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Letter 4934

Haeckel, E. P. A. to Darwin, C. R.

11 Nov 1865

    Summary Add

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    Has heard from Huxley that CD has been ill.

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    Progress on his book [Generelle Morphologie (1866)] has been slow.

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    Has been named "ordentlicher Professor". Has 150 listeners in his lectures on CD's theory.

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    Thanks CD for copy [of "Climbing plants"].

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    Sends his book [Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte der Hydromedusen, 1. Heft: Die Familie der Rüsselquallen (Geryonidae) (1865)] and two articles.

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    Calls attention to a new rhizopod from Nice.

Transcription

Jena

11. November 1865.

Mein hochverehrter theurer Herr!

Nach längerer Zeit des Schweigens darf ich wohl wieder Ihre kostbare Zeit zum Lesen eines Briefes von mir in Anspruch nehmen. Durch Herrn Huxley habe ich zu meinem grossen Bedauern erfahren, dass Sie leider wieder sehr krank gewesen sind. Ich hoffe, dass es Ihnen wieder besser geht, und dass Sie der Wissenschaft und uns noch recht lange erhalten bleiben.

Leider ist mein Buch, welches Ihre Theorie ausführlich behandelt, immer noch nicht vollendet, trotzdem ich es schon vor einem halben Jahre fertig zu sehen hoffte. Ich habe aber diesen ganzen Sommer mit Arbeiten am zoologischen Museum verlieren müssen; da ich nämlich vor 6 Monaten hier zum ordentlichen Professor der Zoologie ernannt worden bin, nachdem ich eine Berufung nach Würzburg abgelehnt hatte. Indessen hoffe ich das Buch bis nächsten Weihnachten vollenden zu können und werde es Ihnen sogleich nach Vollendung zusenden.

In diesem Winter hatte ich hier wieder öffentliche Vorlesungen ``über Darwins Theorie'', welche die besuchtesten von allen Vorlesungen sind, die an der hiesigen Universität gehalten werden. Ich habe über 150 Zuhörer, und das grösste Auditorium unserer Universität ist gefüllt. Sie können daraus ersehen, welches ausserordentliche Interesse hier an unserer kleinen Universität für Sie und Ihre Theorie herrscht und wie lebhaft die Theilnahme an der grossen Reform der Wissenschaft ist, welche Sie begonnen haben, und welche durchführen zu helfen die grösste Aufgabe meines Lebens ist. Meine Zuhörerschaft ist sehr gemischt, es sind darunter ausser vielen Medicinern und Naturforschern auch viele Historiker und Studenten der Philosophie; selbst einige Theologen und Juristen fehlen nicht!

Für die Übersendung Ihres schönen Aufsatzes ``on the climbing plants'' sage ich Ihnen meinen herzlichsten Dank. Ich habe ihn mit grossem Interesse gelesen.

Hoffentlich werden Sie mein Buch über die Geryoniden (mit 6 Tafeln), sowie einen Aufsatz ``über fossile Medusen'' und einen anderen über ``Rhizopoden Sarcode'' richtig erhalten haben. Ich hatte Herrn Engelmann in Leipzig beauftragt, Ihnen diese Arbeiten sogleich zu senden. Unter den neuen Rhizopoden aus Nizza wird Sie der ``Protogenes primordialis'' (Fig 1, 2) vielleicht interessiren, als eines der allereinfachsten Geschöpfe, ein Organismus ohne Organe, durchaus homogen! Die Generatio aequivoca eines solchen lebenden Eiweiss-Klumpens liesse sich schon allenfalls denken, und damit wäre der Descendenz-Theorie über Ihren schwierigen Anfang hinweggeholfen.

So oft ich Ihnen schreibe, mein theurer Herr, muss ich Ihnen den wärmsten Dank wiederholen für die unerschöpflische Quelle der Geistesthätigkeit und der lebendigen Anregung, welche Ihre classische Theorie für mich ist. Seitdem mir durch den Tod meines innigst geliebten Weibes alles Leben des Gemüthes abgeschnitten und getödtet ist, ist mir das Streben, mit dem geschärften Verstande die wahre Natur und den Zusammenhang der natürlichen Dinge zu erkennen, allein übrig geblieben. Dieses Streben beschäftigt mich in meinem Einsiedlerleben Tag und Nacht, und dieses Streben verdanke ich nur Ihrem Wercke!

Mögen Sie uns noch lange in frischer Kraft erhalten bleiben, um die von Ihnen begonnene Reform der Biologie durchgeführt zu sehen und die Früchte Ihrer grossen Geistesthat selbst zu pflücken. Das ist der herzlichste Wunsch Ihres aufrichtig Ihnen ergebenen | Ernst Haeckel

Translation

Jena

11 November 1865.

Most esteemed, dear Sir!

After a long period of silence, I hope I may take up your valuable time again with one of my letters. To my great regret I heard from Mr. Huxley that unfortunately you have been very ill again. I hope you are feeling better now and that you will remain with us and science for a long time yet.

Unfortunately my book, which deals in detail with your theory, is still unfinished, although I had hoped to complete it half a year ago. However, I was forced to give up the whole summer in order to work at the zoological museum; you see, I was made a full professor of zoology 6 months ago, after I turned down the offer of a chair at Würzburg. Still, I hope to be able to complete the book by next Christmas and I will send it to you as soon as it is finished.

This winter I am giving public lectures ``on Darwin's theory'' again, which are the most popular of all lectures given at this university. I have over 150 attendants and the largest lecture theatre of our university is packed. This gives you an idea of how exceptional the interest in you and your theory is here at our small university and how much support there is for the great reform of science that you have begun and that it is the greatest task of my life to realise. My audience is very mixed; in addition to many students of medicine and the sciences it includes numerous historians and students of philosophy; there are even a few theologians and lawyers!

My most heartfelt thanks to you for sending your beautiful essay ``on the climbing plants''. I have read it with great interest.

I hope you received my book on Geryonidae (with 6 plates) in good order, as well as a paper ``on fossil Medusae'' and another one on ``Rhizopodean protoplasm''. I instructed Mr Engelmann in Leipzig to send you these works without delay. Among the new Rhizopoda of Nice the ``Protogenes primordialis'' (fig. 1, 2) might interest you as one of the simplest of all creatures, an organism without organs, homogeneous throughout! The generatio aequivoca of such a living gelatinous mass is at any rate conceivable, and this would help the theory of descent with the difficulty of explaining the first origin.

Whenever I write to you, dear Sir, I must reiterate my warmest thanks for the unfailing inspiration and the vigorous stimulus that your classical theory gives me. Ever since the death of my most dearly beloved wife put an end to and destroyed my emotional life, all I have left is the aspiration to employ the keenest intellect in understanding the true nature and continuity of natural things. This aspiration occupies me in my hermit-like existence day and night, and I owe this aspiration solely to your work!

May you long remain in vigorous health, so as to witness the reform of biology which you began, and to enjoy the fruits of your great intellectual achievement. This is the most heartfelt wish of your sincerely devoted | Ernst Haeckel

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 4934.f1
    For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix I.
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    f2 4934.f2
    Haeckel's last known letter to CD is dated 26 October 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12); however, CD received a copy of Haeckel 1865b in May 1865 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 May [1865]).
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    f3 4934.f3
    Haeckel refers to Thomas Henry Huxley. On CD's health, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 and 28 [October 1865].
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    f4 4934.f4
    The book was eventually published as Haeckel 1866. In his letter of 9 [July 1864] (Correspondence vol. 12), Haeckel had claimed that in his next book he would show that the theory of descent threw `light on every single chapter' of the history of creation and unified them `in the most perfect harmony'. See also ibid., letter from Ernst Haeckel, 26 October 1864. CD's annotated copy of Haeckel 1866 is in the Darwin Library--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 355--7).
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    f5 4934.f5
    Haeckel succeeded Carl Gegenbaur as director of the Zoological Museum in Jena in 1862, and began a programme of improvement and acquisition. In the summer of 1865, Haeckel successfully petitioned the Weimar state ministry to finance a complete reorganisation of the collection, a new hall to house acquisitions, and instruments for research. Haeckel was able to obtain government funding by establishing a separate Zoological Institute within the Museum. See Uschmann 1959, pp. 48--58.
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    f6 4934.f6
    Haeckel received a full professorship at Jena on 15 May 1865 (Uschmann 1959, p. 50). Five days previously, he had been offered a full professorship at Würzburg, but declined. The terms of the Würzburg position stipulated that control of the zoology museum and examinations remain with another, more senior, zoology professor (ibid., p. 51).
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    f7 4934.f7
    The popularity of Haeckel's course on `Darwins Theorie' is described in Uschmann 1959, p. 44. Since 1862, Haeckel had also given a separate annual lecture on CD's theory, and had devoted part of his zoology course to the topic (see ibid., pp. 43--4, and Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Ernst Haeckel, 9 [July 1864]). On the reception of CD's theory in Germany, see letter from T. H. Huxley, 29 May 1865 and n. 3.
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    f8 4934.f8
    `Climbing plants'. No presentation list for the paper has been found.
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    f9 4934.f9
    Haeckel refers to his monograph on the Geryonidae (now called Geryoniidae), a family of medusae (Haeckel 1865a), and to Haeckel 1865c and 1865d. A copy of Haeckel 1865a is listed in the 1875 catalogue of CD's library (DAR 240); however, it is not recorded in later catalogues and has not been found in the Darwin Library--CUL or at Down. A lightly annotated copy of Haeckel 1865d is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL.
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    f10 4934.f10
    The Leipzig firm Wilhelm Engelmann had published Haeckel 1865a, and was also the publisher of Zeitschrift für wissenschaftsliche Zoologie, in which Haeckel 1865c and 1865d appeared.
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    f11 4934.f11
    Haeckel described Protogenes primordialis as the simplest type of Rhizopoda; a protoplasmic aggregate, without differentiation, organisation, or nucleus, it was able to surround and assimilate foreign bodies and to reproduce by simple division (Haeckel 1865d, pp. 360--3). In his later book, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen (Haeckel 1866, 2: XXII--XXIII), Haeckel created a new classification for the organism within a phylum he named the Monera, within the kingdom Protista, arguing that the Rhizopoda had possibly evolved from a Protogenes species. The organism is not recognised in modern taxonomic literature.
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    f12 4934.f12
    Generatio aequivoca or equivocal generation: `the (supposed) production of plants or animals without parents; spontaneous generation' (OED). Haeckel did not discuss Primogenes primordialis as a case of spontaneous generation (Haeckel 1865d); however, in Generelle Morphologie der Organismen (Haeckel 1866, 2: 174), he did speculate more generally on the possibility of spontaneous generation. For discussions of Haeckel's theories of protoplasm and the development of living organisms from inorganic matter, see Rehbock 1975 and Rupke 1976. On the Victorian debates over spontaneous generation, see Strick 2000.
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    f13 4934.f13
    Haeckel's wife, Anne Sethe, had died on 16 February 1864; Haeckel discussed her death and its significance for his scientific work in his letters to CD of 9 [July 1864], 10 August 1864, and 26 October 1864 (Correspondence vol. 12).
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