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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Anton Dohrn   28 February 1871



My dear Sir!

My sincerest thanks for the great kindness, with which you have remembered, how ardently I take interest in the Development of your great theory. I know, you dislike anything like compliments,—therefore I suppress, what I really felt, when I got the two Volumes into my hands.1 I will study them to the best of my faculties,—and I hope I may learn, how one becomes a great benefactor of science not o〈nly〉 by intellectual but also by moral faculties. This union I will always remember, whenever I pronounce or think your name. But here I’ll stop, else you would cast aside my letter.

I am glad, that I can tell you the best about my progresses in Embryology of Insects. The Parallelism to the Embryology of Vertebrates becomes greater and greater; I have tried with the best success to prepare sections of the eggs, and this method, which has not yet been applied to so small objects, furnishes me a deeper insight into the Problems of histological Development of Arthropods than my predecessors enjoyed.

I have also succeeded to get the embryos of Limulus, and I hope I may have succeeded in treating the morphological questions of the Pterygotus, Trilobits etc.2 There is nothing like Isopod like structure. It is difficult to bring them into any distinct relation to the Crustacea. It looks rather like a rudiment of a lost order, whose chief representatives were the Trilobits. But it is necessary to examine living eggs and embryos. The Americans will not do for this sort of work.3

I hope your health is well and you will let us have in time the new work, you speak of in your Preface.4

Remember me kindly to Mrs. Darwin and to the members of your family, to whom I am so much indebted for the beautiful hours spent in your house.5

Ever yours truly devoted | Anton Dohrn

The Zoological Station has happily overcome a good deal of difficulties and is slowly advancing!6


Dohrn’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Descent (Appendix IV).
Dohrn was working on a paper on the embryology and morphology of Limulus polyphemus (Dohrn 1871a), part of his work on arthropods. Limulus (the horseshoe crab of North and Central America), the extinct Pterygotus (the sea scorpion) and the extinct trilobite are marine arthropods. For Dohrn’s views on the relation of Limulus to extinct and modern Arthropoda, see Dohrn 1871a.
Dohrn probably refers to Alpheus Spring Packard Jr’s paper on the embryology of Limulus polyphemus (Packard 1870). Dohrn considered Packard’s view that the embryo stage in Limulus corresponded to the crustacean nauplius stage was unfounded (see Kuhn 1950, p. 42). See also Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Anton Dohrn, 30 December 1869.
Dohrn refers to CD’s work on expression, published in 1872 (Expression); see Descent 1: 5.
Dohrn had visited Down on 26 September 1870 (see Correspondence vol. 18, letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 September [1870]).
Dohrn founded the zoological research station at Naples; see Heuss 1991, and Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Anton Dohrn, 30 December 1869 and n. 10.


Thanks CD for Variation.

From his work on insect embryology he sees a great parallelism between insect and vertebrate embryology.

The zoological station is slowly advancing.

Letter details

Letter no.
Felix Anton (Anton) Dohrn
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 206
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7520,” accessed on 22 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19