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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.27 'Four founders of Darwinismus'

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In 1869-70 Darwin had declined to be photographed with Alfred Russel Wallace for a German publication, whose author had intended to show them as joint discoverers of natural selection. However, in 1873 he suffered a much greater indignity: in the popular German journal Die Gartenlaube he was grouped with three other scientists, past and present, as one of ‘the four exponents of Darwinism’. Here Jean Lamarck and Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire are pictured as forerunners of Darwin in the development of evolutionary notions, which were destined to be developed further by Darwin’s disciple Ernst Haeckel – the fourth member of the group. The theory may be labelled ‘Darwinismus’ but Darwin is here only primus inter pares. The visual association with Lamarck would have riled him particularly, as he considered his own theory of evolution through variation leading to natural selection as wholly distinct from Lamarck’s ideas on how modification of species occurred. Darwin was irritated with Lyell for ‘always classing my work as a modification of Lamarck’s, which it is no more than of any author who did not believe in immutability of Species & did believe in descent’. The ease with which the prolific portrayals of Darwin – in this case a wood engraving by Adolf Neumann based on one of the Elliott and Fry photographs of 1871 – could enter the public sphere at the international level entailed a loss of control over the uses to which they were put: a tendency which became more marked after Darwin’s death. 

  • physical location Darwin archive, Cambridge University Library  

  • accession or collection number DAR 226.2.1-4 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image unknown 

  • date of creation 1873 

  • computer-readable date 1873-01-01 to 1873-12-31 

  • medium and material wood engraving, from a photograph of Darwin by the London firm of Elliott and Fry 

  • references and bibliography letter from Darwin to Joseph Hooker 13 [March 1863], DCP-LETT-4039 (DAR 115.186). ‘Die vier Hauptvertreter des Darwinismus’, in Die Gartenlaube 21:43 (1873), p. 711; this weekly journal was published by Ernst Keil in Leipzig.  


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