'Alexander Sutherland (1852-1902) was a polymath who at various stages in his very short life was among other things a teacher, poet, writer, artist, mathematician, musician, journalist, politician, philosopher, historian and scientist. He wrote several books, many short stories, innumerable journal and newspaper articles, at least two novels and produced dozens of paintings and sketches. He is the author of the first volume of the celebratory work Victoria and its Metropolis and with his younger brother George wrote the first best-selling textbook on Australian history. Overseas he was lauded by some of the best scientific minds of the nineteenth century for his most important and pioneering work entitled The Origin and Growth of the Moral Instinct. Despite such distinctions, Sutherland has not been the subject of serious study in over a century.
This article begins to address this issue by providing a very brief biography of Sutherland, with particular reference to his interpretation of Darwinian evolution as elaborated in his magnum opus. This article shows how Sutherland influenced Russian philosophical thought at the turn of the nineteenth century and attempts to argue that Sutherland's interpretation of Darwinian evolution had more in common with its Russian variation than with the popular British interpretation advanced by Thomas Henry Huxley, Herbert Spencer and others. This article concludes that Sutherland's rehabilitation is long overdue not just because he is a forgotten important and influential intellectual but because it sheds light on philosophical thought in Australia during this period. (Author's abstract)