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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Otto Zacharias   3 June 18751

Görlitz (Schlesien)

am 3ten. Juni 75.

Hochzuverehrender Herr!—

Ich stehe seit einiger Zeit mit Prof. Häckel (Jena) wegen Gründung einer biologischen Zeitschrift in Correspondenz, die zu Ehren Ihres berühmten Namens “Darwinia” betitelt werden soll.2

Ich habe mir nämlich die schwierige Aufgabe gestellt in der projectirten Monatsschrift biologische, morphologische u. transformistische Fragen so zu erörtern, dass jeder höher Gebildete neue Einsicht in die wichtigen Probleme der Zoologischen Wissenschaft bekommen kann. Wir haben in Deutschland keine solche Zeitschrift. Unsere naturwissenschaftl. Journale u. Wochenschriften (wie Gäa, die Natur, der Naturforscher etc.)3 sind nicht genügend von dem Werthe u. der Wichtigkeit Ihrer Theorie durchdrungen. Ich wollte diesen Mangel mit einem speciellen Organe für Darwinismus ersetzen. Gegenwärtig suche ich mir überall namhafte Mitarbeiter anzuwerben u. habe auch einiges Glück mit der Auffindung solcher. Prof. Häckel wird das Unternehmen seinerseits nach Kräften fördern u. wird dann u. wann auch einen Beitrag liefern.4

Die deutschen Gelehrten werden sich wie ein Mann gegen eine darwinistische Monatsschrift erheben, weil sie glauben dass dadurch entweder die Theorie entweiht u. verwässert wird—oder weil sie befürchten, dass die Fluth der transformistischen Lehren alle Dämme der Zucht u. Sitte durchbrechen könnte. Ich hege keine von beiden Befürchtungen u. werde trotzalledem meine Absicht durchführen.

Der Plan der Zeitschrift ist kurz folgender: Allmonatlich soll in einem Leit-Artikel eine biologische Frage gründlich erörtert werden. Dann sollen Kritiken über Bücher descendenz theoretischen Inhalts folgen—aber nicht bloss fade Besprechungen, sondern kritische Aufsätze (Essaÿs) zu gründlicher Belehrung. Ferner wird Herr Dr. Dohrn in Neapel wahrscheinlich einen monatl. Bericht über die in seinem Aquarium ausgeführten Arbeiten liefern.5 Ich gedachte auch die darwinistischen Professoren aller deutschen Universitäten zu Auszügen aus ihren Vorlesungen aufzufordern, etc etc.

Ich erlaube mir Ihnen die projectirte Zeitschrift ihrer Einrichtung nach zu skizzieren u. habe dabei die Absicht, Sie, hochzuverehrender Herr, um eine kurze Kritik über das Project zu bitten, da es mir ja am Herzen liegen muss, die Zeitschrift so zu machen, dass die Redaction u. sonstige Einrichtung derselben von Ihnen gebilligt u. gut geheissen wird.

Ferner wollte ich mir die Frage erlauben, ob Sie wohl selbst für das erste Heft einige einleitende Worte schreiben würden—wenn Ihnen das gedruckte Manuscript zur Einsicht u. Prüfung vorgelegt werden würde. Nur für den Fall, dass die gelieferten Essaÿs u. Kritiken Ihren Beifall fänden—würde ich auf eine Erfüllung meiner Bitte zu hoffen wagen.

Sie mögen mein Ansuchen an Sie, hochverehrter Herr, recht kühn finden, aber Sie werden wissen, dass man in Deutschland alles Neue mistrauisch betrachtet u. dass ein Unternehmen bei uns nur dann Erfolg hat, wenn es gleich in seiner Geburtsstunde wuchtig und nachdrücklich auftritt. Auf Grund dieser Erwägung habe ich diesen Brief an Sie geschrieben, damit gleich im ersten Hefte die Namen Darwin, Häckel, Müller, Jäger, Weismann6 etc. zu lesen sind. Ich weiss nicht ob Sie mir meine Nonchalance verzeihen—aber ich hoffe dass Sie mir diesselbe nicht allzu schroff auslegen werden. Wenn man eine Idee eifrig verfolgt, handelt man gewöhnlich etwas rücksichtslos, u. vieles würde nicht zu Stande kommen, wenn man sich zusehr von den aufstossenden Bedenken einschüchtern liesse.

Ich halte die in Rede stehende transformistische Monatsschrift für ein wirkliches Zeitbedürfniss—vorausgesetzt dass mir es auf die Dauer möglich ist, auf den von Prof. Häckel so schön inauguriertem Wege der populären u. doch gründlichen Darstellung schwieriger biologischer Probleme fortzuschreiten. Prof. Häckel ist in Betreff der Nothwendigkeit einer solchen Zeitschrift, wie die projectirte ist, ganz einerlei Meinung mit mir.

Sie würden, hochzuverehrender Herr, mich im Verfolgen meines Zieles mit doppelten Muthe ausrüsten, wenn Sie die Güte haben würden mir gelegentlich einige Zeilen zuzusenden, in denen Sie mir ganz kurz Ihr Urtheil über die neu zu gründende Zeitschrift ausdrücken.

Ich bedauere nicht Englisch schreiben zu können— lesen u. verstehen thue ich es sehr wohl.

Unter Kreuzband folgt ein Essaÿ von mir zu meiner Legitimation, Er betrifft ein Buch von Prof. Wigand in Marburg u. sucht die Irrthümer dieses Herren zu berichtigen. Wigand hat ein Werk von 600 Seiten gegen Ihre Theorie geschrieben.7

Mit hochachtungvollster | Ergebenheit | Dr. Otto Zacharias

[Contemporary translation]

Görlitz (Schlesien)

June 3.

Highly honoured Sir

I have been for some time in correspondence with Prof. Häckel with reference to the founding of a Biological Periodical which, in honour of your famed name, is to be called “Darwinia”. I have taken upon myself the difficult task of treating in this projected monthly periodical biological, morphological, and evolutionary subjects in such a manner that every really educated person may be able to gain an insight into the most important problems of zoological science. We have at present in Germany no such Periodical. Our Journals & weekly publications of Natural History, such (as Gäa, Natur, Naturforscher &c) are not sufficiently penetrated with the value & importance of your theory. I wish to supply this deficiency with a special Organ for “Darwinismus”. At present I am trying everywhere to inlist men of note as contributors. Prof. Häckel is willing on his part as far as possible to aid the undertaking, & now and then to furnish an article. The literary world of Germany will rise, as one man, against a Darwinian Periodical, either because they think that by means of it the theory will be degraded and watered down; or—because they fear that the flood of evolutionary doctrines might break down all the safeguards of morals & manners. I share none of these fears—and will, in spite of everything, carry through my intention.

The plan of the Periodical is briefly this. Every month one biological question will be thoroughly discussed in a leading article. Then reviews of books on the subject of evolution will follow—not merely unmeaning dissertations, but—critical essays for imparting thorough instruction. Besides this Dr. Dorhn of Naples will probably send a monthly account of the work done in his aquarium. I have thought also of inviting the Darwinian Professors of all German universities to send extracts from their lectures.

I have taken the liberty of sketching out for you the arrangement of this projected Periodical in the hope of obtaining from you (hy. hd. sir) a short expression of opinion on this project. It is naturally my earnest desire that the editing, & other arrangements of this Periodical should be approved of and thought useful by you. Besides this I wish to take the liberty of asking you whether you would write a few introductory words for the first number if Proof Sheets? (Gedruckte Manuscript) were sent to you for your inspection & approval. Only in the case of the Essays & Illustrations (?) meeting your approval should I venture to hope that my request would be granted.

I am afraid you will think my request a bold one, (hy. hd. Sir,) but you must know that in Germany everything new is looked upon with suspicion, & that—with us—an undertaking (of this kind) can only hope for success if it be introduced, at the very hour of its birth, with weight and authority. It is for this reason I write to you in the hope that in the very first number there may appear the names of Darwin, Häckel, Müller, Jäger, Weismann &c. I do not know whether you will excuse my boldness (nonchalance!) but I trust you will not judge me too harshly.

While one is eagerly persuing an idea one generally acts somewhat inconsiderately, and many things would never come into existence if one were to be too much abashed by the considerations that suggest themselves. I consider that the proposed Evolution-Periodical will satisfy a real want of of the times provided that it is possible for me to advance in the path so well inaugurated by Häckel—that of a popular & yet thorough presentation of difficult biological problems.

Prof. Häckel is quite of my opinion as to the need of such a Periodical. You would (hy. hd. Sir) greatly encourage me in the persuit of my object if you would have the kindness to send me when convenient a few lines expressing briefly your judgment on the New Periodical.

I am sorry I cannot write English. I can understand and read it readily. I will send by book post (?) (unter Kreutzband) an essay of mine as my certificate. It is on a book of Professor Wiegand, and is an attempt to correct the mistakes of this gentleman. Wiegand has written a book of 600 pages against your theory.

With greatest respect | Yours | (signed) Dr. Otto Zacharias

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I. A contemporary translation found with the letter is included above.
Zacharias proposed founding the popular journal in his letter to Ernst Haeckel of 19 May 1875 (see Nötlich et al. 2006, pp. 199–200). He had first contacted Haeckel to write a piece on him for the Leipzig Illustrierte Zeitung in 1874 (letter from Otto Zacharias to Ernst Haeckel, 15 April 1874; ibid., pp. 187–8). For more on Zacharias’s role as populariser of science, see Daum 1998, pp. 400–3.
Gaea was founded in 1865, Die Natur in 1852, and Der Naturforscher in 1868. For more on these and other popular science journals in Germany, see Daum 1998, pp. 337–70.
In a letter to Haeckel of 11 June 1875, Zacharias wrote that Oskar Schmidt was willing to contribute two or three articles a year. Gustav Jäger, while fully supporting the venture, wanted the proposed journal to publish opposing views as well. Both Fritz and Hermann Müller had agreed to be contributors, and other supporters included Friedrich von Hellwald, Anton Dohrn, Moritz Wagner, Georg Seidlitz, and Oskar and Richard Hertwig. (See Nötlich et al. 2006, pp. 201–3.)
Dohrn’s aquarium was part of the Naples Zoological Station; it had opened to the public two months after the research laboratories, at the end of 1873 (Heuss 1991, p. 156).
August Weismann.
There is an annotated copy of Zacharias’s review, ‘Zur Kritik des Darwinismus’ (Zacharias 1874) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Albert Wigand, who was professor of botany at Marburg, had sent CD the first volume of his work on Darwinism (Wigand 1874–7) in March 1874 (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from Albert Wigand, 11 March 1874). CD’s copy of the complete work is in the Darwin Library–Down.

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Daum, Andreas W. 1998. Wissenschaftspopularisierung im 19. Jahrhundert: bürgerliche Kultur, naturwissenschaftliche Bildung und die deutsche Offentlichkeit, 1848–1914. Munich: R. Oldenbourg.

Heuss, Theodor. 1991. Anton Dohrn: a life for science. Translated from the German by Liselotte Dieckmann. Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag.

Wigand, Albert. 1874–7. Der Darwinismus und die Naturforschung Newtons und Cuviers. Beiträge zur Methodik der Naturforschung und zur Speciesfrage. 3 vols. Brunswick: F. Vieweg und Sohn.

Zacharias, Otto. 1874. Zur Kritik des Darwinismus. Das Ausland, 13 July 1874, pp. 541–8.

Translation

From Otto Zacharias   3 June 18751

Görlitz (Silesia)

3rd. June 75.

Highly venerated Sir!—

For some time now I have been in correspondence with prof. Häckel (Jena) in regard to the founding of a biological periodical which, in honour of your famous name, is to be called “Darwinia”.2

I have set myself the difficult task in this projected monthly periodical of discussing biological, morphological, and transformationist subjects so that every highly educated person can gain new insight into the important problems of zoological science. We have in Germany no such periodical. Our natural science journals & weekly publications (like Gäa, die Natur, the Naturforscher etc)3 are not sufficiently instilled with the value & importance of your theory. I wish to make good this deficiency with a special organ for Darwinism. At present I am trying to enlist renowned collaborators from every field, & I have had a bit of luck with finding some. Prof. Häckel will promote the undertaking to the best of his powers & will occasionally even contribute articles.4

German scholars will stand up as one man against a Darwinist monthly, either because they believe that it will profane & water down the theory—or because they fear that the flood of transformationist teachings could break through all the barriers of culture & morals. I have no fears in either direction and shall carry out my intentions despite everything.

The plan for the periodical is, briefly, the following: every month one biological question will be thoroughly discussed in the leading article. Then reviews of books of evolutionary theoretical content will follow—not boring discussions, however, but critical articles (essays) for proper instruction. Furthermore, Dr. Dohrn of Naples will probably send a monthly report on work carried out in his aquarium.5 I have also considered inviting the Darwinist professors of all German universities to send me extracts from their lectures, etc. etc.

I take the liberty of sketching out for you the arrangement of the projected periodical with a view to asking you, highly honoured Sir, for a brief critical appraisal of the project, since it must be my heartfelt desire to shape the periodical in such a way that the editing & all the rest of its arrangement will be endorsed & approved by you.

Furthermore permit me to ask whether you yourself would consider writing a few introductory words for the first issue—of course on condition that the printed manuscript would be provided for your inspection. Only if you approve of the supplied essays & reviews—would I dare hope that my request be granted.

You may find my request to you, highly honoured Sir, fairly audacious, but you will know that in Germany, everything new is considered with distrust, and that an enterprise can be successful here only if in the very hour of its birth it makes a forceful and vigorous appearance. Based on these deliberations I have written this letter to you, so that the very first issue will carry the names Darwin, Häckel, Müller, Jäger, Weismann6 etc. I do not know whether you will forgive my nonchalance—but I hope that you will not judge me too harshly. When eagerly pursuing an idea, one tends to act in a somewhat reckless manner, & many things would not materialise if one let oneself be overly intimidated by recurring doubts.

I regard the transformationist monthly in question as fulfilling a genuine requirement of the times—provided that I will succeed, in the long run, in carrying on on the trail inaugurated by Prof. Häckel, that is, of the popular and yet profound presentation of complex biological problems. Prof. Häckel is entirely in accord with me regarding the need for such a magazine as projected.

You, highly venerated Sir, would equip me for the pursuit of my goals with twice the courage if you were so good as to send me, at your leisure, a few lines expressing very briefly your opinion of the magazine to be founded.

Regretfully I cannot write in English—I read and comprehend it well enough.

An essay of mine, to establish my credentials, is following under wrapper. It is on a book by Prof. Wigand of Marburg and seeks to correct the errors of that gentleman. Wigand has published a work of 600 pages against your theory.7

With the most respectful | devotion | Dr.  Otto Zacharias

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, and a contemporary translation, see pp. 216–19.
Zacharias proposed founding the popular journal in his letter to Ernst Haeckel of 19 May 1875 (see Nötlich et al. 2006, pp. 199–200). He had first contacted Haeckel to write a piece on him for the Leipzig Illustrierte Zeitung in 1874 (letter from Otto Zacharias to Ernst Haeckel, 15 April 1874; ibid., pp. 187–8). For more on Zacharias’s role as populariser of science, see Daum 1998, pp. 400–3.
Gaea was founded in 1865, Die Natur in 1852, and Der Naturforscher in 1868. For more on these and other popular science journals in Germany, see Daum 1998, pp. 337–70.
In a letter to Haeckel of 11 June 1875, Zacharias wrote that Oskar Schmidt was willing to contribute two or three articles a year. Gustav Jäger, while fully supporting the venture, wanted the proposed journal to publish opposing views as well. Both Fritz and Hermann Müller had agreed to be contributors, and other supporters included Friedrich von Hellwald, Anton Dohrn, Moritz Wagner, Georg Seidlitz, and Oskar and Richard Hertwig. (See Nötlich et al. 2006, pp. 201–3.)
Dohrn’s aquarium was part of the Naples Zoological Station; it had opened to the public two months after the research laboratories, at the end of 1873 (Heuss 1991, p. 156).
August Weismann.
There is an annotated copy of Zacharias’s review, ‘Zur Kritik des Darwinismus’ (Zacharias 1874) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Albert Wigand, who was professor of botany at Marburg, had sent CD the first volume of his work on Darwinism (Wigand 1874–7) in March 1874 (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from Albert Wigand, 11 March 1874). CD’s copy of the complete work is in the Darwin Library–Down.

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Daum, Andreas W. 1998. Wissenschaftspopularisierung im 19. Jahrhundert: bürgerliche Kultur, naturwissenschaftliche Bildung und die deutsche Offentlichkeit, 1848–1914. Munich: R. Oldenbourg.

Heuss, Theodor. 1991. Anton Dohrn: a life for science. Translated from the German by Liselotte Dieckmann. Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag.

Wigand, Albert. 1874–7. Der Darwinismus und die Naturforschung Newtons und Cuviers. Beiträge zur Methodik der Naturforschung und zur Speciesfrage. 3 vols. Brunswick: F. Vieweg und Sohn.

Zacharias, Otto. 1874. Zur Kritik des Darwinismus. Das Ausland, 13 July 1874, pp. 541–8.

Summary

Intends to set up a biological periodical called “Darwinia” to spread and popularise Darwin’s theories; hopes CD may contribute a few words to the opening issue.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10008
From
Otto Zacharias
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Görlitz
Source of text
DAR 184: 1
Physical description
6pp (German)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10008,” accessed on 9 July 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10008.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23

letter