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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   6 August 1860

My dear Darwin

I have to announce a new and great ally for you worth all the Owens & Bishops that ever were pupped

Von Bär1 writes to me thus2 “Et outre cela je trouve que vous ecrivez encore des redactions    Vous avez ecrit sur l’ouvrage de M. Darwin une critique dont je n’ai trouvè que des débris dans un Journal allemand3    J’ai oublié le nom terrible du journal Anglais dans lequel se trouve votre recension.4 En tout cas aussi je ne peux pas trouver le journal ici. Comme je m’interesse beaucoup pour les idées de M. Darwin sur lesquelles j’ai parlé publiquement et sur lesquelles je ferai peutêtre imprimer quelque chose—5 vous m’obligeriez infiniment si vous pourriez me faire parvenir ce que vous avez ecrit sur ces idées

J’ai enoncé les mêmes idées sur la transformation des types ou origine d’espèces que M. Darwin. Mais c’est seulement sur la geographie zoologique que je m’appuie    Vous trouverez dans le dernier chapitre du traité ”Ueber Papuan und Alfuras“ que j’en parle très decidemment sans savoir que M. Darwin s’occupait de cet objet”6

The treatise to which Von Bär refers he gave me when over here but I have not been able to lay hands on it since this letter reached me two days ago—

When I find it I will let you know what there is in it7

Ever yours faithfully | T H Huxley

Augt. 6th. 1860.

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘Rudolph Wagner | Agassiz.’8 pencil


Karl Ernst von Baer, the renowned embryologist, was professor of anatomy at the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences. He had visited Huxley during a trip to England late in the summer of 1859 prior to the publication of Origin. Huxley, who had learned of ‘the value of development as the criterion of morphological views’ from Baer’s writings, had translated into English several of Baer’s most important embryological texts (T. H. Huxley trans. 1853). See L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 163.
‘And besides, I find that you are still writing reviews. You have written a critique of Mr. Darwin’s work of which I have found only fragments in a German journal. I have forgotten the terrible name of the English journal in which your review appeared. In any case I cannot find the journal here. As I am much interested in Mr. Darwin’s ideas, on which I have spoken publicly and on which I shall perhaps publish something, you would oblige me infinitely if you would send me what you have written on these ideas. I have expressed the same ideas on the transformation of types or origin of species as Mr. Darwin. But it is only on zoological geography that I rely. You will find in the last chapter of the treatise “Ueber Papuas und Alfuren” that I speak of this very positively without knowing that Mr. Darwin was concerning himself with this subject.’ (The translation has been modified from that given in Oppenheimer 1959, pp. 295–6.)
Baer may be referring to a notice of Origin that appeared in the Archiv für Naturgeschichte in 1860. It appeared in a report on recent works in general zoology and the natural history of man prepared by Rudolph Wagner. In addition to CD’s book, Wagner also discussed Louis Agassiz’s Essay on classification (Agassiz 1859) and Baer’s essay ‘Über Papuas und Alfuren’ (Baer 1859), noting that each work dealt with the question of the origin of species (Wagner 1860a, pp. 2–7).
Baer perhaps refers to Huxley’s review of Origin published in the Westminster Review ([T. H. Huxley] 1860b).
Baer repeated his intention to publish something on CD’s theory in a subsequent letter to Huxley (Huxley papers MS 10.188 (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives)). See also letter to T. H. Huxley, 2 December [1860]. He did not publish a full account of his views on Origin, however, until after the publication of Descent in 1871. Baer, who conceived of nature in teleological terms, became an opponent of CD’s theory. See Oppenheimer 1959 and Ospovat 1981.
Baer 1859. In this ethnographic work, Baer addressed the species question, stating that the geographical distribution of certain species seemed to indicate a relationship of ancestry. He wrote that ‘it seems apparent from the distribution of animals that also many such species that are now separated and reproduce were not originally separate, that therefore from varieties they have become, systematically speaking, specifically different species.’ (translated from Baer 1859, p. 343).
Huxley was apparently unable to find Baer’s treatise. In a letter written to an unidentified correspondent on 2 August [1866] (Calendar no. 5170), CD stated that he had only seen an extract of this work.
CD’s annotations relate to his reply to this letter. See letter to T. H. Huxley, 8 August [1860]. See also n. 3, above.


Agassiz, Louis. 1859. An essay on classification. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts; Trübner & Co. [Reprint of vol. 1, pt 1, of Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America. 4 vols. 1857–62.] [Reprint edition. Edited by Edward Lurie. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1962.]

Baer, Karl Ernst von. 1859. Über Papuas und Alfuren. Ein Commentar zu den beiden ersten Abschnitten der Abhandlung ‘Crania Selecta ex Thesauris Anthropologicus Academiae Imperialis Petropolitanae.’ Mémoires de l’Académie impériale des sciences naturelles de Saint-Pétersbourg 6th ser. 8: 269–346.

Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Oppenheimer, Jane. 1959. An embryological enigma in the Origin of species. In Bentley Glass, et al., eds. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745–1859. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Ospovat, Dov. 1981. The development of Darwin’s theory. Natural history, natural theology, and natural selection, 1838–1859. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Announces great ally for CD: K. E. von Baer "worth all the Owens & Bishops that ever were pupped". Quotes Baer: "J’ai énoncé les mêmes idées que M. Darwin", but based only on zoological geography.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 98 (ser. 2): 31–2
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2891,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8