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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Auguste Forel1   23 September 1874

Kreisirrenanstalt München

23 IX 74

Monsieur,

Je me permets de vous envoyer en même temps que cette lettre un travail sur les fourmis de la Suisse que je viens de faire paraître dans les Mémoires de la société helvétique des sciences naturelles.2 Il y a beaucoup d’années que j’étudie ce sujet, et je crois être arrivé à un certain nombre de résultats concernant les moeurs si curieuses de ces insectes qui ne pourront manquer de vous intéresser. J’y ai joint l’étude de la systématique et de l’anatomie. Pour ne vous signaler qu’un fait, je suis arrivé à démontrer positivement que certaines espèces (F. exsecta, truncicola, pratensis etc.) qui à l’ordinaire ne font jamais d’esclaves, se trouvent dans des cas fort rares en fourmilières mixtes avec la F. fusca, vivant en parfaite intelligence avec elle.3

Permettez-moi de vous indiquer les pages d’un certain nombre d’observations que je crois pouvoir plus particulièrement vous intéresser:4

p 13 – 19

p. 121 – 134

p. 144 – 147

p 118 – 121

" 258 – 269 pag. 272 – 274

" 276 – 283

" 285 – 293

" 299 – 300

" 308 – 310

" 341 – 351

" 314 – 315

" 371 – 374

" 386 – 388

" 391 – 396

" 440 – 449

Page III (au commencement), alinéa d’en haut.

Je n’aurais jamais pu arriver à connaître les moeurs des fourmis si je ne m’y étais mis à les étudier dès mon enfance, guidé par l’ouvrage de Pierre Huber.5 Plus tard on ne Dispose plus d’autant de temps, ce qui est mon plus grand regret, car on pourrait employer encore beaucoup de vies d’hommes à la seule étude des moeurs des fourmis.

Ai-je besoin d’ajouter, Monsieur, que la lumière qu’ont répandue vos travaux sur toutes les sciences naturelles rejaillit aussi sur le petit monde des fourmis, et permet d’y entrevoir l’enchaînement d’une foule de faits qui sans cela seraient totalement incompréhensible (p. ex. la série concernant l’instinct esclavagiste, indiquée au haut de la p. 443).6

J’espère n’avoir pas trop présumé de mon travail en pensant qu’il pourrait vous intéresser, et je vous prie, Monsieur, d’agréer l’assurance de mon respect et de ma très haute considération, | Dr Aug. Forel | Assistenzarzt an der | Kreisirrenanstalt | zu München | Bayern

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
CD’s annotated copy of Forel’s monograph on the ants of Switzerland (Forel 1874) is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 237–40).
See Forel 1874, pp. 371–3. Forel refers to the species Formica exsecta, F. truncicola (a synonym of F. truncorum), F. pratensis, and F. fusca.
In the back of his copy of Forel 1874, CD noted all the pages indicated by Forel and added a brief synopsis of the subject matter in each section (see Marginalia 1: 237–9).
Jean Pierre Huber’s Recherches sur les mœurs des fourmis indigènes (Studies on the habits of native ants; Huber 1810).
Forel gave a series of examples to show the evolution from non-slave-making ants to those that relied so much on slaves that they lacked workers of their own species. The latter, he argued, could be seen as having returned to an ancestral state without workers by means of parasitism. (Forel 1874, p. 443.)

Translation

From Auguste Forel1   23 September 1874

Kreisirrenanstalt München

23 IX 74

Sir,

I am taking the liberty of sending you, with this letter, a work on the ants of Switzerland that I have just brought out in the Memoirs of the Helvetic Society for the Natural Sciences.2 I have been studying this subject for many years, and I think I have attained certain results concerning the very curious habits of these insects that cannot fail to interest you. I have added to it the study of systematics and anatomy. To indicate just one fact to you, I have managed to demonstrate positively that certain species (F. exsecta, truncicola, pratensis etc.) which in the ordinary way never take slaves, are found in very rare cases in mixed anthills with F. fusca, living together in perfect understanding.3

Allow me to indicate to you the pages of certain observations that I believe may interest you more particularly:4

p 13 – 19

p. 121 – 134

p. 144 – 147

p 118 – 121

" 258 – 269 pag. 272 – 274

" 276 – 283

" 285 – 293

" 299 – 300

" 308 – 310

" 341 – 351

" 314 – 315

" 371 – 374

" 386 – 388

" 391 – 396

" 440 – 449

Page III (at the beginning), from the first indent.

I could never have come to know the habits of ants if I had not undertaken to study them since my childhood, guided by the work of Pierre Huber.5 Later so much time is no longer at one’s disposal, which is my greatest regret, for one could employ many more human lifetimes on the study of ant habits alone.

Need I add, Sir, that the light your work has shed on all the natural sciences shines also on the little world of ants, and allows a host of facts to be perceived there that would in its absence have been totally incomprehensible (e.g. the series concerning the slave-making instinct, indicated at the top of p. 443).6 I hope I have not presumed too much of my work in thinking that it might interest you; I remain, Sir, yours very truly, | Dr Aug. Forel | Junior doctor at the | Distric Lunatic Asylum, | Munich | Bavaria

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see pp. QQQQ.
CD’s annotated copy of Forel’s monograph on the ants of Switzerland (Forel 1874) is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 237–40).
See Forel 1874, pp. 371–3. Forel refers to the species Formica exsecta, F. truncicola (a synonym of F. truncorum), F. pratensis, and F. fusca.
In the back of his copy of Forel 1874, CD noted all the pages indicated by Forel and added a brief synopsis of the subject matter in each section (see Marginalia 1: 237–9).
Jean Pierre Huber’s Recherches sur les mœurs des fourmis indigènes (Studies on the habits of native ants; Huber 1810).
Forel gave a series of examples to show the evolution from non-slave-making ants to those that relied so much on slaves that they lacked workers of their own species. The latter, he argued, could be seen as having returned to an ancestral state without workers by means of parasitism. (Forel 1874, p. 443.)

Summary

Sends a copy of his book on Swiss ants [Les fourmis de la Suisse (1874)]. Notes points and passages that he thinks will interest CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9656
From
Auguste-Henri (Auguste) Forel
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Munich
Source of text
DAR 164: 153
Physical description
4pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9656,” accessed on 18 June 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-9656

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22

letter