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, Germany, 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 publications may merit a look. (I don't know them yet. Judging from the article translated below, they May be a bit 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 a little bit 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.
[For translations of the second and third article click on "Walther May" in the menu of lables shown above the posts of this blog.]

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):
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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.

    My mother later often told me how disappointed she was back then, I counted as such a reasonable child, and she expected wonders of what kind of wise item I would choose, and now I brought home—a monkey. Today, of course, she thinks differently, today she sees this choice as the first trace of my love for Darwin.
    And I have to regard it as such myself, considering in particular, that not long ago, after I have become entirely reasonable, I bought a monkey, this time not a wooden one for ten pennies but a bronze one for 50 Marks.
    In a shop on Kaiserstraße in Karlsruhe, a small piece of art had for a long time captured my interest and aroused my desire. On a stack of old dusty books, one showing the faded name Darwin on its spine, sits an ape, contemplating a weathered human skull. His right foot holds a compass, its points resting on an open bible, its leafs declaring: eritis sicut deus. [This was Affe mit Schädel, of course, a famous work by Hugo Reinhold.]

Image courtesy of darwinmonkey.com.
This time it was a shortage of money rather than courage what took me so long

---[p. 4]---

to buy the ape. On earning an unexpectedly high collegiate fee [my hunch is that one of his lectures was unexpectedly well attended yielding more student fees than usual, his main income as an non-tenured assistant prof], however, I rushed to the shop and radiantly took possession of the ape.
    Roughly thirty years lie between this first and second [around 1903] ape-purchase. The name Darwin runs like a thread through the intervening thirty years, it gave direction and form to my life and brought me joy and despair in large amounts.
    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 = "at home," here, means the periodical: Daheim. Ein deutsches Familienblatt mit Illustrationen.]

Title page of the periodical Daheim 11, no. 1 (from books.google.de)
As a child I often leafed through the thick volumes and liked to fetch one year in particular. With a creepy pleasure I inspected the pictures of the skeletons of human and gorilla [Zöckler (1875, 43)], and I could not take my eyes off a dreadfully distorted face of an old man, his toothless mouth wide open, eyes fixed and frontal lobe raised high, below which was written extreme fear. [This image was taken from Charles Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872, page 299) and reproduced in an article by Otto Zöckler (1875, 28)]. An Ascidia also caught my eye [Zöckler (1875, 31)], that sea creature that is supposed to represent a link between invertebrates and vertebrates, which I mistook as a yellow beet, however, in my childish naivety. The embryos of human and dog interested me no less, which I interpreted as human ears [Zöckler (1875, 78)].
Pictures from Zöckler (1875, p. 43, 28, 31, 78): Skeletons of human and gorilla (top left); expression of fear (top right); Ascidia (middle); embryos of human and dog (bottom).
All these pictures belong to an essay by the professor of theology, Zöckler, on the Darwinian developmental theory, in which the big question is being discussed in a objective manner that is remarkable for a theologian. [Zöckler's essay had four parts: I. Darwin's antecedents; II. Darwin; III. Darwin's followers; IV. Darwin's critics. Parts III and IV were each serialized into three making for eight issues/episodes.]
[Zöckler, Otto (1875). Die Darwinsche Enwicklungstheorie, ihre Anhänger und ihre Kritiker. I. Vorläufer Darwins. II. Darwin. III. Darwins Anhänger. IV. Darwins Kritiker. Daheim. Ein deutsches Familienblatt mit Illustrationen Vol. 11; I: pp. 14-15, II: 26-31, III: 42-46 + 58-60 + 75-79, IV: 108-111 + 119-221 + 135-137.]
I also tried to read in this essay and heard of naturalists moving into the Darwinian camp, 'drums beating and flags flying,' so that I believed it was about a true war with music, flags and camps. I nevertheless sensed that I did not yet comprehend much of the essay, shut the book and thought to myself: that is something for later.
    And, indeed, I later retrieved the essay and read and read, therein, with a hot forehead and beating pulses. For in this essay I heard something entirely new, something that seemed shocking to my childish mind and convulsed me to the core. I read that earnest men doubted,

---[p. 5]---

even denied, the existence of a god, a personal creator of heaven and earth. I read that a primary school teacher said in a talk about religion, morals, and naturals sciences: "Earth is becoming a dot in space, the belief in a creator of heaven and earth gets ever more wavering. Finally, Charles Darwin appears; brightly emblazoned in light and truth, this erstwhile liberator of humanity from churchdom and clericalism with his development and selection doctrine, ascends to the daylight of a hopeful century! And, truly, those who believe in him will not die but live! Yes, future churches will be dedicated to him. His and Haeckel's holy doctrine, will penetrate the humans and better them, render them wiser and more humane. As now, still, the gospel, so Darwin will some day rule the world".
    I can still feel the frisson that shivered through me when I read these words. though I never was a pious child, I had learned at school that good and bad people existed, that the good believed in God and the bad did not, that the good would go to heaven and the bad to hell. And I often sent ardent prayers to the father in heaven, with the ever same plea: "dear God, make that I will not be asked in tomorrow's math lesson". And now I suddenly heard that not only frivolous villains, but also earnest men of science denied god. For me, that was teh apple from the tree of knowledge, the first stone levered out of the solid building of childish believe, the first germ of all future doubts and mental pains, but also the root of all the bright enthusiasm that later filled my heart, when I felt like a bold soldier in the big struggle for liberation of humanity.
    I dare say without exaggeration that the reading of Zöckler's essay was decisive for my whole future life. It stirred the first independent thinking in me , it lead me to the stands of socialist public meetings in Leipzig, to the copy desk of the Sozialdemokratie in Chemnitz, into the cell of the prison in Zwickau,

---[p. 6]---

at the feet of Haeckel in Jena and, finally, even into the homeland of Darwin.
    But I do not want to anticipate. The first result of reading that essay was a presentation by myself, given within the closest circle of family and friends, about Darwin's development theory. I still remember the details of this first rhetorical achievement exactly. A small cupboard with glass doors, in which I usually kept my spirit filled glass vials with reptiles and amphibians, was stood on two wooden stools and functioned as a lectern. Besides it stood two paper-boards, the woodcut clippings neatly pasted on them, which I had cut out of the Daheim and a Human Anatomy. Before the presentation I stayed in an adjacent room, from where I could observe the staircase, across which the lady of my heart needed to enter the auditorium. I almost lost courage, when I saw her ascend the stairs with her music portfolio, but a mustered all my mettle and stepped to the lectern with forced repose. I wore a Rock [there it is again, the smart dress/coat/jacket = Rock ≠ skirt], then, that was far to wide for me, and I still feeel my shame about the long sleeves and how I kept my hands on my back, in order to hide them. That, however, did not hinder me from declaiming Zöckler verbatim and with pathos:
    "Development is the magic word that now influences the scientific research and efforts of the pundits of all countries. Well-nigh every description in the field of historiography must now become a developmental history [evolutionary rather than developmental would be a current translation, but I preferred the more literal yet dated rendering]. Developmental history is the research and writing of the linguist, the historian of culture, literature and arts. The current author concerned with religious-theological matters deals with the development of the conception of God. The idea of development rules most powerfully, however, in the realm of the natural sciences. Here, it caused a profound revolution of the formerly common methods of research, teaching and representation. The natural history of organic kingdoms, in particular, of humans, animals and plants has   

---[p. 7]---

now entirely become a developmental history. Many naturalists of the present see the goal of their research, and the necessary culmination of all previous aspiration and achievement in the field of natural history, in the proud trial to comprehend all organic life of our planet coherently genetic".
    These words did not fail their desired effect and I received the compliments of the listeners over wine and cake.
    I have to praise myself for having been objective, as objective as Zöckler in his essay. I neither agitated for Darwinian ideas nor polemicized against them. I waited for an opportunity to form my own judgement. And this opportunity came, came in the form of Haeckle's The History of Creation [Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte]. I ravenously devoured the belligerent preface of this work and got high on the blooming vivid sentences of the Jenensian enthusiast. I did not yet dare to dare to read Darwin himself, back then, I probably sensed instinctively that the quiet and cool thinker would not have appealed to me. Of course, the Darwinian theory is not only a scientific hypothesis for Haeckel, serving to better understand a row of natural phenomena, but also a new gospel, the foundation of a new monistic religion. This is the only viewpoint that can enthuse a  juvenile of 15 years [1883] for Darwin's theory. And I got enthusiastic about it in more than the usual way. I turned the new ideas over in my mind at day and night, until I regarded them as mature enough to become their apostle to fight for them, to live, to suffer and, if necessary, to die. 
    I suggested a monistic pupils' club to my schoolmates. I preached the monistic gospel on the schoolyard. I wrote a journal with my own hand for the dissemination of monism at that school. The head of the first number boasted a medallion picture of Darwin that I had cut out of book catalogue. The first lead article dealt with the aim and task of the monistic pupil's society. It was unflattering

---[p. 8]---

for teachers and educators, who were accused to inculcate the minds of the youth with the ever and again with old, rusty church beliefs. The martyrdom was not long in coming. A pious juvenile, for whom my atheistic speeches were a thorn in the side, purloined my journal from his neighbor. He now held a powerful weapon in his hand and threatened to use it against me, that is, to take it to the director, if I were to continue my blasphemous agitation. I took the threat with proud disdain, as I was far to deeply steeped in the sanctity of my mission, in order to take any note of the yapping of a cleric churl. And the sheet went to the director. And the director appeared in the math lesson with the sheet in his hand and made the following speech in front of the attentively listening class:
    "A new prophet arose to Earth, a benefactor sent from heaven appeared to us in the form of Walther May. The faiths that the world has believed in for millenia, ecclesiastical faith, religion and fidelity are overthrown. The monism arises at the domestic sky and will be accepted in general. Walther May delivers monistic speeches to his listening disciples, founds a monistic pupils' club and brings forth a monistic journal. The monism rises like a lumen in dark night, and Waltehr May is its prophet. Worship him!"
    He left the room with this exclamation. The affair had no further consequences for me, and I did not care about the scorn and derision and continued my agitation for a while, until the sheet silently passed away for lack of collaborators. Furthermore, the small readership soon did not satisfy me anymore, and I thought about ways to spread my ideas to a larger audience. I wrote a small essay about the observation of ant life for this purpose that, to my delight, got published in the scientific journal Isis [this was not history-of-science journal by Chicago Press, but a different one published in Magdeburg. May, Walther. "Ueber die Beobachtung des Ameisenlebens." Isis. Zeitrschrift für alle naturwissenschaftlichen Liebhabereien 11: 289-290, 298-300, 306-307, 314-315 (1886); 12: 20-21 (1887).]. I therein tried to interest insect aficionados for the intelligent small nation of ants, that I tended in artificial nests in my room, mostly because I regarded ants 

---[p. 9]---

as particularly suitable Darwin-champions. Therefore, I did not only recount several small observations of mine but also polemicized against the generally acceptedview about instinct and ended by stating a ceterum censeo learned from Haeckel: "Only the theory of descent and development can explain the features of the ant state. Ants originally acquired their mode of life and organization through adaptation and fixed it through habit and heredity, so that they eventually appear to be inborn. Through new adaptations, through changing conditions of life, new characteristics can be acquired and old ones be lost".
    Soon after this first writing deed the free-thinker sheets Freie Glocke [Free Bell] and Menschentum [Humanity] provided a field on which I could sow my world-delighting seeds. I wrote about all possible and impossible things, with nobody suspecting a sixth-former behind the pseudonym W. M., about morals/ethics and natural law, anthropology and school education, empiricism and speculation, briefly, about everything that moves a thinking mind and a pupil's heart. Re-reading these articles now, a spring air and skylark sound seem to drift from them to me, and I dream myself back yearning for that golden age, when the heart was so large and wide and embraced the whole world and the nagging worm of doubt had not yet eaten away at the soul. "It is true, one pays for the dreams of youth with the disappointments of old age, but one does not pay too much therewith." I used to call this the wisest thought that has ever sprung from a philosopher's brain. And I called out to the experienced and warning voices: "What would youth be without its dreams? Nothing! old age would be preferable to it. Because it is filled with experiences of a whole life and illuminated by the memory of the energetic action of the man. The life experience, the rounded off knowledge is for the man and the venerable, what the dreams are for the youth. They grant foothold and support, they spur

---[p. 10]---

youth to be diligent and perseverant, to act energetically and create. They lift it above the rough reality and render its mind susceptible for all things high and noble. Try taking the dreams away from youth and condemn them as idle infatuations, the shadow of youth will be all that remains."
    Thus I raved with nineteen years [1887]. And I cannot regard very wrong what I wrote back then. Otherwise, also, some good thought is hidden in these essays. Haeckel's old demand to integrate the developmental theory into the school curriculum, an idea that has just recently been demanded, again, at the meeting of naturalists in Hamburg and that will hopefully be realized soon. I also planned a small paper titled "Creeds of a Pupil," back then, that should prove that pupils were able to comprehend the basic principles of the developmental theory. At Büchner's advice, i changed the title to "Creeds of a Truth Seeker" and dedicated it to all thinking people, especially the studying youth, rather than to the pupils, whereby all originality was lost. The initial tendency is discernible in the preface, however.
    "Even today," it says, "our whole system of school education does not rest on the solid pillars of science, but on the wavering feet of faith; the belief of the church is still ruling rather than science of truth.! For how long is this state of affairs supposed to continue, for how long does the school intend to deny the results of the natural science and not build the worldview of the pupil on this one and only true and certain basis? And they deplore the general disinterest of the pupil in natural history! Yes, you headmasters and ministers of education, it's not the pupil's fault, but yours and your false curriculum's. You teach the dry and artificial systematics instead of the vivid phylogenetic history, the dead dull creation doctrine instead of the mind refreshing transformation theory, the unscientific anthropo-creationism instead of the scientific anthropogenism! And so

---[p. 11]---

the lessons in natural history is supposed to have a fruitful effect."
    The first chapter of this paper portrays the education in miracle-belief as the cause of the pupils' lack of conviction, the second ridicules the school-prayer. The following sections are essential excerpts from the publications of Haeckel, Büchner and Vogt. Belief in immortality and God are shrugged off, the doctrine of Darwin is glorified. The last chapter touches n the social question.
    That was my first step from religion to politics. A new ideal arose in me: political freedom and social happiness. Schiller's works became my political gospel.They served me to train larynx and lung for future public speeches. And as I outgrew the compulsion to attend school in the anniversary of the French Revolution, I bought the thickest gnarled stick largest broad-brimmed I could find in Cassel's shops and wandered to Leipzig with herwegh's poems in my pocket, in order to enthuse the students there not only about monism but also about the  centenary of the storming of the Bastille. That, of course, was harder than I thought, because the student of Leipzig regarded antisemitism as quintessence of political ambition and was blind and deaf for the ideals of free humanity. Soon, however, I discovered the new founded free-thinker society Humboldt and became one of its presidents. An audience of workers, mainly, devoutly listened to my liberation-gospel, until the university vetoed, banned me from the free-thinker society, Humboldt, and from worker assemblages, incarcerated me for four days. Eventually, the university relegated me for lifetime from all German universities, after I had ignored its former ban and tried to talk about the creation and end of the world in the surrounds of Leipzig.
    Now I was a free man, as free as possible in snug Saxony. And I used this freedom thoroughly. I wandered from one Saxon village to the next and preached the monist and soon also the socialist gospel. I now regarded Marx as the hero behind whom Darwin stood back. In the

---[p. 12]---

materialist conception of history, I saw a necessary complement of the Darwinian philosophy. Again, however, it was not Marx himself but his prophet Engels whom I mainly studied, like I had previously not adhered to Darwin but his prophet Haeckel. Engle's writings, in particular his small work on the development of socialism from utopia to science impressed me deeply and built the foundation of my agitating speeches in the socialist public assemblies and clubs. Nevertheless, I never lost sight of Darwin entirely and the workers, in particular, showed the warmest understanding for the teachings of the English researcher. I now tried to consider Darwin, in accordance with Engels, as a link in the Hegelian dialectic mode of thought.
     "I science too", I said during a talk about the aims of the worker-education societies, "the dialectic method of thinking achieved great successes. Kant already dissolved the stable solar system of Newton into the development of the natural bodies from a rotating nebular mass. Modern science extended this historical conception of the world system in all directions and is now able to describe the development of the universe with similar certainty. However, not only the inorganic but also the organic nature developed gradually according to the modern scientific conception. Whereas the great naturalists Cuvier and Linné taught the absolute fixity of animal and plant species, the ingenious Englishman Charles Darwin showed that the whole of organic nature represents a continuous process of development, in which the higher organisms gradually develop/evolve from the lower through the interaction of inheritance and adaptation in the struggle for survival. The task that science poses to worker-education associations is to promote the understanding of the Darwinian developmental theory and the Kant-Laplacian world-formation theory among workers." 
    Darwin, Hegel and Marx had, thereby, been welded together. Whereas I had previously seen the great Briton as an audacious fighter for a freethinking worldview, I now considered him as a 

---[p. 13]---

brilliant representative of the dialectic thinking method, from which the scientific socialism had also originated. It should still take a long time until Darwin became for me what I consider him today: the biggest representative of biological research in the nineteenth century and one of the biggest masters of scientific methodology of all time.
    The path to this opinion lead via Goethe. After the narrow walls of the prison cell had enclosed me and at once snatched me away from the changeful political life, after the outer world seemed to have ceased to exist for me, I searched and found a substitute for the loss in the works of the an who created a world within himself and whose works reflected this world.
Zwickau Jail "Schloss Osterstein" in 1915 (CC0, Brück & Sohn Kunstverlag, via Wikipedia)
    "Except for the astronomical books," I wrote to my mother, "I ordered Goethe's works and Lewes' biography of Goethe [George Henry Lewes (1902). Life of Goethe]. Their study keeps me mentally busy and maintains my interest in human affairs. Goethe's complete works, as part of a denomination, constitute a rich, changeful, manifold, magnificent human life, a human life with its love and suffering, its fights, struggles and ambitions. But not only that! The diversity of the outer civil life also passed by the mind's eye. This versatility and universality of Goethe renders him dear to a human being that is isolated from the big whirl of the world. By immersing oneself in these works, he partakes of its struggles and ambitions, its fights, suffering and joys. And the poet wrote words that contain a world of solace and hope for the one who always aims and thinks and muses and studies and always searches for the truth but always realizes that he cannot find it, that he will remain a seeker for all his life: "Who ever strives with all one's might, the one we can redeem." It can only be said or written on paper imperfectly and amateurish what impression Goethe's works in their totality made, in a time like that, on a person

---[p. 14]---

of my temper. And I want to exclaim with Werther: "Alas, if you could only express, if you could only inspire the paper with your full and warm inner life, that it would become a mirror of your soul!"
    Some readers will think that even the bleak cell walls could not cure the dreamer. However, I struggled bona fide to swear off dreaming and become "objective" back then. For it was Goethe's objectivity and even more his mental development from subjectivity to objectivity that enthralled me. I wanted to to emulate him in this and, like his master Spinoza, try to "neither hate, despise, deride anybody, nor to be angry with or to envy anybody," but to devote my whole life to observe and comprehend the things. An agitating life seemed to be irreconcilable with such a philosophy and, also, the pedantic, grouchy criticism of the day-today politician seemed to contradict the Olympian tranquility and serenity of the Goethean mindset.
    Therefore, I wrote a notice of terminating my membership in the socialist party after one and a half years of wrestling. I could not describe my change of mind in the way that I did above. These people would not have understood. Therefore, I only wrote: "I also do now see that I formed my political opinions at an age, where I neither had the knowledge nor experience that are necessary in order to judge and decide about the intricate socio-political issues." Thereupon, the Leipzigian "Wähler" said, it was to be awaited what I'd say about my letter after my release, possibly the distresses of the long detainment had affected my mindset. A party member of Leipzig wrote less tolerant to me: "If someone like you joins, with such a great enthusiasm for the noble cause, he cannot suddenly change his convictions. Whatever they promised you, nobody can give you back or replace your political honor. I can imagine what influence you succumbed to. But neither you nor the ones who made you into what you are now will rejoice in you."

---[p. 15]---

These words hurt me rather than they embittered me, for the writer did not know what magician had wrested the weapon from my hand and paralyzed my arm.I even wasn't entirely clear myself, back then, about the influence of Goethe on my mindset as I am today. Just a short while ago, on the occasion of re-reading Heine's romantic school a new light dawned on my  concerning this influence. 
    Therein, Heine charges that the pantheism rendered Goethe an indifferent quietist. While Schiller wrote for the grand ideas of the revolution, destroyed the mental Bastilles and built on the great temple of freedom, Goethe busied himself with artistic play things, anatomy, chromatics, botany and meteorology. Admittedly, Goethe also sang about some great stories of emancipation, like Schiller in the Revolt of the Netherlands and in Wilhelm Tell, but he did so as an artist. He treated the enthusiasm entirely historical as something given, a subject that must be dealt with. The spirit became matter in his hands and he gave it a nice agreeable form.His works grace our fatherland like beautiful statures grace a garden, but they are statures. One can fall in love with them, but they are sterile: Goethe's literature does not spawn the deed like Schiller's does. For the deed is the child of the word and Goethe's beautiful words are childless. When Heine contemplated the old figures of the gods, they reminded him of Goethe's literature, which as equally superb, accomplished, quiet and which seems to feel, likewise, that its rigidity and coldness cuts it off from our current moved and warm life. That they cannot cheer and suffer with us, are no human beings but unfortunate hybrids between deity and stone.
    I learned through my own experience, how true this opinion of Heine is. Goethe achieved what neither the prosecution of the attorneys, the preaches of the priest, the detention nor the air in prison could not achieve. He broke my fighting spirit and turned my from a fighter and striker into a quietist and skeptic. He gave me much,    

---[p. 16]---

but he also took much away from me. The more I studied his works, the more I spun myself into an ever thicker skin of objectivity, until, for fear of treading to close to objectivity, I was soaked in skepticism so much that I did not dare to draw a judgement on anything. I replied to all questions about my opinion: that is hard to answer, that cannot be decided easily. Nevertheless, this objectivity is not compliant with my impulsive and enthusiastic nature, it is a product of art and not of nature. Maybe Goethe's objectivity impressed me that much, because I lacked it so entirely. But I think I wasn't a completely indocile student and my later writing profited from my striving for objectivity.
    Besides his objectivity, Goethe's nature research impressed me the most. Heackels publications had earlier alerted me to Goethe's naturalism and, like the zoologist from Jena, I regarded Goethe as a forerunner of Darwin, a pioneer of the theory of descent in Germany. A publication of the zoologist Oskar Schmidt, "War Goethe ein Darwinianer?" that I read in prison, bewildered me in this belief. Nevertheless, I kept drawing parallels between Goethe and Darwin. Directly after reading Schmidt's essay, I wrote in an unpublished treatise:
    "Even if Goethe cannot be counted as a predecessor of Darwin in the proper sense, he nevertheless was congenial with the great Briton in many respects. Haeckel is absolutely right, when he calls him a thoughtful naturalist. For Goethe was no brute empiricist, who stuck to particulars, but he tried to apprehend and comprehend the organic relation of things, and in this he was together with the founder of the scientific theory of descent. He believed that empiricism and philosophic speculation, analysis and synthesis, had to go hand in hand, if science was to satisfy the human quest for knowledge. The thinking experience or the experiential

---[p. 17]---

thinking was the only source of scientific truth for him.  
    "There is another reason, however, why the German prince of poets deserves to be called spiritually akin to Darwin. Goethe already gave the honor to the genetic way of thinking, of which he thought that the German could not rid himself of, and he called the teleological way of thinking that tries to explain through purposeful final causes as a sad contrivance that must be eliminated. The Metamorphosis of Plants and The Vertebrate Theory of the Skull testify the great value that Goethe placed on the study of the developmental history. He believed that the developed could only be understood through comprehension of the development. He adopted Turpin's statement: "to see the thing coming is the best way to explain it." Furthermore, he quoted the following saying of Turpin: "the general organization of a living being and that of its organs in particular can only be explained by tracing, step by step, the sequence of development that such a being went through from its first moment until its death." "And this remains," Goethe added, "the main article in the creed of earnest Germans who engage in the observation of nature faithfully."
    The parallel Goethe-Darwin did not leave me alone after I regained freedom, and I spent several sleepless nights over the question of Goethe's position in relation to the problem of the theory of descent. The more I dealt with it and thought about it, the harder it seemed to give a clear answer. Finally, I approached Haekel's opinion again, without fully chiming in. 
    "It cannot be denied," I said in a talk about Goethe's relations with nature and science, "that Goethe had been thinking about the origin of species, the he used doctrines of the theory of descent at times, but he did not follow these views through for a longer period and did not try to explain them more thoroughly. For him, the origin of animal and plant species was essentially a problem," 

---[p. 18]---

which was still awaiting its resolution. We may be allowed to regard him as a predecessor in a certain limited way, better still a mind congenial with the great British researcher; we can call him a prophetic proclaimer of the transformation theory: It would seem to be going too far, however, to celebrate him as a founder, indeed, the founder of the theory of descent on German ground."
    Studying the scientific works of Goethe provided some more fruitful stimuli for me. Most of all, it lead me to occupy myself in-depth with Alexander von Humboldt. While passing Leipzig in transit, I bought the original edition of Humboldt's Kosmos in an antiquarian bookshop, at the evening of the very day that I had regained my liberty. After I had been cast up at Berlin, thereafter, the reading of Humboldt's works and of Bruhns's biography of Humboldt became the bright spot in my sombre existence as a corrector of a Berlin printer's shop.
    At that time my desire to follow in the footsteps of great men. At Sundays I moved out of the city towards Tegel, and under the gorgeous old trees of the unmatched parks, where nature, art and history joined hands in alliance, I cleansed my soul from the lead-dust of the week. I rushed through the park rapt in delight, marveled at the mighty Humboldt-oak, that seemed to have come from the tropical forests that Humboldt had portrayed to us, nonpareil, with its serpentine branches and its ivy as thick as an arm. Adoringly, I stood in front of graves of the great pair of brothers, of Thorwald's statue of hope. And a holy frisson quivered in my bosom, when the soft wind from the sea silently moved the twigs of the red spruce in the background of the graves. A few steps on I found the lonely grave of the brave educator Kunth with the inscription set in stone: "the grateful woods praise the resting caretaker." I wnat to rest like that as well, it whispered within me. And when I stepped out of this dark and solemn place towards the bright banks of the Lake Tegel, a thousand floating stars twinkling on its waves, when I wandered for miles through the vast woodlands of the Tegel forest, I felt with the poet:

---[p. 19]---
Wie neu der Becher mundet,
Wie drinnen mir das Herz gesundet,
Wie klein die Welt, die mich versehrt,
Wie groß Natur, die mich ernährt.
[After Die Jagd by Gottfried Kinkel]
    When I got back into the bustle of the big city, however, when the lead-dust of the machine shop paralyzingly settled on the soul, and the letters of the proofs danced bofore the eyes, then I felt as if I had lost a newfound home and, varying the words of the great Scot Makay [John Henry Mackay], I groaned:
Um mich rauscht das Getriebe der Welt, so kalt, so hohl,
Die Lippe flüstert leise: Schlößchen Tegel, lebe wohl!
    I still keep a memento of these days in Tegel in the first volume of Bruhns's Humboldt biography. An assembly of dried flowers and leafs: a viola, forget-me-not and ivy leaf from the grave, a lilac leaf from the splendid old bush behind the small chateau, a fern and a birch twig. A photography of the grave stands in front of me on my desk, at the wall above hang steel engravings of Humboldt portraits, whose originals I saw in Schloss Tegel. Their sight brings back memories that I would not want to miss for all the riches of the world.
    Humboldt captivated me for the same reason that Goethe's naturalism had attracted me: the peculiar fusion of scientific and esthetic aspects. And I believed to discern a similar streak in Darwin, later, on reading his famous travelogue. In this most beautiful work of the great explorer, his esthetic pleasure in the splendors of creation are sympathetically touching! How we empathize when he expresses his enthusiasm in the dark jungle or on the highs of the Andes! The biggest Darwin biographer, Bölsche, rightly remarked that a streak of a poet lingered in Darwin throughout his life."He was a poet in the sense of a who commands all means of the highest vivid style, when he conjured an image of the distant zones before the reader's mind, but also in his biggest work, when with a brilliant view from the distance 

---[p. 20]---
 
he synthesized all our knowledge of the laws of life on Earth in a high-level theory that flew back in time through the millennia of earth history presuming to decipher the coming-into-being of things from the dark book of nature."
    And Humboldt had made him that poet. Darwin told us in his autobiography about the bright enthusiasm with which he read the great German voyager#s descriptions of the tropics. And later, again, he seems to have enjoyed the most the chapters on esthetics and nature in Humboldt's Kosmos. "How true are," he writes to Hooker, "many of the statements on scenery, they are exact expressions of my own sensations/perceptions."
    Among the current explorers it is foremost Ernst Haeckel, in whose works scientific and esthetic reflections on nature join hands. The artist almost prevails over the researcher in the ingenious scholar from Jena. In his youth, already, he already felt attracted towards books that complied with his esthetic penchant as much as with his urge to research. Humboldt's views of nature, Goethe's works and Darwin's journal of the voyage constitute the favorite reading of the juvenile. And later, in Sicily, he almost became a landscape painter had he not found the bridge between art and science in naturalism. The radiolaria and medusae, those marvelous sea creatures of ineffable beauty, nourished his artistic spirits as much as his scientific. And in the science of morphology he found a field of work that allowed his artistic urge to design to come into its own. Bölsche stated nicely that the first and foremost drive to erect this science emerged from artistic and esthetic circles and desires, and that it was not for nothing that the grand poet Goethe invented it and the magnificent painter Haeckel expanded it most successfully in the nineteenth century. Artists and scientists are equally obliged to him for his Art Forms of Nature. It is obvious that a thinker of such a mindset had to become a glowing admirer and apostle of Goethe's naturalism.
Narcomedusae (Haeckel 1904, Kunstformen der Natur,  plate 16, public domain)
---[p. 21]---

And that the same thinker also became the biggest exponent of Darwinism on German ground is another proof for the like-mindedness of Goethe and Darwin.
    In considering all these relations the name of the man who had influenced my first thinking so deeply got intertwined with the names of the men that later guided and my thinking and gave direction to it. The names Goethe, Humboldt, Darwin and Haeckel fused into a higher unit for me and became the luminous celestial four-body of my life.
    I owe noble friends of spirit and temper to the cult of this celestial body. But this cult should also pull me out of the misery of the corrector's job in Berlin. I had battled the typo-gremlin for month in the midst of roaring machines; beginning lead-poisoning had made my gum bleed, when an unexpected rescue came through a talk on Goethe's naturalism and its relation to Humboldt, Darwin and Haeckel, which I held in the house of my uncle—a reputable bookseller of Berlin.I laid all the enthusiasm into that talk, which Goethe's nature-worship had awakened in me, I spoke with the tongues of men and angels and touched my uncle's heart.
    And my uncle wrote a letter to the great prophet of monism in Jena asking for advice on how to help the small prophet. And the greeat prophet came to Berlin, came nto the house of my uncle, sat in the armchair at my uncle's table, and I sat opposite and raised the glass with shaking hand and drank a toast with Haeckel to a happy future, on a fruitful course of studies at the free university of the free Thuringia. Big historical mment of my life, I will always remeb´mber you until the end of my days!
    "The meeting went well beyond all expectations," I wrote to my mother immediately after Haeckel's visit, "to the full  satisfaction of all participants. Haeckel impressed us as a superb, natural, good human and captured everybody's heart. He responded to the affair with tender understanding, without supercilious professoral expression, but with insight into human nature and sober practical apprehension."

---[p. 22]---

    And my uncle wrote at the same time: "A human fate has been decided today in a benign way; the fairy tale came true: Haeckel toasted with Walther to his future, about the relegation and Walther's fear that he would not be accepted by any German university he smiled: I will vouch for that, I cannot say that it is exactly a letter of recommendation that you have been relegated in this way, but it is something similar." Next "I have two scholarships to award, come to Jena in spring, it will be my pleasure to help you." Walther said: "now it is all up to me," and he is right and he will acquit himself well.
    My mother replied to these news: "Good luck! The content of the two letters I just received sounds like a beautiful dream! Stay well and the world will arise for you in unforeseen new splendor!"
    And it arose! It arose in that famous small town at the banks of river Saale, its unnameable magic had seized so many who had been lucky to live in it. A new youth, a second spring of life rose for me, when Jena's walls enclosed me, when I sat at Haeckel's feet, roamed the mountains and valleys of Thuringia and strolled on the trails of Goethe in the classic townlets at the Saale and Ilm riversides. My letters from this delightful time have, unfortunately, not been preserved, but the replies indicate that they were permeated with glowing enthusiasm. No place on Earth could have captured my deeper than Jena, where Goethe, Humboldt, Haeckel and Darwin entwined in superb arabesque.
    Goethe had stayed here, working busily for weeks and months, in this lovely quixotic hamlet. He was always happy, here, because he owed to no other place on Earth as many productive moments. And his naturalism, in particular, is connected with this place. He conducted his osteological studies with Loder in Jena, discovered the intermaxillary bone, founded the botanical garden and observed the clouds in the guest-house Zur Tanne. Even today the visitor of the anatomy at the Lödergraben admires the

Anatomy Tower (2010), where Goethe and Loder discovered the intermaxillary bone (by C. Löser CC BY 3.0)
Anatomy Tower (Jena 2010). Here Goethe & Loder discovered the intermaxillary bone (C. Löser, CC BY 3.0)


---[p. 23]---

collection of small skelletons that Goethe prepared with his own hands. A rock at the Fürstengraben is evocative of Döbereiner, the chemist, who initiated Goethe into the secrets of stochiometry, and on the opposite side the house of the old bookseller Frommann reminds one of Minna Herzlieb und Goethe's great scientific novel. Schiller's dwelling house stands at the corner of the market place. Goethe accompanied him to this place, under discussing the doctrine of plant metamorphosis, on that memorable evening in 1794 that should establish their friendship for life. The stone table is still standing in Schiller's garden at the edge of the Leutraschlucht, opposite to Haeckel's villa. Here the two princes of poets have exchanged many a grand word, also, about scientific issues. And when we direct our steps outward into the lovely surrounds of Jena, we still wander on the trails of the naturalist and nature poet Goethe. From the small cozy village Ziegenhain stems the swain Dietrich, who accompanied Goethe on his field trips, and whom Goethe has memorized in the story of his botanical studies. The gorgeous ballads are still alive in the castles of the old Dornburg, where Goethe wrote them to praise the unmatched nature. 
    Alexander von Humboldt also came to Jena, into Goethe's vicinity, in the same year  in which Goethe and Schiller formed their friendship."Alexamnder v. Humboldt," Goethe wrote into his diary, "long since expected, arriving from Bayreuth obliged us into the more general of science. His elder brother, also in Jena at present, orienting a lucid interest to all sides, shareed aspiration, exploration and education."Towards the end of the next year, the presence of the brothers von Humnboldt diverted Goethe's attention, again, from the fine arts to the sciences. He wrote down his ideas concerning comparatove anatomy and its methods on their instigation. Two years later the brothers were in Jena, again, and all things philosophic and scientific came up for discussion. Goethe wrote to Körner, the presence of

---[p. 24]---

younger v. Humboldt alone sufficed to make an epoch of one's life worthwhile, because he sets everything into motion that could be of interest chemically, physically or physiologically.
    This time in Jena remains a bright epoch in the memories of Alexander v. Humboldt. Shortly after Schiller's death he wrote to his sister-in-law, Karoline v. Wolzogen, that he had enough German spirit, despite his universality, to feel that it is something big and laudable for him, that he had once stood among the classic heroes of the Weimar-Jena time, not entirely unnoticed; and in the Amazon forests and on the Andean ridge, he was permeated with the feeling how powerfully these relatons in Jena had influenced him, how Goethe's views of nature lifted him as if he had obtained new organs. Later, the assembly of naturalists lead him back to Jena and he gives the splendid introductio to Kosmos: On the diversit of enjoyment in nature and the scientific exploration of universal laws, in which the genius loci [spirit of the place] Jena seems to have prevailed. Eventually, in his eithyninth year, shortly before his death, he remembers his time spent with Goethe in Jena once more. "In my memories," he remarks, "Jena remained a point of light on a life's path a bit too long. I visited Jena during its highest intellectual splendor, in order to conduct earnest practical studies of anatomy in preparation for my antemundane American expedition. Continually ruled by mild sovereigns, it occupies an important position in the free researching Germany." He greatly regretted that he could not attend the three-centennary celebrations of the university, towards which he was drawn by the deerest and most stimulating memories and warmest feelings of gratitude, due to the accelerating decline of his powers." The Grand Duke Karl Alexander also invided him to the unveiling ceremony of the memorials of Goethe, Schiller and Wieland in Weimar saying: "You are so inseparable form everything that great and beautiful of the fatherland, so inseparable from the time to that these names indicate, that I cannot imagine the festivities without you."

---[p. 25]---

    One generation after this classical epoch, Jena should again draw the attention of the world. When the surges of the Darwinian movement were at its top, Karl Vogt called the small university town the college of Darwinism [Vogt had also translated Robert Chambers's Vestiges... in 1851 as Natürliche Geschichte der Schöpfung des Weltalls, der Erde, und der auf ihr befindlichen Organismen]. The spirit of Goethe and Oken arose again and boldly wielded its wings. No other scientific corpus in Germany had a larger number of active Darwinists back then than the Jena's society of medicine and natural sciences. The correctness of Vogt's description is testified by the names Haeckel, Gegenbaur, Wilh. Müller, Bardeleben, Strasburger, Richard and Oskar Hertwig, Detmer and Preyer. In my time, of course, many of these luminaries of Darinism had already left Jena, but capable and aspiring staff members had replaced them. There was Stahl, the brilliant investigator of the interrelations between plants and snails, of lichen development and of compass plants—Kükenthal, the adventurous explorer of the polar region and India, the knights professor of phylogenetics, whome I owe infinitely much—Verworn, the ingenious founder of cell physiology—and Johannes Walther, the incumbent of the Haeckel chair for geology and paleontology, the author of the brilliant work about geology as ahistorical science. How gladly I remember the geological excursions with professor Walther, my first trip to Weimar with him, where I learned to kow the park, the Goethe museum and the splendid Odyssey-landscape of Preller under his knowledgeable guidance. 
    Most of all, however, the head of the school was still present, Ernst Hackel, the German Darwin. When I listened to him in the auditorium of the nice new iinstitute of zoology I had to tap my forehaed, in order to assure myself that I was not dreaming to be taught by Haeckel himself about the theory that had seized me as a young boy so powerfully. I surely was no longer such an ardent folower of monism as I used to be, when I deoured the The Hiistory of Creation [Natürliche Schöfungsgeschichte, Haeckel 1868], but so much the more I was now impressed by the personality of the great apostle of the monistic religion. During lectures, my glances hung with heartfelt delight on the traits of the reverred teacher that radiated his inner enthusiasm. Who

---[p. 26]---

once saw this superb vernal visage, these beaming blue eyes, will remain spellbound, no matter how much his worldvies departs from the thoughts of dogmatic monism.
    And I departed all the more, as I learned to know Darwin from his own works. MNot that I was getting into any generall disagreement with monism. But it faded inchmeal from my horizon in a similar fashoin as socialism had previously disappeared. Until these Jena days, I had only known darwin from Haeckel, Büchner, Vogt and other of his meterialistic-monistic apostles. The only book of Darwin himself that I had read so far was a smaal work on the movements and life of climbing plants. It had prompted me in my school days to observe the climbing of vines, beans, grapevines and ivy during summer holidays in the garden of the marksmen's clubhous in Wetzlar. These were delightful hours that I spent, this book in hand, in the continuous interplay with nature in that old city of Goethe and Werther. Even more delightful were the scintillations I got a decade later rapt in his Journal of the Voyage, from reading his Expressions of Emotions subsequent to my anatomical studies in Jena, but his autobiography and letters capped it all off.
    As so often in life, getting to know someone personally often lets him appear in a very different light from the one we imagined according to the descriptions of third parties, Darwin now seemed very different to me. He now stood before me, gigger and more splendid than I had ever imagined. But not as aprophet of monism, not as a herald of a new metaphysical ideology, but as a great investigator, a sharp observer, a cautiously pondering modest thinker. There was nothing of Haeckel's bold flight of fantasy that overpowered all barriers with ease, nothing of the dogmatism of Büchner and Vogt, there was Goethian objectivity. In the same was that the youthful temper of the enthusiastic boy got high on Haeckle's sky-high jubilating writings

---[p. 27]---

so the man's mind matured through Goethe's influence got excited about the sober works of Darwin that were, nevertheless, permeated with deep truth-seeking. Darwin now seemed to be the absolute character of the naturalist researcher, as the hero of scientific method. His work seemed to proclaim this method with iron tongue. Even today I would like to put to the heart of all young naturalists to study these work that fill the mind with the resurrecting breath of true great natural philosophy. Most of all, the letters will remain what my excellent teacher Ernst Stahl called them in Jena: the bible of the naturalist.
    I left Jena with the doctoral degree in my pocket. I departed, as the one who must departs from beauty is doomed to do, facing away. It seemed as if I was losing half of my existence. Goethe once said, who ever saw Italy and especially Rome properly will never again become completely miserable. "However," asks one of his biographers, "can he ever become entirely happy again, who must not see it again?" I could ask the same in relation to Jena. Even today, when I leaf through the collected memories of the ardently beloved town or think of the pearl of Thuringia it in daydreams, I feel a tear in the corner of my eye, a tear of gratitude, yearning and melancholy,and my quivering lips whisper the poet's yearning words:
Wer jemals dich erschaute
In deiner Schönheit klar,
Kann nimmer dein vergessen,
Ob auch erbleicht sein Haar.
Zog er in weite Fernen,
Ward schon sein Auge trüb,
Denkt er im Herzen Deiner
Gleich seiner Jugendlieb.
    Every other city must seem bleak and void for those who just left Jena. And for those coming from this cozy quaint nest who are thrown into the whirl of big-city life, it feels as if the heart must break. It would not have required the boring investigation of scale insects at

---[p. 28]---

the Station for Plant Protection in Hamburg nor the leaden sky and fog sleet, in orde to make life in that big seaport seem dull and sad to me; the loss of Jena alone would have sufficed. One of my friends in Jena called my letter from Hamburge the purest jeremiad, wherein the keynote was nostalgic longing for the lost paradise at the shore of the Saale.
    Again, Darwin brought me comfort in the sombre winter days of this time of exile. My tiny room at Speersort hardly had room enough for the considerable number of collected works of Darwin that I now acquired.But it was not the study of these works alone that let me forget my suffering. I used to sit for long past midnight working on a peculiar project that satisfied me and gave me pleasure: the making of a humorous-earnest family's heirloom record in a Darwinian framework. "New Contributions to the Evolutionary Theory" was the title of this artwork that I collated from picture postcards, photographies and woodcuts for my mother and siblings. A "Development of gymnastics and warfare" was for my brother, the soldier, a development of painting, fiddling and cycling for my sister, the painter, fiddler and cyclist. We therein see gymnastic frogs, fighting dogs, dumbbelling and fencing apes, maneuvering soldiers, painting, fiddling and cycling animals and humans, all with humorous texts and vignettes and fancy strips suiting the content. The highlight of the opus, however, was the part for my mother called "The development of motherly love. Based on Darwin's theory." Looking at the sixty plates of this album now, again, I am amazed about my accomplishment and regret that it cannot be made accessible to a wider circle. The whole is introduced by a tasteful title page and two nicely arranged pages of dedication with sayings about motherly love and a poem of mine about the psychic life of animals  in general and motherly love in particular. The plates follow that portray the development of motherly love in four stages, in articulate animals, birds, lower mammals and humans. An explanation is attached to each plate: quotes from

---[p. 29]---
 
the publications of behavioral biologists next to the animals, poems that glorify motherly love next to the humans. The whole was also meant to show how the study of nature includes many ethical aspects, virtually represent a bible of nature-religion. 
    There is yet another piece of writing on my desk that kept me busy in Hamburg and let a shimmer of light fall through the fog-drizzle into my room and into my overshadowed soul. A small but substantial Darwin biography by Wilhelm Bölsche. I often read this pearl of our biographical literature with wet eyes and touched heart, and in my mind shook hands with that magnificent poet and thinker, that great master of German language, for his exquisite gift. Nobody has ever described Darwin to us in that manner, warm and lively, adorable and stupendous. It is not a biographic account in the common sense but a powerful sermon coming from heart and pulling at one's heartstrings. Even those chapters dealing with Darwin's theory are enlivened by such an inner warmth that the reader forgets that the topic of human character is left and and strict science dealt with. Bölsche's lucid style masters the most unwieldy issues and explains the most intricate problems aptly. All the essentials are condensed on a few pages with rare skill, possible only because of a most through knowledge of Darwin's works. This book should be read by all
 ho want to shake off the dust of everyday life for some hours, it is to be recommended to youth as much as seniority, to the male as much as the female.  
    Bölsche later also gave us a biography of Haeckel that is as good as the Darwin-script in content and form. Nobody is better qualified to appraise the natural philosopher from Jena than Bölsche who, like Haeckel, is a naturalist, artist and philosopher in one. 
    Darwin should occupy me in a different context during the last phase of my time in Hamburg. I had the pleasure, then, to curate the extensive collection of crustaceans of the Natural History Museum of Hamburg. When I reached the group of barnacles

---[p. 30]---

or cirripedes, those peculiar sedentary and shelled crustaceans, I had to consult Darwin's great monograph on that animal class, a work that provides the foundation of our knowledge in this branch of zoology until this very day. I therewith learned to know Darwin from a new side but my impression was, again, that he provided the upmost possible for a human to achieve. The whiff of a great spirit can be perceived even in such a dry matter as the special characters of a small group of lower animals. No thing was minor enough that his genius could not have given meaning and substance to it. It had become a deep and almost religious conviction for him that even the humblest phenomenon of nature, each color strip and shade of a flower, each earthworm and each crayfish carried high meaning. He saw the general in the special, in the particular fact the law. This impresses his special character of stature even on his specialist publications that we usually only encounter in works on general problems of humanity.
     Fortunately, my ordeal in Hamburg, its darkness lit up only from time to time through these Darwin studies, lasted only for eight months. Then I was suddenly relocated from the cold dull North to the bright sunny South of Germany. A rich and interesting field of work presented itself to me in Karlsruhe that corresponded with my penchants in particular, because the Darwin cultus was an integral part of this work. I habilitated at the technical university with an exam sample/test address on Humboldt and Darwin; for these lectures I read about Darwin's life and works and about the history of the theory of descent and collected a lot of illustrative material. I also had opportunities to transfer my enthusiasm for the hero of thinking naturalism on others outside the scope of the university. And it was a particular pleasure to me to arrange a theoretical insect collection in the natural history cabinet of Karlsruhe, that illustrated the phenomena of signalling (advertising) and warning

---[p. 31]---

coloration, of mimicry and sexual dimorphism, as far as these applied to insects.
    The collection in the Natural History Museum of London is a classic example for such exhibitions. It had been the lively wish of my heart for a long time to see it with my own eyes. Anyway, I had developed a sympathy for the Great British nation and its intellectual heroes from early on, and my yearning to travel to the island kingdom grew ever more intense. I already expressed this wish in one of my letters from Zwickau prison."England is," I wrote there, "the true fatherland of natural science and national economics, the is, the two sciences that occupied me most so far. England generated a Baco of Verulam, the founder of empiricist philosophy and of the inductive scientific method, a Charles Darwin, the reformer of the biological science, Karl Marx, the father of scientific socialism lived and worked in England, the first political and economic labor conflicts took place there. I wished I could see with my own eyes, sometime, the land that has impressed me so much with its scientific and industrial achievements."
    My desire got fulfilled ten years after I wrote these lines. It grew bigger as I was forced to enlarge, in my lectures on Darwin, on things I had no concrete conception of, that were only words and sounds for me. The names Shrewsbury, Cambridge, Downe, Lichfield, Derby rang almost cacophonous in my ears because they were mere sound but no perception for me. Goethe had taught me to loath the word that that was not based on a concrete conception. His whole life he strove to inform himself of the things of the world through personal experience. "I also do no longer want to rest," he writes in his Italian travels, "until nothing remains mere word and tradition for me but lively concept/ perception. This was my drive and curse from youth on; now that age is coming, I want to achieve at least the achievable and to do the doable, as I endured for so long, deservedly and undeservedly,

---[p. 32]---

the fate of Sisiphus and Tantalus." And elsewhere in the same work he says: "And now I insist upon  that nothing remains name or word for me. I want to see with my own eyes and realize the things that are regarded as beautiful, grand, dignified." The delight of the author permeates all the letter of Goethe from Italy to Weimar that he can now get to know through his own experience what he hitherto only knew by word and through tradition. "Now, thank God," he exclaims, "Venice is no longer a mere word, a name that used to frighten me, who always hated verbiage." And from Rome he writes back to his friedns in Weimar: "... [more verbiage of Goethe omitted]." 
    These statements of Goethe illuminate the aspect that led me in England on Darwin's trails in the summer of 1902. I also did not want to learn new things, there, but only see with my own eyes and enjoy the long since known. I now wanted to shape Darwin's life to concrete reality in the same way that I used to elevate to true concreteness the life of Humboldt in Berlin, of Goethe in Jena and Weimar. And my hope came true splendidly. I promenaded, contemplating and prying, on the sites that have been sacred through the researcher's great name, and I came home with rich hoards of memories. It was a beautiful crowning completion of thirty years of life and striving in the service of Darwin.