saturday 31 August 1861, as well as in the Farmer’s Magazine as cited above.

Matthew starts by drawing an analogy with a whinstone (a black rock) and how different people might view it. Some might see little beyond its physical characteristics, others might see it in a more scientific light, while others might question whether it existed at all:

Yet while one sees the whinstone only as an object of resistance, hard, heavy, and opaque, another sees it as a non-vital heterogeneous congeries of points of attraction and repulsion of electric constitution, attracted together in a pretty firm aggregate—that it is of volcanic parentage of no great geological antiquity, and subject to the general law of gravitation; and a third sees it only as a mere phantasm of the mental Ego.

Matthew goes on to describe the various modes of reproduction that “genial Nature takes to continue the species”.

Matthew then considers pathogenic micro-organisms (“animalcule destroyers”), which play a positive role in the scheme of nature:

Indeed, these destroyers form a portion of the scheme of nature, calculated to keep (at least that keeps) organic life in the highest possible health and strength in accommodation to circumstances, sweeping away all defection from the highest perfection.

And in a footnote to this sentence:

See my work “Naval Timber and Arboriculture,” published more than 30 years ago, describing the law of the origin and fixity of species by natural competitive selection.

There is a reference once again to Matthew’s unorthodox views on electricity and the “vis vitae”:

Both soil and atmosphere are thus calculated to give a surfeit of food to the plant, and in the weakened state of the vis vitae induced by the formation of seed tubers and the loosening electricity, putrid disease takes place, and it becomes a prey to animalcule destroyers waiting the opportunity

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