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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Julius Sachs1   4 July 1875

Würzburg

4 Juli 1875

Hochgeehrter Herr!

Das Erscheinen eines neuen Werkes von Ihnen ist für mich jedesmal ein frohes Ereigniss; auf Ihre Insectivorous plants war ich aber ganz besonders gespannt und um so grösser war die freudige Überraschung, die Sie mir durch die Zusendung dieses merkwürdigen Buchs bereitet haben. Nicht minder danke ich Ihnen für den so schmeichelhaften Brief.2

Ich beehre mich, gleichzeitig mit diesem die ersten vier bis jetzt publicirten Heften der “Arbeiten des botanischen Instituts in Würzburg” Ihnen zu übersenden;3 dass dieselben verhältnissmässig nur wenig von mir enthalten, ist vorwiegend dadurch veranlasst, dass ich in den letzen Jahren wiederholt genöthigt war, neue Auflagen meines Lehrbuchs zu bearbeiten, wozu noch die Bearbeitung einer “Geschichte der Botanik” kam, die jetzt eben gedruckt wird und welche ich im September mir beehren werde, Ihnen zu übersenden.4 Ich habe es mir besonders angelegen sein lassen, in dieser historischen Darstellung nachzuweisen, dass die von Ihnen begründete Descendenztheorie auch für die Botanik eine neue Epoche begründet, dass erst mit ihr Klarheit, Princip und Consequenz in unsere Forschungen eingeführt worden ist.5

Ich bin seit 24 Stunden im Besitz Ihres neuen Werkes, welches ich um so ausführlicher studiren werde, als mir das bis jetzt Gelesene zahlreiche Anknüpfungspunkte für Untersuchungen darbietet, die ich nunmehr über die Bedeutung des Protoplasmus für die Reizbarkeit der Pflanzen, für ihre heliotropischen, geotropischen und sonstigen Krümmungen ungestörter als bisher durch zuführen gedenke. Was die auflösende und verdauende Kraft der Droseradrüsen betrifft, so glaube ich, dass dieselbe mit dem Einfluss des vegetabilischen Embrÿos auf das Endosperm während der Keimung verglichen werden könnte. Offenbar scheidet der Embrÿo der Palmen, der Gräser, der Euphorbiaceen usw. eine Flüssigkeit aus, welche die Stoffe des Endosperms auflöst, damit sie vom Saugorgan aufgesogen werden können.6 Ausführlicheres darüber habe ich in meiner Keimungsgeschichte der Dattel (botanische Zeitung 1862 p 241 ff) mitgetheilt; leider besitze ich kein Exemplar dieser Arbeit mehr.7 Ich habe früher auch gezeigt, dass Wurzeln im Stande sind Marmor und andere Mineralien aufzulösen.8 Ich möchte glauben, dass auch die Wurzeln der Parasiten auflösend auf die Stoffe der Nährpflanzen wirken, dass ebenso Pilzfäden und die Wurzeln der Neottia u dgl. einen Saft ausscheiden, der die organischen Stoffe ihrer Umgebung löst und aufnehmbar macht.9 Es scheint daher, dass die Excrete der Droseradrüsen nur einen besonderen Fall eines im Pflanzenreich verbreiteten Processes darstellen, dass aber hier das Klarste Beispiel desselben vorliegt; und grade diese Verallgemeinerung Ihrer so bewunderungswerthen Ergebnisse scheint mir den Werth dieser letzteren noch zu steigern.10 Es wäre mir höchst werthvoll zu erfahren, ob Sie dieser Generalisation Ihre Zustimmung geben.

Genehmigen Sie den Ausdruck meiner aufrichtigsten Verehrung und Bewunderung; Ihr ganz ergebenster | D. J. Sachs

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
CD’s letter to Sachs has not been found. Sachs’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
CD’s copies of the four issues of Arbeiten des botanischen Instituts in Würzburg have not been found; these four issues form the first volume of the journal. Hugo de Vries had sent CD two articles from the third issue (Vries 1873a and 1873b; see Correspondence vol. 22, letter to Hugo de Vries, 19 February 1874); CD’s annotated copies of these articles are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Sachs contributed four articles to the first volume of Arbeiten des botanischen Instituts in Würzburg between 1872 and 1874. The fourth edition of Lehrbuch der Botanik (Text-book of botany; Sachs 1868) was published in late 1874 (Sachs 1874b; see Thiselton-Dyer 1875, p. 295). CD’s annotated copies of the second and third German editions (Sachs 1870 and 1873), as well as an annotated French translation of the third edition (Sachs 1874a) are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 727–30). An English translation was published in April 1875 (Sachs 1875a; Publishers’ circular, 16 April 1875, p. 282). In Insectivorous plants CD referred frequently to the French translation, Sachs 1874a. CD’s copy of Geschichte der Botanik (History of botany; Sachs 1875b) is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
In his history of botany (Sachs 1875b, pp. 12–13), Sachs argued that there had been an ever-growing discrepancy between scientific research and the theoretical views of systematists within botany. He pointed out that a true concept of relationship was impossible to define in a system that posited the dogma of constancy of species. However, he believed that when CD’s theory of evolution appeared, researchers could develop a truly natural system based on real genealogical relationships rather than on a priori classificatory grounds.
Euphorbiaceae is the family of spurges. In Insectivorous plants, p. 362, CD had referred to Sachs 1874a on the power of the embryo to dissolve the ‘albuminous substances out of the endosperm’.
In his paper, ‘Zur Keimungsgeschichte der Dattel’ (On the problem of germination of the date; Sachs 1862, p. 243), Sachs described the specialised absorptive organ of the embryo, which dissolved and absorbed the contents of the endosperm.
In his article ‘Auflösung des Marmors durch Mais-Wurzeln’ (Dissolution of marble by maize roots; Sachs 1860), Sachs described an experiment in which he exposed marble tiles to the roots of maize plants for three months, after which he found corrosion marks on the marble. He reported similar results in later experiments with roots of maize, wheat, pumpkin, nasturtium, and kidney-beans (Sachs 1864).
Sachs argued that the absorption of nutrients in the endosperm by the embryo pointed the way to understanding the absorption of nutrients by saprophytes, which possessed no chlorophyll (Sachs 1875a, p. 643). Neottia is a genus of terrestrial orchids that includes species which lack chlorophyll and depend on fungi for nutrition. Mycelia, the vegetative parts of fungi, are made up of masses of thread-like branching filaments.
Most of CD’s experimental work described in Insectivorous plants was performed on Drosera rotundifolia (common or round-leaved sundew).

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Sachs, Julius. 1860. Auflösung des Marmors durch Mais-Wurzeln. Botanische Zeitung 18: 117–19.

Sachs, Julius. 1862. Zur Keimungsgeschichte der Dattel. Botanische Zeitung 20: 241–6, 249–52.

Sachs, Julius. 1864. Ueber die Auflösung verschiedener Mineralien durch die sie berührenden Pflanzenwurzeln. Verhandlungen des naturhistorischen Vereins der preussischen Rheinlande und Westphalens (Sitzungsberichte der niederrheinischen Gesellschaft für Natur- und Heilkunde zu Bonn) 21: 97–9.

Sachs, Julius. 1870. Lehrbuch der Botanik nach dem gegenwärtigen Stand der Wissenschaft. 2d edition. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Thiselton-Dyer, William Turner. 1875. On the classification and sexual reproduction of thallophytes. London: J. E. Adlard. [Revised version of ‘Sexual reproduction of thallophytes’. Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science n.s. 15 (1875): 295–326.]

Translation

From Julius Sachs1   4 July 1875

Würzburg

4 July 1875

Highly honoured Sir!

The appearance of a new work by you is always a happy event for me, but I was looking forward to your Insectivorous plants with particular anticipation, and all the greater was the happy surprise that your sending of this remarkable book provided. I thank you no less for your so flattering letter.2

I have the honour of sending you with this the first four issues published to date of the “Arbeiten des botanischen Instituts in Würzburg”;3 that they contain relatively little by me is primarily due to the fact that over the past years it has been repeatedly necessary to work on new editions of my Lehrbuch, to which was also added work on a “Geschichte der Botanik”, which has just gone to press and which I shall have the honour of sending you in September.4 I have made a particular point, in this historical account, of demonstrating that the theory of descent founded by you has also laid the foundations for a new era of botany, that only with your theory were clarity, principles and persistence introduced into our investigations.5

For 24 hours I have been in possession of your work, which I shall study all the more fully since in what I have read so far numerous starting points are presented for investigations that I am now planning to carry out, without the interruptions of before, on the significance of protoplasm for the irritability of plants, for their heliotropic, geotropic and other inflexions. As concerns the dissolving and digesting power of the glands of Drosera, I believe that it can be compared to the effect of the vegetable embryo on the endosperm during germination. The embryo of palms, grasses, Euphorbiaceae etc. obviously secretes a fluid that dissolves the substance of the endosperm into its components so they may be absorbed.6 I have communicated this in greater detail in my Keimungsgeschichte der Dattel (botanische Zeitung 1862 p 241 ff); unfortunately I have run out of copies of this work.7 Previously, I had also shown that roots are capable of dissolving marble and other minerals.8 Indeed, I believe that the roots of parasites have a dissolving effect on the substance of their host, and likewise that mycelia and the roots of Neottia & similar plants secrete a fluid that detaches organic substances from the materials that surround them so that they can be absorbed.9 Hence it looks as though the secretions of the glands of Drosera are only a special case of a process that is common in the vegetable kingdom, but that here they constitute the Clearest case of it; and it seems to me that precisely this generalization of your so admirable results increases the value of the latter.10 I would very much appreciate discovering whether you agree with this generalization.

Please accept the expression of my sincerest veneration and admiration. Your most devoted | D. J. Sachs.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, see pp. 249–51.
CD’s letter to Sachs has not been found. Sachs’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
CD’s copies of the four issues of Arbeiten des botanischen Instituts in Würzburg have not been found; these four issues form the first volume of the journal. Hugo de Vries had sent CD two articles from the third issue (Vries 1873a and 1873b; see Correspondence vol. 22, letter to Hugo de Vries, 19 February 1874); CD’s annotated copies of these articles are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Sachs contributed four articles to the first volume of Arbeiten des botanischen Instituts in Würzburg between 1872 and 1874. The fourth edition of Lehrbuch der Botanik (Text-book of botany; Sachs 1868) was published in late 1874 (Sachs 1874b; see Thiselton-Dyer 1875, p. 295). CD’s annotated copies of the second and third German editions (Sachs 1870 and 1873), as well as an annotated French translation of the third edition (Sachs 1874a) are in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 727–30). An English translation was published in April 1875 (Sachs 1875a; Publishers’ circular, 16 April 1875, p. 282). In Insectivorous plants CD referred frequently to the French translation, Sachs 1874a. CD’s copy of Geschichte der Botanik (History of botany; Sachs 1875b) is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
In his history of botany (Sachs 1875b, pp. 12–13), Sachs argued that there had been an ever-growing discrepancy between scientific research and the theoretical views of systematists within botany. He pointed out that a true concept of relationship was impossible to define in a system that posited the dogma of constancy of species. However, he believed that when CD’s theory of evolution appeared, researchers could develop a truly natural system based on real genealogical relationships rather than on a priori classificatory grounds.
Euphorbiaceae is the family of spurges. In Insectivorous plants, p. 362, CD had referred to Sachs 1874a on the power of the embryo to dissolve the ‘albuminous substances out of the endosperm’.
In his paper, ‘Zur Keimungsgeschichte der Dattel’ (On the problem of germination of the date; Sachs 1862, p. 243), Sachs described the specialised absorptive organ of the embryo, which dissolved and absorbed the contents of the endosperm.
In his article ‘Auflösung des Marmors durch Mais-Wurzeln’ (Dissolution of marble by maize roots; Sachs 1860), Sachs described an experiment in which he exposed marble tiles to the roots of maize plants for three months, after which he found corrosion marks on the marble. He reported similar results in later experiments with roots of maize, wheat, pumpkin, nasturtium, and kidney-beans (Sachs 1864).
Sachs argued that the absorption of nutrients in the endosperm by the embryo pointed the way to understanding the absorption of nutrients by saprophytes, which possessed no chlorophyll (Sachs 1875a, p. 643). Neottia is a genus of terrestrial orchids that includes species which lack chlorophyll and depend on fungi for nutrition. Mycelia, the vegetative parts of fungi, are made up of masses of thread-like branching filaments.
Most of CD’s experimental work described in Insectivorous plants was performed on Drosera rotundifolia (common or round-leaved sundew).

Bibliography

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Sachs, Julius. 1860. Auflösung des Marmors durch Mais-Wurzeln. Botanische Zeitung 18: 117–19.

Sachs, Julius. 1862. Zur Keimungsgeschichte der Dattel. Botanische Zeitung 20: 241–6, 249–52.

Sachs, Julius. 1864. Ueber die Auflösung verschiedener Mineralien durch die sie berührenden Pflanzenwurzeln. Verhandlungen des naturhistorischen Vereins der preussischen Rheinlande und Westphalens (Sitzungsberichte der niederrheinischen Gesellschaft für Natur- und Heilkunde zu Bonn) 21: 97–9.

Sachs, Julius. 1870. Lehrbuch der Botanik nach dem gegenwärtigen Stand der Wissenschaft. 2d edition. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Thiselton-Dyer, William Turner. 1875. On the classification and sexual reproduction of thallophytes. London: J. E. Adlard. [Revised version of ‘Sexual reproduction of thallophytes’. Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science n.s. 15 (1875): 295–326.]

Summary

Thanks for Insectivorous plants.

Has just finished his Geschichte der Botanik [1875].

Compares action of Drosera glands to action of sprouting embryo and to action of roots in absorbing minerals.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10042
From
Julius Sachs
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Würzburg
Source of text
DAR 177: 4
Physical description
4pp (German)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10042,” accessed on 12 December 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10042.xml

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

letter