Monday, 5 August 2019

"Walther May (1868-1926) , Freethinker, Socialist, Zoologist and Historian of Darwinism" by Gaston Mayer (1987)

The below articles is translated from: Mayer, Gaston. 1987. Walther May (1868-1926), Freidenker, Sozialist, Zoologe und Historiker des Darwinismus. Mitteilungen des badischen Landesvereins für Naturkunde und Naturschutz, N.S. 14(2): 483-495.

Freethinker, socialist, zoologist, and historian of Darwinism, these are the stations of the life, clouded by tragic, of the professor of zoology at the technical college/university of Karlsruhe, Dr. Walther May (1868-1926). He detailed his career/development himself in a biographical sketch (1904, see here), so that the following only took the basic facts from it complemented through other sources for the time reported as well as for his later years.
    Walther Viktor May was born on 12.6.1868 in Marburg as son of captain Alexis Ferdinand Conrad May (1835-1870), who fell at Gravelotte, and of Elisabeth Karoline Walther (1842-1922).1  He entered junior high school in Kassel on Michaelis 1878 (29 Sept) where he soon got into natural sciences and especially into Darwinism. He corresponded with Ernst Haeckel as a 16 year old already, in order to quench his thirst for knowledge. The liberal ideas of the French revolution also attracted him mightily. As a pupil he already published essays in various periodicals during the years 1886 to 1889 and a book "Statement of Beliefs of a Truth-seeker," wherein he summarized his freethinking and socialist views. After the end of his schooldays, Easter 1889, he went to Leipzig on 20 April, in order to study natural sciences at the university.Filled with the teachings of Darwin and Haeckel but also of Marx and Engels, he tried to spread thee with juvenile enthusiasm and found an opportunity in the newly founded freethinker club/union "Humboldt," which was largely supported by laborers, and became its chairman. The university's own court, however, forbade him this activity and also visiting any worker assemblies/gatherings, and it punished him with 4 days detention room [Karzer]. When he trespassed the prohibition thereafter and tried to talk about the world's creation and end, he got expelled from Leipzig university and relegated from visiting any other German university as well. Now he was "a free man," as he wrote himself, and wandered through Saxony from town to town, and he talked about Monism, Darwinism and Socialism. He reached Chemnitz on the 22.10.1891 and became editor of the social-democratic journal "Die Presse." As such he got into conflict with the press-law. He was accused of having justified theft from need/poverty and incriminated him

[p. 484]

for blasphemy, abusing religion, and calling for disobeying the law. The court sentenced him in three cases to 12, 9 and 6 months prison in February and March 1892. These were contracted to a total punishment of 1 year and 10 months. He got detained and began his prison sentence on 4 March in jailhouse of Zwickau. Besides reading astronomical writings, he used the loneliness of the prison cell for studying the works of and about Goethe, whose objectivity and world view induced him [pronoun in accusative: ihn] to emulate him [pronoun in dative: ihm], to abdicate schwärmerei, to desist further agitation and, "after one and a half year of inner wrestling," to write a letter of cancellation to the socialist party, which earned him spiteful opinions from former fellow party-members.2 He wrote in defense: "I also now see clearly that I formed my political convictions at an age where I had neither the knowledge nor the life-experiences that are absolutely necessary, in order to judge and draw conclusions on the difficult sociopolitical questions." And in his autobiographic sketch we read: "Goethe broke my combative nature and turned me from a fighter and hotspur into a quietist and skeptic."
    After his disimprisonment he went to his mother in Kassel, where he arrived on 6 Jan 1894. On 2 April he went to Berlin taking up a job as a corrector in the print shop of his uncle, the publisher Hermann Walther (1850-1896). He did not find the work agreeable and sought recreation and edification on Sundays in Tegel (North of Berlin) at the memorial places for the esteemed Alexander von Humboldt, with whose person and work he engaged himself in detail. After gum bleeding already signaled a beginning lead-poisoning, a lucky change of his fate prefigured. He gave a presentation about Goethe's naturalist research and its relation to Humboldt, Darwin and Haeckel in his uncle's house. This prompted his uncle to write to Haeckel in Jena and ask him for counsel on how to help his nephew. Haeckel visited Berlin in September 1894 and promised to render May's resumption of his studies possible and to grant a stipend to him. May was overjoyed and could begin his studies in zoology, botany and mineralogy in the winter session of 1895 (26 Oct). Haeckel awarded him the Mende-stipend from Easter 1896 to autumn 1898, which supported hi with 600 Marks annually. May passed his exams summa cum laude on 8. May. He received a doctorate (Dr. Phil.) on 14.11.1898, for a work on the East-African Alcyonaceae [soft corals] in the [natural history] museum of Hamburg collected by Dr. Stuhlmann in 1889. During this work he traveled to Bergen (Norway) for 2 months, as an awardee of a scholarship of the Paul-von-Ritter foundation, in order to compare his material with the specimens kept in Bergen and in order to collect for the zoological institute of Jena. In October 1898, he found employment as a junior assistant at the station for plant protection in Hamburg checking imported plants for scale insect infestations. Two small works resulted from these examinations. He also worked on an exhibition of the collection of crustaceans of the natural history museum [Hamburg]. He had already worked for the museum while still in Jena [as part of his Ph.D.] by dealing with its East-African Alyonaceae together with the material of the museum in Berlin [? ... maybe Berlin should be Bergen] and the Alcyonaria of the Magalhaensian Collection Voyage [the results of this expedition were published as: "Ergebnisse der Hamburger Magalhaensischen Sammelreise," Vol. 1-3]. The farewell from Jena "the cozy idyllic nest" was hard for May. Studying the works of Darwin that he could obtain consoled him during the hazy winter days he had to pass in the metropolis.

[p. 485]
    This work ended in April 1899, after he could take up a post as an assistant of the forest zoologist Otto Nüsslin (1850-1915) at the Zoological Institute of the technical/polytechnic college/university in Karlsruhe. During that period (until the end of 1901) he also was the assistant [Hilftassistent] for the natural history collection of the zoological department, where he maintained the insect collection. In MArch of that year, he habilitated for zoology with a teaching assignment as a private lecturer [Privatdozent/ associate professor] for the forest zoology of mammals and birds, in particular. And he gave lecture/seminar/tutorial on Darwin's Life and Work. He submitted his habilitation treatise "Die arktische, subarktische und subantarktische Alcyonaceenfauna" [The arctic, subarctic and sub-antarctic fauna of Alcyonaceae] on 25 May. Prof. Kükenthal judged this work on Alcyonacee in a letter to Prof. Nüsslin on 31 Jan 1902 as follows:
"It is not up to me [I am not competent enough in order to know whether] to count this work of May as one of the best that has been published in recent years among the literature on corrals. The description of the forms are exact, as I could convince myself though examinations afterwards [after reading May]. These works are especially valuable, however, because of the open perspective of the author and his ability to derive general conclusions from the found specific facts. The literary ability of Dr. May is beyond question and his special peers will be glad if he could continue to be active in this line of science."  
    He spent some weeks of the autumn holidays (August-September) in Rovigno in order to collect for the institute, wherefore a bursary/stipend/funding had been granted. And in the summer of the next year he traveled to England visiting London, Down, Cambridge, Lichfield, Derby and Shrewsbury on the traces of Darwin. In 1903, he held three talks for the public in Pforzheim on the theory of Darwin, the first on 6 January. Further talks on Darwin and Haeckel followed in February of the next year. 

[to be continued later]

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

"What Ernst Haeckel means in my life" (Walther May 1914)

Walther May's second autobiographic article occurred in a collection of articles published in order to honor Ernst Haeckel on the occasion of his 80s birthday:

May replicates much of his earlier autobiographic article honoring Darwin, which I have translated in an earlier post. That earlier post also gives some context concerning Walther May and why I translate his articles. (My hope to get any further insight into the question how May came to write the first article containing biographic information about Patrick Matthew (1790-1874) was in vain, unfortunately.)  

I will not replicate my translation in like fashion below but refer you to the earlier blog post for the identical sections. The interesting part comes after the departure of this article from its predecessor, anyway: when May dissents Haeckel's monistic ideology and contradicts his plant to organize a German Monistenbund. This seems to be a juicy detail, given that the article was published in a volume sponsored by that very Deutsche Monistenbund (apparently Haeckel had succeeded and the detractors of his plan failed) and meant to honor and thank Haeckel. 

The first few paragraphs of the earlier article are not reproduced by May in his current one. May picks up at the passage:

"My mother used to hold the Daheim, not because she would pay homage to its religious direction, but because it contained nice novels and pictures."

Daheim means "at home," but here refers to a periodical: Daheim. Ein deutsches Familienblatt mit Illustrationen. You can imagine this to be the German equivalent of English periodicals like the Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, an educational outlet with an agenda to enlighten the wider public (lower ranks) and foster their (self-)improvement while maintaining a conservative perspective.

The current article continues to replicate the earlier one until:

"Darwin now seemed to be the absolute character of the naturalist researcher, as the hero of scientific method."

Thereafter, the text departs from the earlier as follows:

"His agnosticism concerning the final questions, his tentative defense of his own theories, influenced me in a way similar to my earlier studies of Goethe and made me cautious

---[p. 282]---
cautious in judgement. I increasingly saw the difficulties confronting every scientific generalization, I increasingly saw myself surrounded by problems with which the human mind will struggle forever and in vain. I confronted the old question of Pilatus: "What is truth?" and I could not answer it. Haeckel's "Welträtsel" [Riddles of the Universe], which occurred in the same year that I got the assistant job in Karlsruhe, encountered me in this mood. The work left me cold, it did not offer me anything to overcome my skepticism. I knew Haeckel too much by rote already, whose previous works I had all studied, for this compilation of his ideas, which have been proclaimed for more than 30 years, to affect me. And as I now read the powerful refutations of Paulsen and Adickes, as I now made the whole literature on world-riddles my subject of study, my already shaken belief in the truth and infallibility of Haeckel's monism collapsed. The "Welträtsel" meant my renunciation of the philosophy that I had ingested with the "Natürliche Schöpfungs-geschichte."
    Of course this renunciation was no return to the church belief from which the "Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte" had liberated me. I am as far from all ecclesiastical essence today as I was before. Since the age of 23 I am a dissident and always call myself such. But I have realized that the alternative between church belief and monism does not exist, that a multitude of philosophies/ideologies exist besides naturalistic monism that can also be aligned with the scientific evidence. I do not see any of these forms as the sole salvation, but I now take the idealistic systems as more credible than materialistic ones, systems that assume a mental/spiritual original/first cause and a rational sense/meaning in the world's hustle and bustle rather than systems that deny goals and aims of the world and reduce all events to a blind mechanism. 
    This did not stop me from aggregating a small band of my colleagues and 

---[p. 283]---
students in Karlsruhe, on the occasion of Haeckle's 70s birthday, where three orators honored Haeckel as human, philosopher, naturalist and artist, where the Haeckel statuette by Herold has been unveiled, where Jena has been praised as a Palladium of free science, where a commemorative with Haeckel's motto "Impavidi progrediamur" [impavid we progress] has been read, and where some jolly song from Reymond's "Laienbrevier des Haeckelismus" [Laity brevier of Haeckelism] has been such with enthusiasm. I also drew a parallel between Haeckel and Darwin back then, that has been published in my book "Goethe, Darwin, Humblodt, Haeckel" (Berlin 1904) and ended with the words: "The admirers of the aged savant from Jena will always regard as one of the brightest and most glorious phenomena that the great struggle of Darwinism has produced in the 19th century, the deep concurrence of these two minds [Darwin and Haeckel] that were so fundamentally different in character." 
    Two years later, however, I had to refuse signing a petition for the foundation of a German union of monism. Such a foundation goes against my convictions as I see the danger of dogmatization in every formal organization of a philosophy/ideology/ Weltanschauung. Kronenberg took the words right out of my mouth in his article in "Das Freie Wort" [periodical: "Das Freie Wort: Frankfurter Halbmonatsschrift für Fortschritt auf allen Gebieten des geistigen Lebens," Vol. 4, p. 785 (1905)]  about the dangers of the organization of monism that Haeckel strove for.
    "One cannot entirely fend off pessimistic forebodings on seeing an astute scholar and important researcher, again, give in to the deceptive illusion that has for centuries been the most dangerous threat to the liberal development of culture. Did history not yet teach us  well enough that Weltanschauungen [philosophies/ideoloiesd] have no socializing power and the less so the maturer, more comprehensive, differentiated and thoroughly educated they are? The socializing power of a Weltanschauung is so weak that, in the best case, some community-building results from it only after it has been rendered sapless and feeble, torpid in dogmata. And even then the damage is a double one: for the philosophy that had to increasingly degenerate inwardly, for the practical social life that increasingly stagnated and got impoverished. It cannot

---[p. 284]---
well be different. Because the Weltanschauung is necessarily the blossom of the personality. Even if it rests on a maximally broad scientific base, its actual existence, its essential core can only be determined individually. Hence it runs contrary to the most important element of community-building."
    From this point of view, I would have refused to join the Deutsche Monistenbund even if I had still been standing on the ground of Haeckel's monism. The further development of the Monistenbund, which I observed closely, did not manage to change my mind on this point. Meanwhile, Haeckel did not get out of my mind. I tried to appreciate him historically as far as this is at all possible with the lack of temporal distance, and I made him the subject of my lectures at the Technische Hochschule zu Karlsruhe in several subsequent summer terms. From these lectures issued my work "Ernst Haeckel. Attempt at a chronicle of his life and work/effect" (Leipzig 1909). It puts the main emphasis on the objective description of the content of Haeckel's works and the movements effected by them, but it abstains from detailing the character of Haeckel's personality. I tried to give a balanced account of the pro and contra and, in particular, to represent all opinions concerning the fight over the Welträtsel. I deliberately abstained from a final judgement of Haeckel's significance, indicated the line, however, on which a future historian of science will move according to my opinion. Haeckel received the book approvingly, despite the fact that it gave consideration to his fiercest critics. "I cordially thank you," he wrote to me, "for the kind consignment of your chronicle of my laborious life and especially for the trouble you took to the tedious study of my works and the objective representation of their controversial reception. I hope that your book will complement the biographies of Bölsche and Breitenbach, Keller and Lang in a fortunate manner and remove many misapprehensions. Anyway, it will contribute to spread the basic idea of development/evolution [Entwicklung] to wider circles. I have dedicated my life to the extension of this idea."

---[p. 285]---
There was now still left for me to draw the conclusion of my Haeckel studies and to sketch an overall picture of Haeckel's personality with all its strengths and weaknesses. I tried to do this on the occasion of his 77th birthday in an essay in "Westermanns Monatshefte" [a periodical].
    "If I was asked what the soul of his life's work was," I said there, "the power that created it and renders it effective, I would answer: the enthusiasm for truth and beauty. His imposing lifework would be unthinkable without this breath of enthusiasm that pervades his personality and his works, and his far reaching impact would be incomprehensible. Only a researcher that was inwardly burning with this fire of enthusiasm for the grand idea could create a work like the General Morphology in such a short time. We stand in awe till this very day before this giant achievement of a man driven by spirit, who assigned himself no smaller task than to organize a whole science anew. Without the fire of enthusiasm with which Haeckel defended his views, the basically cold and mechanistic world view of the "Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte" would not have had its effect. Only through Haeckel's enthuisasm this most sober of all views of nature receives its poetic breeze, a religious character. This is the only way to understand the enormous impact of the Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte on wide circles of the educated and especially on the excitable youth."
    While I tried to explain the successes of Haeckel in this way through the character of his personality, I also conceded many main points to the critics of the "Welträtsel." But then I wrote:
    "Did all these critics spell the death sentence over Haeckel? Not at all! Haeckel acted as a powerful stimulating force in our time, he jolted the spirits into motion, he served as a role model by virtue of his idealism and his undaunted enthusiasm for a great idea. Nobody who read in his youth with a hot forehead and a glowing heart Haeckel's "Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte;" nobody who, through the combative writings of this man

---[p. 285]---

got elated for the freedom of research; nobody who found purest pleasure for the beauty-thirsty eye in Haeckels "Kunstformen der Natur" and his colorful "Wanderbilder;" nobody, eventually, who could ever get into personal contact with Haeckel even once, will dare to pick up a stone against noble-human."   
    That was my last word on Haeckel. Today, three years later, I have nothing to add. Haeckel, again, received in the kindest way this word, which left nothing to be desired in respect of sincerety concerning the "Welträtsel." Trhee weeks later I had the pleasure to congratulate him personally in Jena, on the occasion of his 77th birthday. May these lines convince him at the conclusion of his 80th year of life that I will always remain aware of the influence that he had on my intellectual life and that I look up with gratitude and awe to the man, who offered his saving hand to me, when I was doomed.   


Saturday, 22 June 2019

"Darwin in the Mirror of my Life." (Walther May 1903-04)

Walther May (1868-1926) was an assistant professor (no tenure) for forest zoology in Karlsruhe, who also wrote historical publications concerning the science of Goethe, Humboldt, Darwin, Haeckel and others. Given the recent revival of interest in Humboldt and the question what Darwin owed to the romantics, May's monographs may merit a re-appreciation. (I don't know them yet. Judging from the article translated below, they May be rather pathetic.)

As I am generally more interested in what happened at the fringes rather than in the mainstream of science, my interest in May arose from his publication dealing with Patrick Matthew (1790-1874), the guy who published an apt formulation of the principle of natural selection in an appendix to a book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture in 1831. The article by May (1911. Darwin und Patrick Matthew. Zoologische Annalen 4: 280-295) was the first to give any biographical information about Matthew.

As it happened, Walther May's life also skated along the fringes of a German mainstream, and it was quite interesting and tragic. Alas, the only literature that can tell us anything about it are his own accounts and an article by Gaston Mayer (1913-2008):
May, Walther (1903-04). Darwin im Spiegel meines Lebens. Verhandlungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Karlsruhe 17: 3-32.
May, Walther (1914). Was Ernst Haeckel in meinem Leben bedeutet. In H. Schmidt (Hrsg. im Auftrag des deutschen Monistenbundes), Was wir Ernst Haeckel verdanken. Ein Buch der Verehrung und Dankbarkeit (pp. 273-286). Leipzig: Unesma GmbH.
Mayer, Gaston (1987). Walther May (1868-1926), Freidenker, Sozialist, Zoologe und Historiker des Darwinismus. Mitteilungen des Badischen Landesverbands für Naturkunde und Naturschutz, N.S. 14(2): 483-495.
Mayer is dead and so are the witnesses that he could still ask. For a start, I will translate the above articles into English. Those will be very long posts. Therefore, an abstract first:

May's Life Abridged
May's youth was guided by radical and romantic views, first Haeckel's and monism rather than Darwin's and naturalism, then Engles's and socialism rather than Marx's original writings. As a student, he was an active member of the free-thinker union, called Humboldt, in Leipzig. His talks during associations about monism, socialism and all that earned him an incarceration for four days by the University of Leipzig and a ban to talk at such meetings ever again. He did not care and was consequently sacked by the university and relegated forever from any German university.
    As a free man, he traveled Saxony from town to town and gave talks. Eventually, he became an editor for the journal Die Presse in Chemnitz in November 1891. A Christmas article for that journal, in December 1891, got him into conflict with the draconian Prussian press law. The harmless article merely justified the stealing out of poverty and need during the Christmas festivities. By 4th of March 1892, however, he got imprisoned for 1 year and 10 months in Zwickau for the 'crimes' of profanity, blasphemy, and calling for civil disobedience.
   Almost two years in prison for writing an article that sounds as if it would fit to the spirit of a Charles Dickens novel! He read Goethe during his time in jail and, for some odd reason, the scientific publications of the great romantic steered May away from his social romanticism. He wanted to become as 'objective' as Goethe. He also wrote a letter to the socialist party, while in prison, cancelling his membership.    After his release in January 1894 he began working as a corrector in the printing business of his uncle in Berlin. This was not a happy time, the only relief being his traveling to Tegel in the North of Berlin in order to visit the haunts of Alexander Humboldt. Finally, when he already showed first symptoms of lead poisoning, a private talk given before the family of his uncle moved the latter to write to Ernst Haeckel and beg him to help. And Haeckel helped! He visited the family in September 1894, listened to the young man, found his crimes most trifling, saw that the relegation of Leipzig university could not bind the one of Jena legally, and he helped May to get a stipend.
    Thus, in October 1895, began the happiest time in Walther May's life. Jena became his Shangri-La. He followed the traces that Goethe, Schiller, Humboldt, Döbereiner (chemist) and others had left in Jena and studied under Stahl, Kükenthal, Verworn, Johannes Walther and, foremost, the old but still active dean Haeckel. Paradoxically, again, the lectures of the great monist moved May away from radical monism and closer towards scientific research, but that was not due to an alienation between May and Haeckel.

If you got the impression of a hopelessly romantic young man, who did not study the originals in his youth and instead got indoctrinated by secondary ideologues, that was my impression too. However, beginning with his studies of Goethe during his prison sentence, he did study the originals, listen to the originals, and also started to read Darwin's original publications. And that, in his own words, turned him from a ideological fighter into a skeptical researcher. I will leave the abridgement at this happy point in May's life and leave the tragic sequel to the translation of Gaston Mayer's article in a later post. 

Translation of Walther May (1903-04):
Verhandlungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Karlsruhe    [vol. 17, p. 3]

Darwin im Spiegel meines Lebens.
By Dr. Walther May. [1868-1926]

When I leaf through the book of my life, I feel the Darwinian spirit whiff through it from early on. As a five year old boy [1873], with a silver Groschen in my pocket, I walked to the fair [market] in order to buy a toy, for the first time in my life at my own choice. I can still see myself standing in front of the colorful things of the ten-penny-booth [10 penny = 1 Groschen] on the Casseler Meßplatz yearning for a small wooden monkey with a red Röckchen [in old German literature, the word Rock does not necessarily mean a skirt for females but can also stand for uniforms or smart dress. The diminution Röckchen, here, did probably not mean a tutu but only that the monkey was small and hence its Rock was so too] on a yellow pole, not daring to ask for it. Finally, I overcome my inborn shyness, purchase the monkey and bring it home beaming with joy.

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

“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/House] of [call] 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 [Inqueries] 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

“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].
[Your] [old] friend, Charles Darwin”

Hooker to Darwin, 18 June 1881

“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 wife's parents) are here, & [insist] on the children going to them in the holidays so that we shall not want a home summer quartier at Knock[holt]. ______ ______ ______ [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 [sore] ______ 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

“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 [daresay] 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

“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 or 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 International Medical Congress held in London, 2-9 August 1881], and by request give a Garden Party on Saturday [7 Aug 1881] —it will be a dreadful ordeal I fear (except it rains!).”

Darwin to Hooker, 6 Aug. 1881

“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

“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 think 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, though 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 affectly. J. D. Hooker”

Darwin to Hooker, 12 August 1881

“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
“Dear Darwin
Just a few last words before I commit my vaporings to the public. Of all the followers of Latreille [he probably meant Lamarck] in the mutability of species did 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 Zoog. & Anthrop. Untersuch. [He meant the Zoologisch-anthropologische Untersuchungen of Rudoph Wagner (1861, p. 50ff), in which Wagner had excerpted Baer's essay in question. Wagner (1861) was the source that Darwin (1866) had given for Baer (1859) in the Historical Sketch of the 4th edition of his Origin of Species.]
          I find that Dana was the first (of all I have yet found), who broached the doctrine of permanence of position of existing continents. You somewhere do the same for existing oceans, and 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, and 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

“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.
[Vertical writing at the left margin:] I could lend you Von Buch’s Book if you like: I have just consulted the passage. [End of marginal note]
            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

“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 come to think them the happiest, who, like myself, ______ [an] ______ [brother] 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 so long together as you & your brother have.
            It was in your brother’s house near Park Lane 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 elderly man & yet I see he was then under 40.
            Ever my ______ Darwin
            Joseph Hooker”

Darwin to Hooker, 30 Aug. 1881

“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. [London] will seem a ______ ______ place to me without his presence; but I will not ______ [on] [about] 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 & [young]. Death in the latter case, when there is a bright future ahead causes grief never to be wholly [obliterated].
Farewell my old & dear friend. I remember the little room, where we first met.
            Ever yours, Charles Darwin”

Darwin to Hooker, 3&4 Sept. 1881

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 bogs 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. [hemisphere]: 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 [Floras]” [are] [more] intimately related [taxa]. I shd like to see this argument worked out in detail. But my chief motive for writing in as fullness: a young Patagonian a native of ______ ______ in the [Azonas] seems to be an enthusiast about Geograph. Distribution, Evolution &c (& 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 [hints], ([when/what] ______ 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 [writing] 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

“Dear Darwin
Can you kindly get me some more tubers of ______, for the Centre de Paris, who ______ Orchids (______) marvellously ______ He tells me that [some genus name] [some species name] is the only species of the genus that ______ (we found [genusname] [speciesname] with us) [with] [him]: 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 anent Southern ______ ______ is just. My ______ [statement] was ______ ______ hasty condensation of matter. What I should have said, and did ______ ______ ______ was, – that ______ ______ appearance of [Antarctic] plants on mountains North oftheir [home] r a ______ ______ myth ______ ______, as prooved ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ ______ to that ______.

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 [point] 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 [greatest] Azorean altitude.
Lubbock did [capitally] [well] ______ ______ ______.
Joseph Hooker”

Further links

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.
"Ich finde für den Begriff von Art keinen andern als: die Summe von Individuen, welche durch Abstammung verbunden sind oder sein könnten. Dass wir diesen Begriff selten erproben können, ist ein schlimmer Umstand, gibt uns aber nicht das Recht zu glauben, wir hätten einen andern, blos weil wir das Wort «Art» häufig anwenden. Will man annehmen, dass zur Anerkennung einer Art irgend ein nie fehlendes Merkmal gehöre, so wird man doch erst zu bestimmen haben, welcher Beschaffenheit das nie fehlende Merkmal sein müsse, und auf den Menschen angewendet, würde dieses Kriterium des Begriffes von Species am wenigsten zu der Aufstellung von verschiedenen Arten führen. Auch bin ich der festen Ueberzeugung, dass unsere zoologischen Systeme viel zu viel Arten aufstellen, eben weil wir kein äusseres Merkmal besitzen, und die Versuche über fruchtbare Fortpflanzung für die Ungeduld, die verzeichnisse zu bervollständigen, nicht anwendbar sind. Es ist auch kein Schade, wenn man die unterscheidbaren Formen aufzählt, nur muss man nicht glauben, dass man die wirklichen Abstammungsreihen registrirt. Ich kann mich aber auch ferner der Ueberzeugung nicht erwehren, dass viele Formen, die jetzt wirklich in der Fortpflanzung sich gesondert erhalten, nur allmälig zu dieser Sonderung gekommen sind und also ursprünglich nur Eine Art bildeten. Die jetzige Verbreitung der Thiere und so viel wir mit Wahrscheinlichkeit auf eine frühere zurückgehen können, scheint mir sehr entschieden dafür zu sprechen. Nahe verwandte und nach unsern gangbaren Ansichten ganz gut begründete Arten finden sich gewöhnlich in derselben Gegend vereint, dass eine ähnliche Form in weit entfernter Gegend vorkommt und dort, wie man zu sagen pflegt, die verwandte Thierform repräsentirt – ist ein viel seltener Eall. Alle gestreiften Pferde der Jetztwelt sind Afrikaner, alle ungestreiften sind Asiaten. Welches Aussehen die fossilen Pferde Amerikas hatten, wissen wir nicht, es ist sogar möglich, dass, wenn noch die Weichtheile erhalten wären, wir sie gar nicht für Pferde halten würden. Dass nahe verwandte Arten auch nahe zusammen wohnen, ist, wie es mir scheint, so sehr Regel, dass es nicht als zufällig betrachtet werden kann. Theilt man z. B. die Antilopen in Gruppen, so leben gewöhnlich die Glieder einer Gruppe nicht sehr fern von einander. Die gabelhörnigen Antilopen (Dicranoceras Wiegm.) leben nur in Amerika und in diesem Welttheile sind keine andern; Tragelaphus-Arten, mit gewundenen Hörnern, nur in Afrika; Hemitragus von der Hoven nur in Asien, und zwar im südöstlichen, Oreotragus Sundeval
[page break: 74/75 (342/344)]
nur in Afrika; Catoblepas eben da, andere Gruppen in Afrika und Arabien oder Syrien zugleich. Beide Länder gränzen nicht nur an Afrika, sondern sind auch ihrer Natur nach Afrikanisch. Von der räumlichen Trennung der Familien der Affen, haben wir schon gesprochen. Es ist aber dieses Verhältniss so häufig, und geht so durch alle Grade der thierischen Classification durch, dass wir unmöglich hier diesen Gegenstand erschöpfen können. Wer weiss nicht, dass die meisten Makis nur in Madagascar leben? Wem ist es unbekannt, dass Neu-Holland durch die vielen Arten von Beutelthieren characterisirt ist, die sonst nur auf benachbarten Inseln, und mit einem Geschlechte freilich auch in Amerika, vorkommen? Wer weiss nicht, dass unter den Fischen, Insecten, Mollusken mancher Gegenden Familien-Aehnlichkeiten vorkommen? Mir scheint, dass diese Gruppirung der Formen einen tiefern Grund haben müsse. Dass dieser aber nicht darin liegt, dass solche Gruppen nur in den Gegenden leben können, in denen wir sie gefunden haben, das ist durch unsre Pferde, Rinder, und Schweine in Süd-Amerika sattsam erwiesen worden. Sie gedeihen dort vortrefflich. Allerdings sind einige Thier-Gruppen über die Erde so vertheilt, dass es aussieht, sie wären ganz gleichmässig ausgestreut, so vorzüglich die grossen Katzen, unter denen die Süd-Amerikanischen von den grössern der alten Welt nur einfach specifisch verschieden sind, auch die Hunde sind kosmopolitisch genug – aber beide reichen als genera, mit einzelnen Arten weit in den Norden. Aber von Säugethier-Formen, die vom Norden weit entfernt bleiben, ist vielleicht nur die Vertheilung zweier Tapir-Arten auf die heissen Gegenden beider Continente merkwürdig, und gerade deswegen, weil sie eine auffallende Ausnahme bildet.
      Die so häufig vorkommende gruppenweise Vertheilung der Thiere nach Verwandtschaften, scheint dafür zu sprechen, dass auch der Grund dieser nicht gleichmässigen Vertheilung ein verwandtschaftlicher ist, d.h., dass die einander sehr ähnlichen Arten wirklich gemeinschaftlichen Ursprungs oder aus einander entstanden sind. Ich meine nicht allein die unnöthig aufgestellten Species, sondern ich meine die Vertheilung der Thiere macht es wahrscheinlich, dass auch viele solcher Arten, die sich jetzt getrennt halten und fortpflanzen, ursprünglich nicht getrennt waren, dass sie also aus Varietäten, nach systematischen Begriffen, zu specifisch verschiedenen Species geworden sind. Ohne diese Ueberzeugung wüsste ich mir durchaus keine Rechenschaft zu geben, warum die Amerikanischen Schweine eine Drüse auf dem Rücken haben, die Schweine der alten Welt nicht, warum in Amerika mehrere Lama-Arten leben, in der alten Welt nicht, in dieser aber mehre Cameele, warum die Amerikanischen Affen einen Backenzahn mehr haben als die der alten Welt, warum keine Paviane und keine ungeschwänzten Affen in der neuen Welt sind. Wenn jede der jetzt bestehenden Arten durch Urzeugung neu beginnen musste, so hätten wir noch besonders Bedingungen aufzusuchen, die den Affen und andern Thieren der alten und der neuen Welt gewisse Familien Charactere aufdrückten. Da Alles in der Natur Bestehende veränderlich ist, theils beweglich im Raume, theils entwickelungsfähig, so ist nicht abzusehen, warum die einzelnen Formen gar keine andere Entwickelung gehabt haben sollten, als jene ganz allgemeine, in der Reihenfolge des Auftretens,
[page break: 75/76 (343/344)]
welche uns die Palaeontologie nachweist*). Wie weit diese Entwickelung der Arten aus einander anzunehmen ist, darüber wage ich mir selbst keine Meinung zu bilden. Ich fühle auch keine Nöthigung dazu. Da sicher nicht alle Formen vom Anfange an auf der noch wenig geformten Erde sein konnten, so kann ich nicht umhin Urzeugungen anzunehmen, wovon ich allerdings den Vorgang mir nicht verständlich zu machen vermag. Wenn ich aber, weil mir die Urzeugung unverständlich ist, die Umwandlung so weit annehmen wollte, dass ich auch den Menschen aus andern Thieren hervorgebildet mir dächte und diese wieder weiter bis zur Monade, so scheint es, dass ich ganze Reihen von nicht erkannten und nicht verstandenen Geheimnissen an einander füge. Wenn ich aber glaube, dass verwandte Thier-Formen erst mit der Zeit zu selbstständigen Arten geworden sind, so werde ich durch die jetzige Vertheilung dahin geführt, und es liesse sich in der Jetzwelt wohl noch manche Analogie finden. Unser nach Europa versetztes Meerschweinchen soll sich nach Rengger nicht mit Cavia Aperea paaren, die man für die Stamm-Rasse hielt. Jezt sucht man nach einem andern Stamme. Wenn sich dieser nicht findet, wird man zugeben müssen, dass noch jetzt neue Arten sich bilden – hier freilich durch der Menschen Theilnahme.
      Haben sich aber mehrere Species aus einer Grundform entwickelt, wie noch jetzt die Rassen sich entwickeln, so darf man auch annehmen, dass früher die Typen überhaupt weniger festgehalten wurden. Ich denke mir, dass erst durch die fortgesetzte Reihe der Generationen der Typus sich immer tiefer einprägt und bin mir sehr wohl bewusst, dass diese Ueberzeugung eine Hypothese ist, aber eine Hypothese, welche nichts enthält, was unsrer Erfahrung widerspräche, aber wohl manche Verhältnisse verständlich macht, namentlich in Bezug auf die Variationen des Menschengeschlechtes. Diejenigen, welche mehrere Arten Menschen annehmen, berufen sich immer darauf, dass die Mohren in Europa nicht weiss werden und die Europäer in Indien und Brasilien nicht schwarz. Aber ganz abgesehen von den kurzen Zeiträumen, in welchen solche Beobachtungen gemacht werden konnten, abgesehen davon, dass die Europäer sich nie so dem Sonnenlichte aussetzen, als die Afrikaner, scheint es mir auch gar nicht widersinnig anzunehmen, dass in der ersten Reihe von Generationen der Typus ein mehr veränderlicher war, also auch stärker von den Einwirkungen der äussern Natur influencirt wurde. Der Generations-Act ist es ja, der den Typus bestimmt, je öfter er gewirkt hat in den Generationen,
     *) Die Botaniker glauben die Unveränderlichkeit der Species am sichersten nachweisen zu können. ,,Der Spross setzt das Individuum fort, aber das Samenkorn, das Product der Befruchtung, den Typus der Species.'' Das ist auch im Allgemeinen gewiss wahr, allein die Natur achtet nun einmal die scharfe Begränzung nicht. Wo kämen denn die ersten edlen Pfropfreiser her, wenn der Typus der Art starr und unveränderlich verharrte? Woher die Varietäten? Und ist es blosses Vorurtheil, dass der Blumist am liebsten die Saat von solchen Blumen säet, die schon einen Schritt in der Veredelung gemacht haben? Auf die Zoologen hat es einen grossen Eindruck gemacht, als Cuvier nach Untersuchung einiger Thier Mumien aus Aegypten versicherte, nicht der kleinste Knochen sei seit der Zeit des Einbalsamirens in diesen Arten verloren oder hinzugekommen. Aber man braucht nicht in der Zeit so weit zurückzugehen, wenn man etwas um sich schaut. Die langschwänzigen Schaafe haben viel mehr Schwanzwirbel als die Schaafe mit Fettpolstern. Kann man sie desshalb für verschiedene Arten halten? Die Schaafe von Baku stehen grade in der Mitte zwischen den Syrischen mit langen Schwänzen und den Krymmischen, bei denen der Schwanz zwischen den Fetthöckern verborgen ist.

[page break: 76/77 (344/345))]
desto unveränderlicher, scheint es mir, wird der Typus. So werden wir uns mit einer geringern Zahl von Urzeugungen begnügen lassen, denn wir können dann wohl für alle Katzen-Arten, oder für die meisten wenigstens, einen gemeinschaftlichen Ursprung uns denken – und die Entstehung von Mongolen und Negern u.s.w. wäre auf diese Hypothese leicht zurückzuführen. So wie wir jetzt im Kleinen Familien-Aehnlichkeit sich fortpflanzen sehen, oder Krankheits-Anlagen, die zuweilen nach Generationen wieder hervortreten, oder Anlage für Haar-Reichthum u.s.w. so wären jene Stamm-Verschiedenheiten frühzeitige Familien-Eigenthümlichkeiten.
     Man verstehe mich nicht unrecht. Ich sehe mich nur ausser Stande, specifische Unterschiede unter den Menschen zu erkennen, so lange man mir nicht geschwänzte Menschen oder ähnliche Unterschiede nachweist, und wenn die jetzigen Stämme der Menschen sich fruchtbar verbinden, so erlaube man mir wenigstens zu fragen, was denn eigentlich selbstständige Art ist? ob etwas, das der Naturforscher nach Gutdünken sondert, oder eine in der Natur begründete Sonderung, und worin diese denn besteht? – Ein Bedürfniss, alle Menschen von Einem Paare abzuleiten, beherrscht mich durchaus nicht. Vielmehr scheint es mir, dass, wenn irgendwo die Bedingungen zur Erzeugung von Menschen da waren, wie sie auch gekommen sein mögen, es viel natürlicher wäre, dass sie ergiebiger wirkten, als nur auf Ein Paar. Es ist uns dieser Vorgang auch viel zu wenig verständlich, als dass wir ein Recht hätten, es zu bezweifeln, dass Menschen an sehr verschiedenen Orten und vielleicht zu verschiedenen Zeiten als Autochthonen ohne Voreltern auftreten konnten. Dann wären die geringen Verschiedenheiten noch weniger auffallend. Allein eben weil uns der Vorgang ganz unverständlich ist, dürfen wir nur nach Erfahrungen und Analogien urtheilen und diese sprechen, da alle Säugthier-Arten nur Einen Verbreitungsbezirk nachweisen, nicht für den Ausgang des Menschengeschlechts von vielen Ursitzen, so lange wir den Menschen nur als Thier betrachten. – Möglich, dass es mit dem Menschen anders war, dann müssen wir aber auch zugeben, dass der Mensch nicht nach der Regel der Thiere wurde. Vielleicht lag das sogar – ich will nicht sagen in den Zwecken der Schöpfung, denn in dem Entwickelungs-Gange der Natur ist ja Nothwendigkeit und Zweckmässigkeit innig verbunden, wirklich nur Eins; also besser: in den Entwickelungs-Bedingungen der Natur. Dann hätte man aber Unrecht, im Menschen nur das zweibeinige Thier zu erkennen, das zufällig mehr Vernunft davon getragen und eine Sprache sich erwischt hat. Ist er nur das Thier, so muss er den Regeln und Gesetzen der Thiere unterwürfig sein. Ist er mehr, etwa Ziel der Entwickelung auf der Erde, – wozu der ganze Species-Streit?" (Baer 1859, p. 74 (342) - 77 (345))
My translation follows:
"I find no other concept for species than: the sum of individuals that are connected through descent/reproduction or could be connected thus. That we can hardly ever test this concept is a severe circumstance; it does not legitimate us to believe, however, that we have another just because we use the term «species» frequently. To assume a trait that is never absent from any individual of a species, one would first have to determine of what properties such a never absent trait would need to be; and applied to humans, such a criterion for the species concept would be the least to lead to the erection of different [human] species. I am also convinced that our zoological systems erect far too many species, exactly because we have no such trait, and experiments about fertile propagation are inapplicable for the impatience to complete the registers. And it is no harm to enumerate the distinguishable forms, but one must not believe that this registers the true lineages of descent.
Furthermore, I cannot defy the conviction that many forms, which do now really stay separate of each other in their reproduction, have come only gradually to this separation and originally formed only one species. The current distribution of animals, and as much as we can infer about a likely previous one, seems to strongly support this. Closely related and, according to our practical views, well established species usually occur together in the same region. It is a far rarer case that a similar form occurs in a faraway region and represents, as it is customary to say, the related animal form there. All striped horses are African, all non-striped ones are Asian.
We do not know what the fossil horses of America looked like; it is even possible, that we would not regard them as horses if the soft body parts were also preserved. To me, the fact that closely related species also live close to each other seems to be the rule, to such an extent, that it cannot be regarded as a coincidence.
[... Examples of the last statement omitted. Page break 74/75 ...]
The grouped distribution of related animals that is so common seems to indicate that the reason for this uneven distribution is also relational, that is, the closely related species truly have a common origin or developed from each other. I do not merely mean gratuitously erected species, but I think that the distribution of animals renders it likely that many of those species, which now live and reproduce separately, were originally not separated. By systematic categories, they developed from varieties into uniquely different species. Without this conviction I would not know how to account for the fact that American swines have a gland on their back but not swines of the old world, why several lama species live in America but not in the old world, in the latter however several camels, why American monkeys have one more molar that those of the old world, why no baboon and tailless monkeys [apes] are in the new world. If each of the presently existing species had to emerge from spontaneous generation [Urzeugung], we would still need special conditions that impressed these animals of the old and new world with their peculiar family characters. As everything existing in nature is changeable, partly mobile in space, partly able to develop, it is not comprehensible why these forms should have no other development that their general sequence of occurrence revealed to us by paleontology.*) I do not dare to venture a guess on how far this development of species from each other is to bee assumed. And I do not feel a need to do so either. It seems impossible that all forms existed from the beginning on the hardly formed Earth, I am forced to assume some spontaneous generation, though I cannot comprehend the process. If, however, because spontaneous generation is incomprehensible to me, I assumed the transformation to such an extent that I even imagined humans as developed from other animals, and this up to the first monad, whole sequences of unrecognized and not understood secrets seem to get concatenated. If, however, I believe that related animal forms have become independent species only with time, then their currnt distribution will lead there, and several other analogies from the present world could also be found. The guinea-pig, transferred to Europe, doe not pair with Cavia Aperae, which has been taken to be its stem-race, according to Rengger. Now they search for another stem. If this should remain elusive, one will have to admit that new species still develop even now. – here, of course, only through human participation.
       If several species developed from a basic form, as races still to today, then one is permitted to assume that previous types have been less fastened. I think that the type got engrained ever more deeply only through the perpetual sequence of generations, and I am conscious of the fact that this is a hypothesis, a hypothesis, however, that does not contradict any of our experiences, but renders comprehensible some affairs, especially in relation to variations of the humankind. Those who assume several species of humans always appeal to the fact that the Moors do not become white in Europe and the Europeans in India and Brazil not black. Except for the short time-spans, however, in which these observations have been made. except for the fact that Europeans never expose themselves to the sunlight as much as the Africans, it seems plausible to me to assume that the type was more variable in the first row of generations, and therefore also more influenced by conditions than today. The act of generation determined the type, the more often it recurred,
     *) The botanists believe to be able to prove the fixity of species the best. "While the shoot/scion continues the individual, the seed, the product of fertilization, continues the type of the species." That is surely true in general, however, nature does not heed sharp boundaries. Where would the first refined grafting scion come from, if the type of the specs was fixed and unchangeable? Wherefrom the varieties? Is it mere prejudice that the flower breeder prefers to sow seeds of flowers that have already taken the first step of refinement? The zoologists have been very impressed by Cuvier, who assured them, after the inspection of some mummies from Egypt, that not the smallest bone has been lost or added to these species since their embalmment. But one does not need to travel back that far and just look around a little. The long tailed sheep have many more tail vertebrae than the sheep with fat pads. Can they, therefore, be considered distinct species? The sheep of Baku are intermediate between the Syrian ones with long tails and the Krymmian ones, whose tail is hidden between the fat humps.

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the more fixed, me thinks, the type becomes. Hence, we should be content with a limited number of spontaneous generations, and we can assume a common origin for all cats, or at least for most of them – and the origin of mongoles, negroes, etc. could easily be deduced from this hypothesis. In the same way as we now do see family-resemblances propagate in the small, or predispositions for disease that sometimes recur after generations, or dispositions for luxuriance of hair etc., so the differences in phyla would have been former family-peculiarities."