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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Otto Hahn1   1 September 1879

Reutlingen (Württemberg Deutschland)

den i. September 1879.

Geehrtester Herr!

Hierbei sende ich Ihnen mein Werk “die Urzelle”.2 Die Entdeckungen, welche ich im Anschluss an meine Arbeiten über das Eozoon canadense gemacht habe, sind zu wichtig, als dass ich sie nicht Ihnen vor Allen vorgelegt sehen möchte.3 Wenn sie sich, wie ich hoffe, als begründet erweisen, so hat die Entwicklungslehre, welche die Wissenschaft Ihnen dankt, die breiteste Grundlage gewonnen. Ich darf daher wohl hoffen, dass Sie, hochgeehrter Herr, und Ihre Freunde in England die Sache nicht mit Stillschweigen oder ungeprüft übergehen werden. Schon jubelt eine gewisse kirchliche Parthei in Deutschland über das Fiasco, welches die Naturwissenschaft gemacht, weil es ihr nicht gelungen, alle Thatsachen mit Einem Male oder mit einigen Gesezen zu erklären und zu begründen.4 Diese Freude war aber wohl von sehr kurzer Dauer. Durch die Thatsachen welche ich festgestellt zu haben glaube, ist für die von Ihnen aufgestellten Säze eine dauernde Grundlage gewonnen.

Wollen Sie in der Mittheilung meines Buches einen schwachen Beweis meiner Hochachtung und des Dankes erblicken, zu welchem die Wissenschaft Ihnen immer verbunden sein wird.

Mit ausgezeichneter Hochachtung | Ihr ergebenster | Dr Otto Hahn

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
A copy of Die Urzelle (The primordial cell; Hahn 1879) is in the Darwin Library–Down.
Eozoon canadense (Dawn animal from Canada) was thought to be a fossilised Foraminifera; it is discussed in Hahn 1879, pp. 1–2, 12–13, and in several earlier publications by him (Hahn 1876 and Hahn 1878). CD had added information on the discovery of Eozoon canadense to Origin 4th ed., p. 371, although disputes about its organic nature led him to modify his statement in Origin 6th ed., p. 287 (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 May [1866] and n. 4, and Correspondence vol. 22, letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 March [1874] and n. 6). The mineral origin of Eozoon canadense was established in the 1890s (see O’Brien 1970).
The ecclesiastical party has not been identified; for more on the religious disputes over evolutionary theory in Germany, see the letter from Ernst Haeckel, 9 February 1879 and n. 3.

Bibliography

Hahn, Otto. 1876. Giebt es ein Eozoon canadense? Eine mikrogeologische Untersuchung. Jahreshefte des Vereins für vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg 32: 132–55.

Hahn, Otto. 1878. Gibt es ein Eozoon canadense? Erwiderung auf Dr. C. W. Gümbels und Dr. Carpenters Entgegnung. Jahreshefte des Vereins für vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg 34: 155–77.

Hahn, Otto. 1879. Die Urzelle. Tübingen: H. Laupp’schen.

O’Brien, Charles F. 1970. Eozoön Canadense: ‘the dawn animal of Canada’. Isis 61: 206–23.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Translation

From Otto Hahn1   1 September 1879

Reutlingen (Württemberg Germany)

i. September 1879.

Most esteemed Sir!

Herewith I am sending you my work “Die Urzelle”.2 The discoveries I made in connection with my work on Eozoon canadense are too important for me not to want to see them presented above all to you.3 Should they turn out to be well- founded, as I hope, the theory of evolution, for which science has you to thank, will have acquired the broadest foundations. I daresay I may thus hope that you, most esteemed Sir, and your friends in England will not pass over this matter in silence or without examining it. A certain ecclesiastical party in Germany is already rejoicing at the fiasco, they say, science has made in failing to explain and account for all phenomena at a stroke or with few laws.4 I daresay this joy was short-lived. In the facts that I believe I have uncovered, the principles you put forth will have acquired a lasting foundation.

Please consider my book a small token of my respect and the gratitude that science will owe you for ever.

With the deepest respect | Yours most devoted | Dr Otto Hahn

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, see p. QQQQ.
A copy of Die Urzelle (The primordial cell; Hahn 1879) is in the Darwin Library–Down.
Eozoon canadense (Dawn animal from Canada) was thought to be a fossilised Foraminifera; it is discussed in Hahn 1879, pp. 1–2, 12–13, and in several earlier publications by him (Hahn 1876 and Hahn 1878). CD had added information on the discovery of Eozoon canadense to Origin 4th ed., p. 371, although disputes about its organic nature led him to modify his statement in Origin 6th ed., p. 287 (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 May [1866] and n. 4, and Correspondence vol. 22, letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 March [1874] and n. 6). The mineral origin of Eozoon canadense was established in the 1890s (see O’Brien 1970).
The ecclesiastical party has not been identified; for more on the religious disputes over evolutionary theory in Germany, see the letter from Ernst Haeckel, 9 February 1879 and n. 3.

Bibliography

Hahn, Otto. 1876. Giebt es ein Eozoon canadense? Eine mikrogeologische Untersuchung. Jahreshefte des Vereins für vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg 32: 132–55.

Hahn, Otto. 1878. Gibt es ein Eozoon canadense? Erwiderung auf Dr. C. W. Gümbels und Dr. Carpenters Entgegnung. Jahreshefte des Vereins für vaterländische Naturkunde in Württemberg 34: 155–77.

Hahn, Otto. 1879. Die Urzelle. Tübingen: H. Laupp’schen.

O’Brien, Charles F. 1970. Eozoön Canadense: ‘the dawn animal of Canada’. Isis 61: 206–23.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Summary

Sends copy of Die Urzelle [1879].

Clerical party in Germany rejoicing because science cannot explain all facts at once.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-12211
From
Otto Hahn
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Reutlingen
Source of text
DAR 166: 82
Physical description
2pp (German)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12211,” accessed on 29 May 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-12211.xml

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