I read that "anthropocentric" was first used in the debate about Darwin's On the Origin of Species, in the 19th century, but I'm lacking a source.

Can you cite one of the earliest uses of "anthropocentric" in English writing?

  • LMGTFY - 1838 Apr 28 at 23:17
  • @YosefBaskin — Not seeing what you’re saying here. Connect the dots, please? Apr 29 at 3:23
  • "Let me google that for you" suggests that someone is asking for research help without doing the heavy lifting or any at all. Apr 30 at 0:54
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin there is no verbatim quote here, "anthropocentric" occurs just in a paraphrase by David Kohn - so it doesn't prove at all that "anthropocentric" was used. A full text search on Darwin's works (including the notebooks from 1938) didn't yield any results, so I doubt Darwin himself used the term.
    – viuser
    May 2 at 18:58
  • Valid research there. May 2 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


The OED’s earliest example usage is at 1855:

1855    Evangelical Christendom 9 79/1    What great injury this anthropocentric mode of contemplation would inflict upon the Universities.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

You can see the cited text in the source document Evangelical Christendom, in an abstract by theologian Karl Hundeshagen

I could not find any earlier sources (other than periodical date artifacts as described by JEL in a nearby comment).

Earliest ever or not, though, it was before the 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species, so it would not have been used in a debate about that.

Perhaps something in the 1855 paper by Alfred Russel Wallace on the “introduction” of species — or some other early evolutionary thinking — sparked the debate, and the usage of anthropocentric.

  • It's really strange that "anthropocentric" was used as a pejorative against both theistic and materialistic world views...
    – viuser
    May 2 at 19:01

The first citation for 'anthropocentric' in OED is the 1855 volume of Evangelical Christendom, p 79, where the quotation in full reads

The just judgement of God will overtake the animalism of Ludwig Feuerbach, which undertakes to refine humanity by an improved mode of feeding it, and which, openly enunciated, would thus express itself:—"Man made God after his own image, after the image of man made he him." It is easy to imagine what great injury this anthropocentric mode of contemplation would inflict upon the great Universities, with reference to their highest aim.

Darwin is reported to have devised his theory of natural selection in 1838, and shared it with several other naturalists prior to writing it up and presenting it to the Linnean Society of London in 1858. The earlier 1855 reference to anthropocentric in Evangelical Christendom, however, is unconcerned with Darwin and his theory; it is, rather, a response to Feuerbach's critique of Christianity.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.