Svend Mørk-Hansen (1852-1934)

Science populariser, chemical studies at the Polytechnical College, laboratory assistant, editor of Naturen og Mennesket [Nature and Man] 1889-97, headmaster of Viby Folk High School 1897-1900, library assistant at the State Library in Aarhus from 1901.

Svend Mørk-Hansen was an active science teacher, writer and translator from the 1870s, and in 1880 he established one of the first adult education initiatives directed at the working classes of Copenhagen. From 1882, he took part in the public education programme initiated by Studentersamfundet [the Society of Students]. Mørk-Hansen launched the popular science magazine Naturen og Mennesket in 1889. This monthly included articles by naturalists such as Eugen Warming, Carl Wesenberg-Lund, J.O. Bøving-Petersen and Amand Breitung, but to Mørk-Hansen’s great disappointment it failed to attract large audiences. During his editorship he wrote several pieces on human evolution in which he reported on new findings of prehistoric humans. He recognised the paucity of missing links between man and apes, but he found it most likely that they shared a common ancestor. In 1892, Mørk-Hansen discussed the relationship between Darwinism and Christianity. He made it clear that while natural selection was still much debated among scientists, practically all young naturalists supported the general theory of evolution. This did not, however, make him dismiss Christianity. According to Mørk-Hansen, the theory of evolution – as well as modern geology and astronomy – conflicted with strict orthodox Christianity and literal interpretations of Scripture, but it did not necessarily exclude a belief in God as the Creator of the universe. In line with the philosopher Rasmus Nielsen and liberal Grundtvigians he thus claimed that the theory of evolution was neither religious nor antireligious and predicted that the idea would soon be accepted among clergymen and folk high school teachers. In the beginning of the twentieth century this prediction was proven right. 

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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