Charles Grant Blairfindie Allen (February 24, 1848 - October 25, 1899) was a Canadian science writer and novelist, and a proponent of the theory of evolution. Allen was born near Kingston, Canada West (known as Ontario after Confederation) - the second son of Catharine Ann Grant and the Rev. Joseph Antisell Allen, a Protestant minister from Dublin, Ireland.His mother was a daughter of the fifth Baron of Longueuil. He was educated at home until, at age 13, he and his parents moved to the United States, then to France and finally to the United Kingdom.He was educated at King Edward's School in Birmingham and at Merton College in Oxford, both in the United Kingdom.After graduation, Allen studied in France, taught at Brighton College in 1870-71 and in his mid-twenties became a professor at Queen's College, a black college in Jamaica.Despite his religious father, Allen became an agnostic and a socialist. After leaving his professorship, in 1876 he returned to England, where he turned his talents to writing, gaining a reputation for his essays on science and for literary works. A 2007 book by Oliver Sacks cites with approval one of Allen's early articles, 'Note-Deafness' (a description of what became known as amusia, published in 1878 in the learned journal Mind). His first books dealt with scientific subjects, and include Physiological Æsthetics (1877) and Flowers and Their Pedigrees (1886). He was first influenced by associationist psychology as expounded by Alexander Bain and by Herbert Spencer, the latter often considered[by whom?] the most important individual in the transition from associationist psychology to Darwinian functionalism. In Allen's many articles on flowers and on perception in insects, Darwinian arguments replaced the old Spencerian terms, leading to a radically new vision of plant life that influenced HG Wells and helped transform later botanical research. On a personal level, a long friendship that started when Allen met Spencer on his return from Jamaica grew uneasy over the years. Allen wrote a critical and revealing biographical article on Spencer that was published after Spencer's death. After assisting Sir W. W. Hunter in his Gazeteer of India in the early 1880s, Allen turned his attention to fiction, and between 1884 and 1899 produced about 30 novels. In 1895, his scandalous book titled The Woman Who Did, promulgating certain startling views on marriage and kindred questions, became a bestseller. The book told the story of an independent woman who has a child out of wedlock.In his career, Allen wrote two novels under female pseudonyms. One of these, the short novel The Type-writer Girl, he wrote under the name Olive Pratt Rayner. Another work, The Evolution of the Idea of God (1897), propounding a theory of religion on heterodox lines, has the disadvantage[original research?] of endeavoring to explain everything by one theory. This ghost theory was often seen[by whom?] as a derivative of Herbert Spencer's theory. However, it was well known and brief references to it appear in a review by Marcel Mauss, Durkheim's nephew, in the articles of William James and in the works of Sigmund Freud. The young G. K. Chesterton wrote on what he considered the flawed premise of the idea, arguing that the idea of God preceded human mythologies, rather than developing from them. Chesterton said of Grant Allen's book on the evolution of the idea of God it would be much more interesting if God wrote a book on the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen.
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