Saturday, 6 March 2021

Heinrich Schacht (ca. 1584 to 1654), a catholic missionary disguised as a mousetrap peddler

The Jesuit monk Henricus Schachtius went on an undercover mission in protestant Sweden, in the guise of a mousetrap maker and peddler. The image below shows him with some classical mousetraps. There's a dome-shaped cage trap at the near edge of the table, an unfinished double box-trap at its left edge, and a planchette or "dragin trappe with a great wyar" behind the dome cage (see here for dragin traps). There are also some tools, pieces of wood and wire on the table. A double box-trap with unset trap doors is standing in the niche behind Schacht.

 

From Mathias Tanner (1694, Societas Jesu Apostolorum Imitatrix... pp. 794-796)

Giovanni Battista Veraldi, a protestant Italian musician serving at the Royal Court in Stockholm betrayed Heinrich Schacht together with Swedish catholics, Zacharias Anthelius and Georg Bähr. Veraldi had jealously reported them to the authorities in 1624, because Bähr had had a love affair with Veraldi's wife. In his defense, Bähr claimed at trial that the musician had been impotent for eight years. The trial involved further Swedes. Zacharias Anthelius, Georg Bähr Ursinus, Nicolaus Campanius, Henricus Schachtius and Arnold Johan Messenius were sentenced to death. As a foreigner, however, Schacht was pardoned and he returned to Hamburg. The juvenile Messenius was exiled to a fortress in Finland, where he died in 1636.

References

Sture Lagercrantz, 1987. The Jesuit priest Heinrich Schacht and his mousetraps.
Förutvarande Institutionen för Allmän och Jämförande Etnografi vid Uppsala Universitet. Occasional Papers XII, Varia III: pp. 20–29
.

A blog entry by Tommy Hansson with information on the trial in Sweden.

German edition of the Sociatas Jesu Apostolorum Imitatrix (entry on Schachtius: pp. 895-6).

Thursday, 31 December 2020

The Origin of Specious: misunderstandings about Patrick Matthew’s evolutionary thinking

by J.F. Derry & Joachim L. Dagg. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 131, Issue 3, November 2020, Pages 706–715.

This article is a vaccine against BS claiming that Patrick Matthew's (1831) mechanism of evolution was identical with Charles Darwin's. We find differences large enough to set Matthew apart from Darwin and Wallace. For example, catastrophes knocked out competition and hence competitive natural selection in Matthew's scheme, so that speciation (during his phase of ramification after catastrophes) took place in the absence of natural selection. However, Matthew is interesting in his own right as an intermediate source between Cuvierian catastrophism & species fixity on the one hand and species transformism (as of Buffon, Lamarck, Erasmus Darwin) on the other.

P.S.: The above link should get you through the paywall.


Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Remarks on the Improvement of Live Stock (Anonymous 1825)

Who was the author of the "Remarks on the Improvement of Live Stock" (1825)?

The question is interesting, because this anonymous author wrote:

"Simply procuring the best Males and Females, is not, therefore, the only requisite to insure success in breeding; selection of the proper animals for such a purpose is a sine qua non—THE JUDGEMENT OF THE BREEDER IN MAKING THIS SELECTION CONSTITUTES THE GREAT ART OF IMPROVING; his abilities to discern the good and bad qualities of the animal, and to cross judiciously with others possessed of different properties in such a manner as to eradicate the bad, requires much attention and experience, but when once acquired and followed up, seldom fails of producing the desired effect. Breeding IN and IN* from the most perfect animal, however closely allied, will be found far more advantageous, than changing and crossing animals remote from each other in the peculiar characters of breed, which too frequently produces stock scarcely worth rearing." (Remarks on the Improvement on Live Stock, p. 5, emphases original)

I got no further than determining that the printer, Henry Chubb, was a publisher located on Market Square in "Saint John" in New Brunswick.

Update (31.12.2020): Martin Köchy informed me that he found a review article of the above book spread over two issues of the New England Farmer (16 Nov 1827, Vol. 6, No. 17, p. 134 & 23 Nov 1827, Vol. 6, No. 18, pp. 142-43). As this review also does not mention the author's name, it is probably lost.

 

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Darwin's correspondence concerning Hooker's address to the British Association for the Aadvancement of Science (1881)

The correspondence between Darwin and Hooker, which concerns the latter's address for the 51st meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), delivered at York on 1 September 1881, has never been published as an ongoing discourse. However, the context usually turns out to be important in historical issues. Stitching together isolated quotes from decades apart and from various sources can easily lead to a patchwork of facts that biases their interpretation.

Therefore, this post is a transcription of the whole Hooker-Darwin correspondence on Hooker's BAAS-address. Both hands are very difficult to read and I had some help by Roland Jackson (@RolandJackson, author of The Ascent of John Tyndall) with some of Hooker's letters. When transcriptions already existed in the form of published collections of either Darwin's or Hooker's letters, I used them. As mentioned above, however, none of the available publications give this BAAS-1881 related correspondence between Darwin and Hooker in full. That is, available transcriptions lack a lot of context. The following transcriptions remain a cloze in places. However, the links to scans of the originals at Cambridge University are given before each transcript, so that readers can confer to them. Suggestions for missing words are welcome.


P.S.: On 20 August 1881, Hooker asked Darwin about a publication of Karl Ernst von Baer (1859. Ueber Papuas und Alfuren). Translations of the relevant passages of Baer's essay can be found in the previous post. Darwin's reply, on 21 August 1881, also refers to Leopold von Buch (1825. Physicalische Beschreibung der Canarischen Inseln; 1836 in French). Translations of the relevant passages of Buch can be found in an earlier post.


DarwinHooker Correspondence: Feb.–Sept. 1881

Uncertain words in square brackets: []. Illegible words indicated by 6 spaces: _____. [My own comments are in square brackets and in green.]

Darwin to Hooker, 26 Feb. 1881
Part transcript: More Letters of Darwin.

“My dear Hooker
It was a real pleasure to me to see your hand-writing again, for it is a long time since I have heard of you. What a bore about the [mumps]; but I am very glad that you will soon have complete rest & change, in which [latter] I have [unbounded] faith. I suppose that Lady Hooker goes with you & I hope she may enjoy herself. Pray give her my kindest [simpathy]. I had vaguely thought whether I would pay you a call at Kew, but thought that you would [firstly] be too busy, & it seems that you will be on the road before I could come.
I shd think that you might make a very interesting address on geograph. Distrib. [Could] you give a little history of the subject. I, for one, shd like to read such history in petto; but I can see one very great difficulty, that you yourself ought to figure most prominently in it; & this you would not do, for you are just the man to treat yourself in a dishonourable manner! I shd very much like to see you discuss some of Wallace’s views, especially his ignoring the all powerful effects of the Glacial period with respect to alpine plants. I do not know what you think, but it appears to me that he exaggerates enormously the influence of debacles or [slips] & new surface of soil being exposed for the reception of wind-blown seeds. What kinds of seeds have the plants which are common to the distant mountain-summits in Africa? Wallace lately wrote to me about the mountain-plants of Madagascar being the same with those on mountains in Africa, & seemed to think it proved dispersal by the wind, without apparently having inquired what sort of seeds the plants bore. I suppose it wd be travelling too far (though for geographical section the discussion ought to be far reaching) but I shd like to see the European or Northern element in the C. of Good Hope flora discussed. I cannot swallow Wallace’s view that European plants travelled down the Andes, tenated the hypothetical Antarctic continent (in which I quite believe), & thence spread to S. Australia & the Cape of G. Hope.
Mosley told me not long ago that he proposed to search at Kerguelen Land the coal beds most carefully, and was absolutely forbidden to do so by Sir W. Thomson, who said that he would undertake the work, and he never one visited them. This put me in a passion. I hope that you will keep your intention and make an address on distribution. Though I differ so much from Wallace, his “Island Life” seems to me a wonderful book.
Farewell. I do hope that you may have a most prosperous journey. Give my kindest remembrances to Asa Gray”

Hooker to Darwin, 12 June 1881

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Hooker (20 Aug 1881) asks Darwin about von Baer, Darwin (21 Aug 1881) replies about von Buch

The inquiry below was prompted by the following twitter-exchange:

---------
As shown in the previous post, Karl Ernst von Baer had, independently of Charles Darwin, taken patterns of the geographic distribution of organisms to indicate the mutability and common descent of species and varieties (Baer 1859, 74ff). Charles Darwin learned about this case from a publication of Rudoph Wagner (1861. Zoologisch-antropologische Unetrsuchungen) that gave excerpts of Baer's essay on the pages 50-52. He, therefore, added Baer to the Historical Sketch of the 4th edition of his Origin of Species (1866, p. xxi).

Joseph Dalton Hooker, in turn, asked Charles Darwin about Baer, on the occasion of preparing an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) about research on the geographical distribution of organisms to be delivered on 1 September 1881 in York. Hooker wanted to know whether anybody had used the idea of species mutability to explain the existence of representative species in very distant locations. In particular, he asked:
"Of all the followers of Latreille [he probably meant Lamarck], in the mutability of species any one of them use this in explanation of (see end) representative species in very distant locations? Von Baer, as you point out, was convinced by the facts of geog. distribution that all species were descended from one parent form, and I suppose must have been led to this by the phenomena of representation. Can you tell me if this was so? I d have no time to consult the Zoog. & Anthrop. Untersuch. [He meant the essay of Rudoph Wagner with the excerpts of Baer (1859) that Darwin (1866) had given as a source in his Historical Sketch.]

[Some parts omitted; "see end" above referred to the postscript below.]

P.S. What I want to know if any one ever suggested that the representative for an instance of an Azorean plant by a Canarian was due to their having in common parents the offspring of which diverged samely from the parent type but converged in those localities, either through both varying in the same direction or by one varying in the direction of the other." (Hooker to Darwin, 20 August 1881, my transcription with some help of Roland Jackson, author of The Ascent of John Tyndall)
That is, Hooker inquired about von Baer and about a peculiar situation where two species on two distant islands diverge from a parental form on the mainland, but in convergent directions. This combination of the name von Baer and mentioning of the Canaries must have evoked a memory of Leopold von Buch's Physical Description of the Canary Islands in Darwin, for he replied about von Buch rather than von Baer.
"My dear Hooker
I cannot aid you much or at all. I shd think that no one could have thought on the modification of species, without thinking of representative species.— But I feel sure that no discussion of any importance had been published on this subject before the Origin; for if I had known of it, I shd assuredly have alluded to it in the Origin, as I wished to gain support from all quarters. I did not then know of Von Buch’s view (alluded to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions). Von Buch published his “Isles Canaries” in 1836 and he here briefly argues that plants spread over a continent & vary, & the varieties in time come to be species. He also argues that closely allied species have been thus formed in the separate valleys of the Canary Islands, but not on the upper and open parts. [Marginalia written vertically at the left edge:] I could lend you Von Buch’s Book if you like: I have just consulted the passage. [End of marginalia] I have not Baers papers, but as far as I remember the subject is not fully discussed by him." (Darwin to Hooker, 21 August 1881, emphases added)
While Darwin could not have known Baer's essay of 1859, when he was writing his Origin of Species in 1858/9, he did take notes on the French translation of Buch's Descriptio Physique des Iles Canaries in his Notebook B (1837/8, p. 156 + 158, see here).

This raises the question why Darwin said that he did not know Buch's views in 1859?
1. Malcolm J. Kottler (1978. Annals of Science 35: 275-297, footnote 25) thought that Darwin had completely forgotten his reading and abstracting of the relevant passages of Buch's book.
2. Hugh Dower (2009. Darwin's Guilty Secret) believed that Darwin's statement was a conscious lie with the purpose to emphasize his originality to Hooker: "Darwin even told an unequivocal lie, in a letter to Hooker, about his not having known about Leopold von Buch's contribution to evolution theory, while the notebooks show that he did." (see also Dower's Appendix, here)
3. Neither Kottler nor Dower considered the context, in which Hooker had asked Darwin about von Baer + the Canaries. This offers the third possibility that Darwin confused the names of von Baer and von Buch in his reply. This would imply an intended sequence of mentioning Buch-Baer-Buch-Baer, however, rather than Buch-Buch-Buch-Baer (see bold font in above transcript).

Given that Hooker did not ask about von Buch in the first place and did not inquire into a priority issue in the second, it seems unlikely that Darwin was lying to Hooker on purpose, in order to diminish the importance of von Buch. In that case, he could simply have remained silent rather than dropping Buch's name in the first and then having to lie to his friend in the second. On the contrary, Darwin even offered Hooker to lend him his exemplar of Buch's book, which could have lead Hooker to include Buch into his BAAS address. In my opinion, Darwin's reply shows a considerable degree of confusion and/or senescence (he died in April 1882), but not necessarily dishonesty.

Anyway, the recorded Darwin-Hooker correspondence that relates to Hooker's BAAS address is completely void of any mention of von Buch except for the one by Darwin on 21 August 1881. Hooker's BAAS address, delivered on 1 September 1881 in York, does not mention Buch either, although a comprehensive review should have done so. Darwin's brother, Erasmus Alvey, died on 26 August 1881. Therefore, it seems likely that the time was too short and life too chaotic for the borrowing of the book and proper inclusion of Leopold von Buch in Hooker's BAAS address to come to pass. The next recorded letter in the Darwin-Hooker correspondence is a condolence (Hooker to Darwin 29 August 1881) and three days later Hooker already delivered his BAAS address in York.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Karl Ernst von Baer (1859) independently arrived at species modification and common descent

The very year that Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species, Karl Ernst von Baer published an essay that is remarkable in that it he also arrived at the conclusion that species can transform (though not in a teleological/Lamarckian way) and that common descent explains the patterns of geographic distribution of organisms (Baer 1859. Über Papuas und Alfuren. Ein Commentar zu den beiden ersten Abschnitten der Abhandlung Crania Selecta ex Thesauris Anthropologicis Academiae Imperialis Petropolitanae. Aus den Memoires de l'Académie Impériale des sciences de St.-Pétersbourg, Sixieme série, Sciences naturelles, Tome VIII, besonders abgedruckt).

Rudolph Wagner had quoted excerpts of Baer's essay in one of his own essays in 1861 (Zoologisch-anthroplgische Untersuchunge. Die Forschung über Hirn- und Schädelbildung des Menschen in ihrer Anwendung auf einige Proleme der allgemeinen Natur- und Geschichtswissnschaft. Göttingen: Verlag der Dietrichschen Buchhandlung. (Besonders abgedruckt aus dem neunten Bande der Abhandlungen der Königl. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen) and concluded:
"Man sieht, wie hier zwei verschiedene Naturforscher, Darwin und Baer, ohne von einander zu wissen, auf ähnliche Ideen kommen, nur dass dabei dieser [Baer] besonnener, limitierter zu Werke geht." (Wagner 1861, p. 52)

One sees, here, how two different naturalists, Darwin and Baer, arrive at similar ideas without knowing of each other, only that this one [Baer] goes about it more level-headed and restricted. (My translation)
Therefore, Charles Darwin (1866. ) added Baer to the Historical Sketch of the 4th edition of his Origin of Species saying:
"Von Baer, towards whom all zoologists feel so profound a respect, expressed about the year 1859 (see Prof. Rudolph Wagner, 'Zoologisch-Anthropologische Untersuchungen,' 1861, s. 51) his conviction, chiefly grounded on the laws of geographical distribution, that forms now perfectly distinct have descended from a single parent-form." (Darwin 1866, p. xxi)
By the way, this Rudolph Wagner was not Moritz Wagner with whom Darwin had a spat about Leopold von Buch. Moritz Wagner, ironically, embraced Buch just like Darwin had done many years before him (see previous post), but tried to champion Buch's as the better theory. In particular, Moritz Wagner insisted on the need of geographic isolation/ separation as a prerequisite to speciation. This later disagreement seems to go back to Darwin's principle of divergence, which allowed Darwin to regard isolation not as a necessary prerequisite but a facilitating factor.
      In the following quote of Baer's (1859) original, the excerpts that Wagner (1861) gave are highlighted. The page numbers are in the 70s for the offprint (Sonderdruck) and in the 300s for the periodical (Memoires de l'Académie). My English translation follows below the German original.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Leopod von Buch's Description of the Canary Islands impressed the young Charles Darwin

Darwin's Notebook B (1837-38), on the transmutation of species, states:
"Von Buch. — Canary Islands, French Edit. Flora of Islds very poor. (p. 145) 25 plants. St. Helena without ferns, analogous to nearest continent: poorness in exact proportion to distance (?) & similarity of type (?)" (Darwin 1837-38, p. 156)

"I can understand in one small island species would not be manufactured. but why they should be manu Does it not present analogy to what takes place from time? Von Buch distinctly states that permanent varieties become species p. 147, p. 150, not being crossed with others. — Compares it to languages. But how do plants cross? — — admirable discussion." (Darwin 1837-38, p. 158)
Leopold von Buch, Wikimedia commons, public domain

Leopold von Buch is undoubtedly a very important predecessor of Charles Darwin. It is, therefore, interesting to take a closer look at Buch's statements that influenced Darwin. Darwin's notes in his Notebook B (see quotes above) relate to Physicalische Beschreibung der Canarischen Inseln (Leopold von Buch 1825, p. 130 and 133f), which Darwin read in its French translation by C. Boulanger, Description Physique des Iles Canaries (Léopold de Buch 1836, p. 144f + 147ff). As German is my mother-tongue, I will depart from the original German passages and translate them into English.
"Der bekannte französische Naturforscher Du Petit Thouars fand auf der Insel Tristan d'Acunha in 37°21' südlicher Breite, und deren Spitzen sich in die Wolken verlieren, von phänerogamen Pflanzen nicht mehr als 25 verschiedene Arten, von denen einige an das Cap, andere an das beinahe gleich weit entfernt gelegene Amerika erinnern, und in St. Helena steigt ihre Anzahl, nach Roxburgh's (sic) Catalog, ebenfalls auf nicht mehr als 36 Arten." (von Buch 1825, 130)

The famous French naturalist Du Petit Thouars discovered no more than 25 species of phanerogamous plants on the island Tristan d'Acunha in 37°21' southern latitude, whose peaks trail off into the clouds, some of them are redolent of the Cap and others of the almost equally distant America. And on St. Helena their number rises to no more than 36 species according to Roxburgh's catalogue. (My translation)
The next passage from Buch (1825, 133f or 1836, 147ff) seems odd in that Buch first describes a process of species transformation on continents and thereafter seems to describe the identical process in closer detail for islands, yet he separates the two descriptions by the sentence "Nicht so auf Inseln" (Not so on islands), as if he was about to propose a very different process for islands. The only difference, however, is that the varieties on continents need to depart from each other spatially to vast distances, whereas the same isolation is supposed to be possible on much smaller spatial scales on islands.
"Die Individuen der Gattungen auf Continenten breiten sich aus, entfernen sich weit, bilden durch Verschiedenheit der Standörter (sic), Nahrung und Boden Varietäten, welche, in ihrer Entfernung nie von anderen Varietäten gekreuzt und dadurch zum Haupttypus zurückgebracht, endlich constant und zur eigenen Art werden. Dann erreichen sie vielleicht auf anderen Wegen auf das Neue die ebenfalls veränderte vorige Varietät, beide nun als sehr verschieden und sich nicht wieder miteinander vermischende Arten. Nicht so auf Inseln. Gewöhnlich in enge Thäler oder in den Bezirk schmaler Zonen gebannt, können sich die Individuen erreichen und jede gesuchte Fixirung einer Varietät wieder zerstören. Es ist dies ungefähr so, wie Sonderbarkeiten oder Fehler der Sprache zuerst durch das Haupt einer Familie, dann durch Verbreitung dieser selbst, über einen ganzen District einheimisch werden. Ist dieser abgesondert und isolirt, und bringt nicht die stete Verbindung mit andern die Sprache auf ihre vorige Reinheit zurück, so wird aus dieser Abweichung ein Dialekt. Verbinden natürliche Hindernisse, Wälder, Verfassung, Regierung, die Bewohner des abweichenden Districts noch enger, und trennen sie sie noch schärfer von den Nachbarn, so fixirt sich der Dialekt, und es wird eine völlig verschiedene Sprache. —
     Deswegen eben, ist es so wichtig, den Standort genau anzugeben, und zu bezeichnen, an welchem die Pflanzen auf den Inseln sich finden. Er hat fast jederzeit etwas Eigenthümliches. Ist er durch natürliche Hindernisse, durch Bergreihen, welche mehr scheiden, als bedeutende Entfernungen über dem Meer, von andern Orten sehr getrennt, so kann man immer dort ganz neue, in anderen Theilen der Insel nicht vorkommende Pflanzenarten erwarten. Vielleicht hat ein glücklicher Zufall, durch eine besondere Verbindung von Umständen den Saamen über die Berge gebracht. Sich selbst an der abgeschlossenen Stelle überlassen, wird dann auch hier im Laufe der Zeiten die aus den neuen Bedingungen des Wachstums entstandene Varietät zur eigenen Art, welche sich immer mehr von ihrer ersten ursprünglichen Form entfernt, je länger sie ungestört in dieser eingeschlossenen Gegend erhalten wird." (von Buch 1825, p. 133)

On continents, the individuals of a genus spread, depart far from each other, develop through the differences in the location, nutrition and soil varieties which, in their distance, never cross with other varieties and thus never get drawn back to the main type, eventually get constant and become their own species. They may then reach on another route, again, the also altered previous variety, both now as very different species that do no longer mix with each other. Not so on islands. Usually banished in steep valleys or narrow zones, the individuals can reach each other and destroy each sought fixation of a variety. This is similar to the oddities or mistakes in language that are first propagated by the head of a family and then, spread with the family itself, become native to a whole district. If the latter is separated and isolated, and if the first contact with others does not bring the language back to its previous purity, then the deviation will become a dialect. If natural barriers, forests, constitution, government connect the inhabitants of the deviant district and separate them even sharper from the neighbors, then the dialect will get fixed and it will become a completely different language. —
     Therefore, it is important to indicate the location/site/habitat exactly and to specify on which ones the plants on the islands can be found. It [the location] almost always has something peculiar. If it is isolated from other locations by natural barriers, mountain ranges, which separate more than considerable distances over the sea, then one can expect to find new plant species that do not occur in other parts of the island. Maybe a lucky coincidence has brought the seeds over the mountain range by some special combination of conditions. Left to their own in the isolated location, the variety that develops because of the new conditions of growth will, in the course of time, become an own species which departs the farther from its first original form the longer it remains undisturbed in this isolated area. (My translation)
The next passage from Buch (1825, 134 or 1836, 149) is significant because it shows that

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Did Darwin lie to Hooker in 1881?

[Update: See also the new publication at the Annals of Science.] 

This blog entry resulted from an e-mail discussion with Julian Derry (@JFDerry) on the occasion of Hugh Dower charging that Charles Darwin lied to his friend Joseph Hooker in a letter of 21 Aug. 1881 about his knowledge of Leopold von Buch's book on the Canary Islands. Darwin's letter to Hooker, 21 Aug. 1881, belongs to an ongoing correspondence between the two concerning an address that Hooker was to deliver at 1 Sept. 1881 during the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) in York. For some odd reason, this BAAS related correspondence between Darwin and Hooker has never been published in full. However, the context usually turns out to be important in historical issues. Stitching together isolated quotes from decades apart and from various sources can easily lead to a patchwork of facts that biases their interpretation. Therefore, a previous post provided a transcription of the whole Hooker-Darwin correspondence that concerned Hooker's BAAS-address of 1881.

The charge
On 21 August 1881, eight months before his death, Charles Darwin wrote to Hooker:
"I did not then know of Von Buch's views (alluded to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions)." (Darwin 1881, Aug 21. Letter to Hooker)
By "then" he meant the time when he was writing his book On the Origin of Species (1859). This statement of Darwin is false because Darwin's Notebook B (1837-38), on the transmutation of species, has the following entries:
"Von Buch. — Canary Islands, French Edit. Flora of Islds very poor. (p. 145) 25 plants. St. Helena without ferns, analogous to nearest continent: poorness in exact proportion to distance (?) & similarity of type (?)" (Darwin 1837-38, p. 156)

"I can understand in one small island species would not be manufactured. but why they should be manu Does it not present analogy to what takes place from time? Von Buch distinctly states that permanent varieties become species p. 147, p. 150, not being crossed with others. — Compares it to languages. But how do plants cross? — — admirable discussion." (Darwin 1837-38, p. 158)
Hugh Dower has taken this as proof that Darwin purposely lied to Hooker, in 1881, in order to deceive his friend about the originality of his book On the Origin of Species (see Dower's Appendix at patrickmatthew.com/hugh dower.html). Dower collected more evidence on Darwin and Buch showing that Darwin strongly disagreed with Buch's geological theory about Craters of Elevation. This was a Neptunist theory about the origin of craters, accounting for large craters through the upheaval of the Earth's crust into a bubble-like mass and its subsequent bursting and collapse at the summit. Darwin (1844. Geological observations on the volcanic islands visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle) had tried to bring Von Buch's theory into agreement with the opposite one that craters are the remains of volcanic eruptions but regretted having done so later. Hence, Darwin's disavowal of Von Buch's views on the geological origin of craters is irrelevant to the current issue of Buch's views on the origin of plant varieties and species.

Buch's original statements
Leopold von Buch is undoubtedly a very important predecessor of Charles Darwin. It is, therefore, interesting to take a closer look at Buch's statements that influenced Darwin. Darwin's notes in his Notebook B (see quotes above) relate to Physicalische Beschreibung der Canarischen Inseln (Leopold von Buch 1825, p. 130 and 133f), which Darwin read in its French translation by C. Boulanger, Description Physique des Iles Canaries (Léopold de Buch 1836, p. 144f + 147ff). As German is my mother-tongue, however, I will depart from the original German passages and translate them into English below.
"Der bekannte französische Naturforscher Du Petit Thouars fand auf der Insel Tristan d'Acunha in 37°21' südlicher Breite, und deren Spitzen sich in die Wolken verlieren, von phänerogamen Pflanzen nicht mehr als 25 verschiedene Arten, von denen einige an das Cap, andere an das beinahe gleich weit entfernt gelegene Amerika erinnern, und in St. Helena steigt ihre Anzahl, nach Roxburgh's (sic) Catalog, ebenfalls auf nicht mehr als 36 Arten." (von Buch 1825, 130)

The famous French naturalist Du Petit Thouars discovered no more than 25 species of phanerogamous plants on the island Tristan d'Acunha in 37°21' southern latitude, whose peaks trail off into the clouds, some of them are redolent of the Cap and others of the almost equally distant America. And on St. Helena their number rises to no more than 36 species according to Roxburgh's catalogue. (My translation)
The next passage from Buch (1825, 133f or 1836, 147ff) seems odd in that Buch first describes a process of species transformation on continents and thereafter seems to describe the identical process in closer detail for islands, yet he separates the two descriptions by the sentence "Nicht so auf Inseln" (Not so on islands), as if he was about to propose a very different process for islands. The only difference, however, is that the varieties on continents need to depart from each other spatially to vast distances, whereas the same isolation is supposed to be possible on much smaller spatial scales on islands.
"Die Individuen der Gattungen auf Continenten breiten sich aus, entfernen sich weit, bilden durch Verschiedenheit der Standörter (sic), Nahrung und Boden Varietäten, welche, in ihrer Entfernung nie von anderen Varietäten gekreuzt und dadurch zum Haupttypus zurückgebracht, endlich constant und zur eigenen Art werden. Dann erreichen sie vielleicht auf anderen Wegen auf das Neue die ebenfalls veränderte vorige Varietät, beide nun als sehr verschieden und sich nicht wieder miteinander vermischende Arten. Nicht so auf Inseln. Gewöhnlich in enge Thäler oder in den Bezirk schmaler Zonen gebannt, können sich die Individuen erreichen und jede gesuchte Fixirung einer Varietät wieder zerstören. Es ist dies ungefähr so, wie Sonderbarkeiten oder Fehler der Sprache zuerst durch das Haupt einer Familie, dann durch Verbreitung dieser selbst, über einen ganzen District einheimisch werden. Ist dieser abgesondert und isolirt, und bringt nicht die stete Verbindung mit andern die Sprache auf ihre vorige Reinheit zurück, so wird aus dieser Abweichung ein Dialekt. Verbinden natürliche Hindernisse, Wälder, Verfassung, Regierung, die Bewohner des abweichenden Districts noch enger, und trennen sie sie noch schärfer von den Nachbarn, so fixirt sich der Dialekt, und es wird eine völlig verschiedene Sprache. —
     Deswegen eben, ist es so wichtig, den Standort genau anzugeben, und zu bezeichnen, an welchem die Pflanzen auf den Inseln sich finden. Er hat fast jederzeit etwas Eigenthümliches. Ist er durch natürliche Hindernisse, durch Bergreihen, welche mehr scheiden, als bedeutende Entfernungen über dem Meer, von andern Orten sehr getrennt, so kann man immer dort ganz neue, in anderen Theilen der Insel nicht vorkommende Pflanzenarten erwarten. Vielleicht hat ein glücklicher Zufall, durch eine besondere Verbindung von Umständen den Saamen über die Berge gebracht. Sich selbst an der abgeschlossenen Stelle überlassen, wird dann auch hier im Laufe der Zeiten die aus den neuen Bedingungen des Wachstums entstandene Varietät zur eigenen Art, welche sich immer mehr von ihrer ersten ursprünglichen Form entfernt, je länger sie ungestört in dieser eingeschlossenen Gegend erhalten wird." (von Buch 1825, p. 133)

On continents, the individuals of a genus spread, depart far from each other, develop through the differences in the location, nutrition and soil varieties which, in their distance, never cross with other varieties and thus never get drawn back to the main type, eventually get constant and become their own species. They may then reach on another route, again, the also altered previous variety, both now as very different species that do no longer mix with each other. Not so on islands. Usually banished in steep valleys or narrow zones, the individuals can reach each other and destroy each sought fixation of a variety. This is similar to the oddities or mistakes in language that are first propagated by the head of a family and then, spread with the family itself, become native to a whole district. If the latter is separated and isolated, and if the first contact with others does not bring the language back to its previous purity, then the deviation will become a dialect. If natural barriers, forests, constitution, government connect the inhabitants of the deviant district and separate them even sharper from the neighbors, then the dialect will get fixed and it will become a completely different language. —
     Therefore, it is important to indicate the location/site/habitat exactly and to specify on which ones the plants on the islands can be found. It [the location] almost always has something peculiar. If it is isolated from other locations by natural barriers, mountain ranges, which separate more than considerable distances over the sea, then one can expect to find new plant species that do not occur in other parts of the island. Maybe a lucky coincidence has brought the seeds over the mountain range by some special combination of conditions. Left to their own in the isolated location, the variety that develops because of the new conditions of growth will, in the course of time, become an own species which departs the farther from its first original form the longer it remains undisturbed in this isolated area. (My translation)
The last passage from Buch (1825, 134 or 1836, 149) noted by Darwin (1837-38) is significant because it shows that Buch subscribed to the old doctrine that the conditions of life (e.g., soil, climate) produce varieties* and illustrates the lack of natural selection from Buch's scheme. This is important, because claims of Darwin's plagiarism or dishonesty tend to mix up the different parts of evolutionary theory. 
[...] welche Verschiedenheit in dem Pyrethrum, und dabei solche Aehnlichkeit, dass man sehr leicht geneigt wird, alle Arten dieser Gattung aus einem gemeinschaftlichen Stamme entsprungen zu glauben! Diese verschiedenen Arten finden sich fast nirgends vereinigt, sondern fast jede ist an ihr eigenes Thal, oder an ihren eigenen District gefesselt. Auch die Verschiedenheit der Cinerarien ist nicht so groß, dass man sie nicht für Erzeugnisse der Insel selbst halten könnte, welche durch Verschiedenheit des Standortes, Bodens und des Clima bewirkt worden sind." (Buch 1825, 134)

[...] what difference in the Pyrethrum, and what similarity at the same time, that one is easily inclined to believe that all these species arose from one stem! These different species were almost nowhere found together, but each is bound to its own valley or its own district. The difference between Cinerarien is also not too big to regard them as products of the island itself, which were caused through differences in the location, soil and climate. (My translation)
* [Darwin never completely rid himself of this doctrine, then established, now dated. He even began The Origin of Species stating: "WHEN we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety of our older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other, than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature. When we reflect on the vast diversity of the plants and animals which have been cultivated, and which have varied during all ages under the most different climates and treatment, I think we are driven to conclude that this greater variability is simply due to our domestic productions having been raised under conditions of life not so uniform as, and somewhat different from, those to which the parent-species have been exposed under nature." (Darwin 1859, p. 7)]

The full Darwin-Hooker correspondence on BAAS 1881 raises doubts
While the full correspondence between Darwin and Hooker concerning Hooker's BAAS-address does not exclude the possibility that Darwin purposely lied to Hooker, several things stand out as thwarting such a simple judgement.
 
1. Hooker never asked Darwin about Von Buch and never inquired about a priority issue.
2. Hooker instead asked Darwin about Von Baer, who had published an article in 1859 that came around to the same conclusion as Von Buch had much earlier. 
 
Darwin did not known about this article by Von Baer, when writing his Origin of Species in 1858-59. He might even have mixed up the names of Buch and Bear once, when he denied having known "Von Buch's views" while writing the Origin. But this is just a speculation. While it would render Darwin's statement a true "I did not then know Von Baer's views," it would at the same time require Darwin to jump from mentioning Buch to Baer to Buch to Baer (instead of Buch, Buch, Buch, Baer; see transcription below).
3. Buch's scheme of a natural origin of varieties and species did not include an idea of competition or natural selection as preserving favorable varieties. Why should Darwin deny knowledge of Von Buch, when he readily credited "the elder" (Augustine Pyramus) De Candolle's far closer call to natural selection in the main text of the 1st edition of On the Origin of Species (Darwin 1859, 65), that is, even before the Historical Sketch has been added. Augustin De Candolle had stated:
"Toutes les plantes d'un pays, toutes celles d'un lieu donné, sont dans un état de guerre les unes relativement aux autres. Toutes sont douées de moyens de réproduction et de nutrition plus ou moins efficaces. Les premières qui s'établissent par hasard dans une localité donnée, tendent, par cela même qu'elles occupent l'espace, à en exclure les autres espèces: les plus grandes étouffent les plus petites; les plus vivaces remplacent celles dont la durée est plus courte; les plus fécondes s'emparent graduellement de l'espace que pourraient occuper celles qui se multiplient plus difficilement." (De Candolle 1820, 26)

All the plants of a country, all those of a given location, are in a state of war with each other. All are endowed with means of reproduction and nutrition more or less effective. The first that establish themselves by chance in a given location, tend, by the mere fact that they occupy the ground, to exclude other species: the biggest stifle the smaller; the more perennial replace those with a shorter duration; the most fertile gradually seize the space that could otherwise be filled by slower multiplying ones. (My translation)
4. Hooker's issue was about representative species. Species on islands represent larger taxa on the mainland. That is, they belong to the same taxon but there are far fewer (often only one) species of that taxon on the islands than on the mainland. Hooker inquired whether Darwin knew of any case of representative species on different islands diverging from the parental form on the mainland, but in convergent directions. He suggested that the Canaries and the Azores might be the proper islands where such a case of convergent divergence could be expected. This combination of Hooker mentioning Von Baer and the Canaries seems to have prompted Darwin to remember Von Buch's work on the Canaries and his garbled reply to Hooker. Anyway, Hooker did not pick up Darwin's hint to Buch in his address to the BAAS in York.

Transcription of correspondence between C. Darwin and J.D. Hooker, February – September 1881

Uncertain words in square brackets: []. Illegible words indicated by 6 spaces: _____.

Darwin to Hooker, 26 Feb. 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00509
Part transcript: More Letters of Darwin.

“My dear Hooker
It was a real pleasure to me to see your hand-writing again, for it is a long time since I have heard of you. What a bore about the _____ ; but I am very glad that you will soon have complete _____ & change, in which [latter] I have un… faith. I suppose that Lady Hooker goes with you & I hope she may enjoy herself. Pray give her my kindest _____ . I had vaguely thought whether I would pay you a call at Kew, but thought that you would _____ be too busy, & it seems that you will be on the road before I could come.
I shd think that you might make a very interesting address on geograph. Distrib. [Could] you give a little history of the subject. I, for one, shd like to read such history in petto; but I can see one very great difficulty, that you yourself ought to figure most prominently in it; & this you would not do, for you are just the man to treat yourself in a dishonourable manner! I shd very much like to see you discuss some of Wallace’s views, especially his ignoring the all powerful effects of the Glacial period with respect to alpine plants. I do not know what you think, but it appears to me that he exaggerates enormously the influence of debacles or [slips] & new surface of soil being exposed for the reception of wind-blown seeds. What kinds of seeds have the plants which are common to the distant mountain-summits in Africa? Wallace lately wrote to me about the mountain-plants of Madagascar being the same with those on mountains in Africa, & seemed to think it proved dispersal by the wind, without apparently having inquired what sort of seeds the plants bore. I suppose it wd be travelling too far (though for geographical section the discussion ought to be far reaching) but I shd like to see the European or Northern element in the C. of Good Hope flora discussed. I cannot swallow Wallace’s view that European plants travelled down the Andes, tenated the hypothetical Antarctic continent (in which I quite believe), & thence spread to S. Australia & the Cape of G. Hope.
Mosley told me not long ago that he proposed to search at Kerguelen Land the coal beds most carefully, and was absolutely forbidden to do so by Sir W. Thomson, who said that he would undertake the work, and he never one visited them. This put me in a passion. I hope that you will keep your intention and make an address on distribution. Though I differ so much from Wallace, his “Island Life” seems to me a wonderful book.
Farewell. I do hope that you may have a most prosperous journey. Give my kindest remembrances to Asa Gray”

Hooker to Darwin, 12 June 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00104-00150

“Dear Darwin,
can you [conveniently] send me a few plants of [Oxalis corniculata] – to grow – we are quite out of it. & you have plenty near you. I am groaning as usual, – now under the incubus of the Sectional Presidency of the B. A. in York (Geography), which I was ass enough to accept because of Lubbock. Kew is [becoming] [more] [toilsome] than [ever], & I can [rarely] get an [hour] for “Genera plant.m,” which I have been doing the Palms for 16 months at least; the most difficult task I ever undertook. They are evidently a very ancient group & much dislocated structurally and geographically.
     My wife is vastly the better for her Italian trip, though the good of it is [not] likely to [last] long under the hurry & worry of this “Home of ______ of all natives” - She is [inquiring] about a farm house at Knock-[holt] to take the children to in autumn. Should she fail in her ______ she may ask Mrs Darwin if she knows of any place for them in your neighbourhood.
Ever affectedly, Joseph Hooker”

Darwin to Hooker, 15 June 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00513/1

“My dear Hooker
it was [real] pleasure to me to see once again your well-known hand-writing on the [outside] of your [note]. I do not know how long you have returned from [Italy], but I am very sorry that you are so bothered [always] with work & visits. I cannot but think that you are too kind & civil to visitors, & too conscientious about your official work. But a man cannot cure his virtues anymore than his vices, after early growth, so you must bear your burthen. It is, however, a [great] misfortune for science that you have so very little spare time for the Genera. I can well believe what an awful job the Palms must be.
Even their size must be very inconvenient. You & Bentham must hate the monocotyledons, for what work the [Orchideae] must have been & Graminaceae & Cyperaceae will be.
I am rather despondent about myself & my troubles [are] of an exactly opposite nature to yours, for idleness is downright misery to me, as I find here, as I cannot forget my discomfort for an hour. I have not the heart or [strength] at my age to begin any investigation, lasting years, which is the only thing, which I enjoy; & I have [no] little jobs which I can do. So I must look forward to Down [grave-yard] as the sweetest place on this Earth.
This place is magnificently beautiful & I enjoy the scenery, though weary of it; & the weather has been very cold & almost always hazy. I am so glad that your tour has [answered] for Lady Hooker. I doubt whether Knock-[holt] wd be a pleasant place: it is about [800] ft higher & much [exposed] to all the winds of [Heaven]. We return [home] in the first week of July & shd be truly [glad] to aid Lady Hooker in any [possible] manner which she will suggest.
I have written to my gardener to send you plants of Oxalis corniculata (& seeds if possible): I shd think so [common] a weed was never [asked] for before. & what a poor [return] for the hundreds of plants which I have [received] from Kew!
I hope that I have not bothered for writing so long a [post]; & I did not intend to do so. If Asa Gray has returned with you, [please] give him my kindest [remembrances]. [Frank] is working under De Berg whom he likes very much, [at Strasburg] & [seems pretty happy].
______ ______ friend, Charles Darwin”

Hooker to Darwin, 18 June 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00104-00152.

“Dear Darwin,
Common as you [may], regard Oxalis corniculata, it was not what I intended to ask for, but a commoner, the wood-sorrel! [O. acetosella]. I had no idea you were away from home. I fear I have bothered you in vain by stupidly asking for the wrong plant (it has not [come] yet). However I cannot regret having got so long a letter from you, & with something of yourself in it too. I quite understand your misery at finding yourself when you have “all [play]” offered you, & no work to fall back upon! I should be as bad; but then I know not the condition. When I go away I have work that I can always take with me, official or other: & my misery is the lots accumulating at home. I cannot tell you how I long to throw off the trammels of official [life] & do like Bentham: it is horrid at 63, after 42 years of Public Service too, to have to work [as a pot boiler] over & above official hours. – but then it is my own fault. A man who marries & has a family [late] in life must pay for it.
I hear [that] Grey is dying. Mr & Mrs [Symonds] (my wifes parents) are here, & [insist] on the children going to them in the holidays so that we shall not want [Emma quartered] at Knock[holt] or ______ ______ poor Rolleston is dead. His wife is I hear suffering from acute mania, but some at any rate of her medical attendants regard it as temporary. They have 4 children, & the eldest only 17. We have lost no end of friends this year, & it is difficult to resist the [pessimist] view of creation, when I look back however, & especially my beloved friend to the days I have spent in intercourse with you & yours, that view takes wings to itself flies away: it is a horrid world [to be sure], but it could have been worse.
I am ______ ______ about my address for York: of which I fear you will [hear] more than you [wish] cure for [doing] incubation.”


Darwin to Hooker, 20 June 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00516.

“My dear Hooker,
your letter has cheered me, and the world does not look a quarter so black as it did when I wrote before. Your friendly words are worth their weight in gold.
I ______ you [have] got Ox. acetosella by the time if not, despatch the enclosed card & you will receive specimens. – I do not believe Ox. acetosella will even grow long except in [the] [dense], shade, – a fact which agrees with [Batelius’] experiments on the movement of the leaflets, given in my last book. – Tear up my [card], if plant not wanted, & do not acknowledge [receipt]. I am very sorry to learn about [Rolleston] & Gray – the former is a horrid case. I liked much the little I ever saw of him. This morning we heard of the death (a blissful release from suffering) of Mc [Lennan], who has left uncompleted a book more valuable, [perhaps], than Primitive [marriage]. Your address must be a horrid bore, the whole subject of Geographical Distribution has been a frightfully big one. – I wish I cd be of any [use] to you; but that’s out of the question, as [the] subject has gone much out of my mind. You ought to keep steadily before your mind, what a splendid [amount] of grand work you have done.
Ever yours affectionately, Charles Darwin”

Hooker to Darwin, 4 August 1881
From Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (pp. 223ff).

“Dear Darwin
I am groaning over my address to York after a fashion with which I have more than once bored you awfully. – Now do believe me when I say that it is an unspeakable relief to me to groan towards you; – & I will have done.
I am trying to formulate my ideas on the subject of the several stages of discoveries or ideas by which the Geog. Distrib. (of plants) has been brought up to be a science & to its present level, & showing that these stages have all been erected on ideas first entertained by great voyagers of travellers, thus “hitching” myself on to the sympathies of a geographical audience! Something in this following sort of way:
1. Tournefort’s enunciation of the likeness between the vegetation of successive elevations and degrees of latitude: the true bearings of which have come out only now that we know that said vegetations are affiliated in fact as well as in appearance.
2. Humboldt’s showing that great Natural Orders, Gramineae, Leguminosae, Compsitae, etc., are subject to certain laws of increase or decrease relatively to other plants, in going polewards (in both hemispheres) and skywards. I should also refer parenthetically to his construction of the isothermals as so great an engine towards the advancement of Geog. Bot.
          Now will you give me your idea as to whether I should be right in calling Humboldt the greatest of scientific travellers, or only the most accomplished, – or most prolific? It is the custom to disparage Humboldt now as a shallow man, but when I think of what he did through his own observations during travel, for Geographical distribution of plants, for Meteorology, for Magnetism, for Topography, for Physical Geography and Hydrography, for Ethnology, for political history of Spanish America and for Antiquity of Mexico—besides the truth and picturesqueness of his descriptions of scenery and all else—I am constrained to regard him as the first of scientific travellers; do you? This is however a digression.
3. Lyell’s showing that distribution is not a thing of the present only or of the present condition of climates and present outline and contours of lands, and Forbes’ Essay on the British Flora.
4. The establishment of the permanence since the Silurian period of the present continents and oceans. Were you not the first to insist on this, or at least point this out? Do you not think that Wallace’s summing up of the proof of it is good? (I know I once disputed the doctrine, or rather could not take it in—but let that pass!)
5. The Evolution theory.
6. The discovery of fossil warm plants in high Northern regions, leading to exact ideas as to effect of glacial period as shown by Gray’s Essay.
7. I must wind up with the doctrine of general distribution being primarily from North to south and always along existing continents, with no similar general flow from S to N.—thus supporting the doctrine which has its last expression in Dyer’s Essay read before the Geog. Soc., and referred to in my last R.S. Address (1879, p. 15). Now if this is accepted, we may not too hastily throw overboard Saporta’s doctrine of the boreal origination of the main types of vegetation; and if this again is accepted we cannot altogether neglect Buffon’s argument that vegetation should have commenced where the cooling globe was first cold enough to support it, i.e. at a pole; and lastly, if this is accepted I must bring in Buffon’s speculation in its proper chronological order, and put it as No. 2 of the stages that have led up to our state of knowledge. But I am disposed to regard Saporta’s and Buffon’s views as too speculative for that and to introduce them at the end. What do you think of this point, and of it all?
            It is not even on paper, and how I am to get it all in shape before the end of the month passes my limited powers of prevision.
            I have to take some part in this Congress [the Internal Medical Congress held in London, in August 1881], and by request give a Garden Party on Saturday—it will be a dreadful ordeal I fear (except it rains!).”

Darwin to Hooker, 6 Aug. 1881
From Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. 3, p. 246ff

“MY DEAR HOOKER,—For Heaven's sake never speak of boring me, as it would be the greatest pleasure to aid you in the slightest degree and your letter has interested me exceedingly. I will go through your points seriatim, but I have never attended much to the history of any subject, and my memory has become atrociously bad. It will therefore be a mere chance whether any of my remarks are of any use.
Your idea, to show what travellers have done, seems to me a brilliant and just one, especially considering your audience.

1. I know nothing about Tournefort’s works.
2. I believe that you are fully right in calling Humboldt the greatest scientific traveller who ever lived. I have lately read two or three volumes again. His Geology is funny stuff; but that merely means that he was not in advance of his age. I should say he was wonderful, more for his near approach to omniscience than for originality. Whether or not his position as a scientific man is as eminent as we think, you might truly call him the parent of a grand progeny of scientific travellers, who, taken together, have done much for science.
3. It seems to me quite just to give Lyell (and secondarily E. Forbes) a very prominent place.
4. Dana was, I believe, the first man who maintained the permanence of continents and the great oceans. … When I read the Challenger’s conclusion that sediment from the land is not deposited at greater distances than 200 to 300 miles from the land, I was much strengthened in my old belief. Wallace seems to me to have argued the case excellently. Nevertheless, I would speak, if I were in your place, rather cautiously; for T. Mellard Reade has argued lately with some force against the view; but I cannot call to mind his arguments. If forced to express a judgment, I should abide by the view of approximate permanence since Cambrian days.
5. The extreme importance of the Arctic fossil plants, is self-evident. Take the opportunity of groaning over [our] ignorance of the Lignite Plants of Kerguelen Land, or any Antarctic land. It might do good.
6. I cannot avoid feeling sceptical about the travelling of plants from the North except during the Tertiary period. It may of course have been so and probably was so from one of the two poles at the earliest period, during Pre-Cambrian ages; but such speculations seem to me hardly scientific, seeing how little we know of the old Floras. I will now jot down without any order a few miscellaneous remarks.

I think you ought to allude to Alph. De Candolle's great book, for though it (like almost everything else) is washed out of my mind, yet I remember most distinctly thinking it a very valuable work. Anyhow, you might allude to his excellent account of the history of all cultivated plants.
How shall you manage to allude to your New Zealand and Tierra del Fuego work? if you do not allude to them you will be scandalously unjust.
The many Angiosperm plants in the Cretacean beds of the United States (and as far as I can judge the age of these beds has been fairly well made out) seems to me a fact of very great importance, so is their relation to the existing flora of the United States under an Evolutionary point of view. Have not some Australian extinct forms been lately found in Australia? or have I dreamed it?
Again, the recent discovery of plants rather low down in our Silurian beds is very important. Nothing is more extraordinary in the history of the Vegetable Kingdom, as it seems to me, than the apparently very sudden or abrupt development of the higher plants. I have sometimes speculated whether there did not exist somewhere during long ages an extremely isolated continent, perhaps near the South Pole.
Hence I was greatly interested by a view which Saporta propounded to me, a few years ago, at great length in MS. and which I fancy he has since published, as I urged him to do—viz., that as soon as flower-frequenting insects were developed, during the latter part of the secondary period, an enormous impulse was given to the development of the higher plants by cross-fertilization being thus suddenly formed.
A few years ago I was much struck with Axel Blytt's* [*See footnote, Vol. iii. p. 215.] Essay showing from observation, on the peat beds in Scandinavia, that there had apparently been long periods with more rain and other with less rain (perhaps connected with Croll's recurrent astronomical periods), and that these periods had largely determined the present distribution of the plants of Norway and Sweden. This seemed to me a very important essay.

I have just read over my remarks and I fear that they will not be of the slightest use to you.
I cannot but think that you have got through the hardest, or at least the most difficult, part of your work in having made so good and striking a sketch of what you intend to say; but I can quite understand how you must groan over the great necessary labour.
I most heartily sympathise with you on the successes of B. and R.: as years advance what happens to oneself becomes of very little consequence, in comparison with the careers of our children.
Keep your spirits up, for I am convinced that you will make an excellent address.
Ever yours affectionately, CHARLES DARWIN”

Hooker to Darwin, 11 Aug. 1881
From Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (pp. 225ff).

“My dear Darwin,
Your letter and memos have been unspeakable comforts—for I was beginning to despair of making any Address anything but a budget of snippets of facts and ideas, and you have both helped and encouraged me to give one part of it at any rate a consecutive scientific character.
            Then too the revival of our scientific correspondence and interchange of ideas is extraordinarily pleasing to me, who regard myself as your pupil.
            I am indeed glad that your old appreciation of Humboldt is no more dimmed than is mine. I have been re-reading all his Geog. Bot. Essays, and it is impossible to deny their supreme ability and approach to originality. I wish I had time to write, and space to give to all I thing of them—his ‘Distribution Arithmetices’ of the great groups, expressed in definite proportions, is a stroke of originality, if not of genius, and I have called it a sort of parallel (?) (I can’t find a good word!) to his Isothermal lines.
            I cannot find a reference to the permanence of continents in your ‘Coral Reefs’ – a book by the way that shook my confidence in that theory more than all others put together, and the effect of which it has required years of thought to eliminate or rather to overlay. I thought the idea was first published in your ‘Geological Observations,’ of which I cannot find my copy (but shall). Any of Dana’s works must have been long after both. Where does he ‘reclaim,’ and where does J. Mellard Reade publish his vies? I may have long cogitated over the fact that the main water parting Asia is not coincident with the greater elevations of that continent but runs obliquely from S.W. to N.E., and I sometimes determined by huge sedimentary deposits as in Upper India, at others by very low mountains—does this not imply vast oscillations over an already formed land of continental extension?
            I am doubtful about going into the Flora of part ages, beyond the Tertiary. I quite believe in the sudden development of the mass of Phanerogams being due to the introduction of flower-feeding insects, through we must not forget that insects occur in the coal and may have been flower-feeding too.
            I have dealt with Saporta’s view of the polar origin of Floras in my last R.S. Address. I hope we may talk over them and many other such matters when too late for my Address!
            It appears to me that the great Botanical question to settle is, whether the main endemic Southern temperate types originated there and spread Northwards, or whether they originated in the North and have only just reached the South, and have increased and multiplied there (to be turned out in time by the Northern perhaps). The balance of evidence seems to favor the latter view, and if Palaeontologists are to be believed in crediting our tertiaries (even polar ones?) with Proteaceae, it would tend to confirm this view, as do the Cycadeae, not about extinct in the N. Hemisphere and swarming in the South.
            Buffon’s and Saporta’s views of life originating at a pole, because a pole must have first cooled low enough to admit of it, is perhaps more ingenious than true—but is there any reason opposed to it? If conceded, the question arises, did life originate at both Poles or one only? Or if at both was it simultaneously? – but this is the deepest abyss of idle speculation.
Ever yours affecly. J. D. Hooker”

Darwin to Hooker, 12 August 1881
https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00524.

“My dear Hooker
I can answer hardly any of your questions, but am able to send you by this post Blytt’s first essay, which [please] at [some] [time] return. – My memory [failed] me; I can find nothing about permanence of continents or oceans in my [Coral] Book; but as in [1st edit.] of Origin (p. 309) when I allude to the subject I refer to [Coral] [Reefs], this, I suppose, [deceived] my memory. I am almost sure that Dana’s letter was in Nature, I think in the current year. [Reade’s] article, I believe, was in the Geological Mag., but as I resolved never again to [write] on [such a] difficult subject, I unfortunately kept no record & read the articles merely for amusement.
I think that I must have expressed myself badly about Humboldt. I should have said that he was more remarkable for his astounding knowledge than for originality. I have always looked at him as, in fact, the founder of the geographical distribution of organisms. I thought that I had read that extinct fossil plants belonging to Australian forms had lately been found in Australia, and all such cases seem to me very interesting, as bearing on development.
I have been so astonished at the apparently sudden coming in of the higher phanerogams, that I have sometimes fancied that development might have slowly gone on for an immense period in some isolated continent or large island, perhaps near the South Pole. I poured out my idle thoughts in writing, as if I had been talking with you.
No fact has so interested me for a heap of years as your case of the plants on the equatorial mountains of Africa; and Wallace tells me that some one (Baker?) has described analogous cases on the mountains of Madagascar (398/1. See Letter 397, note.)...I think that you ought to allude to these cases.
I most fully agree that no problem is more interesting than that of the temperate forms in the southern hemisphere, common to the north. I remember writing about this after Wallace’s book appeared, and hoping that you would take it up. The frequency with which the drainage from the land passes through mountain-chains seems to indicate some general law—viz., the successive formation of cracks and lines of elevation between the nearest ocean and the already upraised land; but that is too big a subject for a note.
I doubt whether any insects can be shown with any probability to have been flower feeders before the middle of the Secondary period. Several of the asserted cases have broken down. Your long letter has stirred many pleasant memories of long past days, when we had many a discussion and many a good fight.”

Hooker to Darwin, 20 Aug. 1881
https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00104-00162.

“Dear Darwin
Just a few last words before I commit my vaporings to the public. Of all the followers of Latreille, in the mutability of species any one of them use this in explanation of (see end) representative species in very distant [locations]? Von Baer, as you point out, was convinced by the facts of geog. distribution that all species were descended from one parent form, & I suppose must have been led to this by the [phenomena] of representation. Can you tell me if this was so? I d have no time to consult the Geog. & Anthrop. of ______ .
            I find that Dana was the first (of all I have yet found), who [broached] the [doctrine] of permanence of position of ______ Continents. You somewhere do the same for ______ Oceans,
& I read it lately, but for the life of me cannot turn the passage up. Also in the origin you imply this. But I do not know anyone except Wallace who has summed up all the arguments for it; & marshalled them with convincing force. I know Blytt’s paper & have it, & thought at the time very highly of it, & my opinion is strengthened by reperusal. I gave a sketch of it as the last advance towards a knowledge of the laws of geograph. distributn. I shall return your copy soon with thanks.
            Josph Hooker

P.S. What I want to know if any one ever suggested that the [representative] [for] an instance of an Azorean plant by a Canarian was due to their having in common parents the offspring of which diverged [samely] from the parent type but converged in those [localities], either through both varying in the same direction or by one varying in the direction of the other.”

Darwin to Hooker, 21 Aug. 1881
From: More letters of Charles Darwin, vol. 2.
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00528/1.

“My dear Hooker
I cannot aid you much or at all. I shd think that no one could have thought on the modification of species, without thinking of representative species.— But I feel sure that no discussion of any importance had been published on this subject before the Origin; for if I had known of it, I shd assuredly have alluded to it in the Origin, as I wished to gain support from all quarters. I did not then know of Von Buch’s view (alluded to in my Historical Introduction in all the later editions). Von Buch published his “Isles Canaries” in 1836 and he here briefly argues that plants spread over a continent & vary, & the varieties in time come to be species. He also argues that closely allied species have been thus formed in the separate valleys of the Canary Islands, but not on the upper and open parts.
[Marginalia written vertically at the left edge:] I could lend you Von Buch’s Book if you like: I have just consulted the passage. [End of marginalia]
            I have not Baers papers, but as far as I remember the subject is not fully discussed by him.— I quite agree about Wallace’s position on the Ocean & Continent question. — To return to Geograph. Distribution as far as I know no one ever discussed the [meaning of the] relation between representative species, before I did as I suppose Wallace did in his paper before Linn. Soc. Von Buch’s is the nearest approach to such discussion known to me.
Ever yours, Charles Darwin”

Hooker to Darwin, 29 Aug. 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00104-00166.

“My dear Darwin
            I have just seen the announcement of your brother’s death & must send you a few words of heartfelt sympathy. I [have] somehow ______ to think them the happiest, who, like myself, ______ ______ ______ when very young. It seems now as if they [would] then be but ______ ______ , – a blunder no doubt – but we know better what an ______ ______ ______ having lived ______ ______ ______ as you & your brother have.
            It was in your mother’s house near ______ that I first became acquainted with you. & shall never forget his kind face & kinder ______ . That was nearly 40 years ago! - I [will] remember thinking him then quite an ______ man & yet ______ he was then ______ 40.
            Ever my ______ , Joseph Hooker”

Darwin to Hooker, 30 Aug. 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00530.

“My dear Hooke,
Your note ha pleased me much. The death of Erasmus is a very heavy loss to all of us, for he had a most affectionate disposition. He always appeared to me the most pleasant & [clearest] headed man,  whom I have ever known. ______ will seem a ______ place to me without his presence; but I will not ______ ______ ______ him. I am deeply glad that he died without any great suffering, after a very short illness from mere weakness, & not from any definite disease. He had become quite weary of life! I cannot quite agree with you about the death of the old & ______ . Death in the latter case, when there is a bright future ______ ______ quiet never to be wholly {obliterated].
Farewell my old & dear friend. I remember the little room, where we first met.
            Ever yours, Charles Darwin”

Aftermath
Darwin to Hooker, 3&4 Sept. 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00095-00532.

3rd Sept.:
“My dear Hooker
I have this minute finished reading your splendid, but too short, address. I cannot doubt that it will have been fully appreciated by the geographers at York: if not they are asses & fools.”

4th Sept.:
“After letting my enthusiasm thus escape, I suddenly felt burst up & had to stop.
I am sorry that I forgot to remind you in relation to A. Blytt that S.B. Skertchly (of the Geolog. Survey) has observed androgen facts in the peat bog of the Cambridgeshire fens; & I Believe that he had come to this conclusion before he knew of Blytt’s views; at least I remember writing to tell him of them. You speak (p. 10) of a glacial period being “inferred” in the S. ______ : surely this is too weak a term considering the enormous number of ______ angular [enatic] [blocks] of ______ [rocks] in the Tertiary plains of Patagonia far from the Andes, & in the ______ ______ of Chiloe, likewise ______ in a Tertiary formation & far for the Andes. That seems to me a capital argument (p. 11) “the several S. temperate ______” an ______ intimately related ______. I shd like to see this argument worked out in detail. But my chief motive for writing in as fullness: a young Patagonian native of ______ ______ in the ______ seems to be an enthusiast about Geograph. Distribution, ______ ______ (& such a man in such a place is a prodigy) & he has published on land mollusca & insects. He wrote to me to ask for hints, so I have told him to attend to ask chance [introductions] & have given him ______, (when ______ is ______) & I sent him Wallace’s big book. Amongst other prints I told him to collect the plants from the highest mountains of the several islands. He ______ that he has made a collection from 2 hills, but these are only 480 & 384 meters high, & offers to send them to anyone whom I might suggest. I have told him that I would mention this to you, but that I thought that the heights were not nearly great enough. Please tell me whether they are worth sending to Kew, or should I tell him to keep them, until he can get other collectings. His name is F. d’Arruda Furtado.
I have no large note-paper with black edges, so have written on this.
Ever yours Ch. Darwin
By the way you pile in your address honours on my old bald head.”

Hooker to Darwin, 7 Sept. 1881
Original: https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-DAR-00104-00168.

“Dear Darwin
Can you kindly get me some more tubers of ______, for the Centre de Paris, who ______ ______ (______) marvellously ______ ______ tells me that ______ ______ is the only species of the genus that ______ (we ______ ______ ______ ______), all the seeds & most other ______ gradually ______ ______. ______ is a ______, ______ ______ ______, & he tells me that he has at Chateau d’Eau 10,000 plants in flower in May (of terrestrial ______). He has not ______ at all!
______ ______ you sent me ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ & form a beautiful ______, but I ______ not like to disturb it. ______ ______ tells me that ______ ______ formed ______ ______ ______ ______ that he refrained from disturbing it & so has it not in his garden & as he has sent me too ______ of ______ ______ I should like to return ______ him some ______ from you, ______ ______ ______ ______.
            Your criticism ______ Southern ______ ______ is just. My ______ ______ was ______ ______ hasty condensation of matter. What I should have said, was […]

I have heard that Skertchly is a brave observer, but I should much like to know what he has written on peat-bogs. Though I am so overwhelmed with work must I doubt if I could read it. Yet I do hope to live to work out the relations of the southern temperate plants. I do wish I could throw off my official duties here; I am getting so weary of them; & Dyer does them so well; but I could not nearly afford it yet.
There is a tremendously interesting ______ to be worked out in Azores. ______ huge trunks of Cypresses are found there buried in the ground, yet the Cypress is ______ in this island. There must be other preserved plants where these trunks are found. Whether or no, the history of these trunks wants clearing up.
I shall be very glad to see the mountain plants & name them for your friend. I think 3300 is the ______ Azorean altitude.
Lubbock did [capitally] ______ ______ ______.
Joseph Hooker”

Further links
Darwin-Hooker letters at Cambridge University Library.Transcription of Darwin letters, also the one to Hooker, 21 August 1881.
Hooker’s address to the BAAS, 1 Sept. 1881, York, pp. 727-738.
Darwin’s mention of von Baer’s views in the Historical Sketch of the 5th ed. of the Origin.
Wagner’s account of von Baer’s views on geographic distribution and common descent.


Friday, 1 February 2019

My Brontosaur Theory on Counterfactual Histories of Science


So called counterfactual histories are scenarios of what could have come to pass, if some contingent event of the past had turned out differently. It is controversial whether exploring such counterfactual alternative paths to the actual history has any merit for academic historiography. This is even more true for the history of science, because science is often assumed to approach one reality. Alternative paths in a counterfactual history must inevitably reach the same or a very similar state of knowledge, so the assumption.  

Therefore, historians of science usually claim that counterfactual narratives usually result in an alternative state of science that is pretty close or even identical to the actual state of science. This claim is supported by the assumption that a plausibility constraint prevents counterfactual histories from becoming incompatible with the actual science. That is, if a counterfactual history would end in a state of science that was incompatible with the actual science, then it would turn into science fiction and cease to belong to academic historiography. In other words: Counterfactual histories of science cannot be incompatible with the current state of science and be plausible at the same time!

Plausible counterfactual narratives that do end in identical or closely similar states of science are variously referred to as being contingent in a benign or weak sense (e.g., Soler 2008; Hesketh 2016; Tambolo 2018). One could think of this as two potential paths that departed at a contingent point of the past, but only one path got realized. If both had been realized, the gap between them would have remained rather thin and they would eventually have converged again. Think of the outline of a worm rather than a brontosaur

A popular example of a counterfactual narrative that has been taken to be benign or weak in this sense is Peter Bowler's Darwin Deleted (2013). It ends in an alternative state of science that is identical in its scientific content and only differs in its social context. In Darwin Deleted, Charles Darwin dies prematurely but, in the end, the resulting evolutionary theory is identical to the current one. The difference between the counterfactual and the actual science is that some social discontents (like social Darwinism, Nazi eugenics) got associated with alternatives to natural selection (e.g, Lamarckism, Spencerian ideas, orthogenesis) and sunk together with them. That is, they did not get associated with natural selection, which came in later. Therefore, natural selection came out clean in Bowler's counterfactual and Bowler's aim of his counterfactual was, in fact, to prove that there is no necessary association between natural selection and its social discontents.

I am not interested, here, in these social issues or Bowler's beef with the Intelligent Design proponent Weikart, who apparently wants to burden Darwin with some responsibility for the holocaust etc. Instead, I want to refute the above claimed necessary association between the plausibility of counterfactual histories of science and their compatibility with the actual science.

If this association was necessary, then any history of science (even one about actual not counterfactual research) would appear to be outlandishly improbable to us, because it went through states that are utterly incompatible with the current state of knowledge. Take Bowler's Darwin Deleted, for example. It is completely incompatible with the current state of evolutionary biology somewhere in the middle, because alternatives to natural selection like Lamarckism, use-inheritance, blending inheritance etc. rule there. At the same time, this intermediate state of science is not only plausible but grounded in what many actual scientists and philosophers did indeed believe for a long time after Darwin and before the Modern Synthesis. That is, even actual history confronts us with states of science that are incompatible with the current state and yet plausible to the highest possible degree.

In other words, the gap between the path of Bowler's counterfactual and the actual history of evolutionary biology is not worm shaped!

Hence my theory, which is mine, ahem ahem: The gaps between most counterfactual and actual histories of science are thin at the beginning, much, !much! thicker in the middle, and then thin again in the end. That is my Brontosaur Theory of counterfactual histories of science. It is mine and belongs to me and I own it and what it is too.


I have a second theory, which is the second part of my first theory and it is also mine. This is it: AHEM!!! By chopping brontosaur counterfactuals in half and truncating them, the gap between the counterfactual and the actual history will become cone shaped. That is, the gap will gape and never close again. I call this my Hyolith Theory on Counterfactual Histories of Science.

Reconstruction of Haplophrentis, a hyolith. From Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

References
1. Bowler, P.J. 2013. Darwin deleted. Imagining a world without Darwin. The University of Chicago Press.
2. Hesketh, I. (2016). Counterfactuals and history: Contingency and convergence in histories of science and life. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 58, 41-48.
3. Soler, L. (2008). Revealing the analytical structure and some intrinsic major difficulties of the contingentist/inevitabilist issue. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 39,
4. Tambolo, L. 2018. So close no matter how far: counterfactuals in history of science and the inevitability/contingency controversy. Synthese, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1787-7.