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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. D. Hinrichs   31 August 1868

Chemical Laboratory, | Iowa State University. | Iowa-City, Iowa. U.S.

August 31, 1868.

Dr. Charles Darwin!

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for your very kind letter, and I sincerely thank you for expressing your sympathy with my undertaking.—1 Perhaps my work is not so entirely out of your line; at least some day it may range even inside of Zoology! For I consider the form of crystals solved, see the latter half of Synopsis!2 I think I have shown how the crystalline form results from the chemical composition, i.e. the material of the crystal. If you now remember, that the highest form in the vegetable world (the flower) and some of your own favorites among the animals (corals etc) have a very regular shellate form, as we often observe in minerals (Snowflakes the most common instance): who dare deny that at some future day a logical or rather a causal connection will be established between the anim. & veget. forms and their constituent matter? just as now I think this causal nexus is fully establ. for the so-called inanimated matter? It is a very dangerous (& foolish) thing to draw limits inside of which science shall re⁠⟨⁠main⁠⟩⁠ it is more encouraging to hope that what is d⁠⟨⁠ark⁠⟩⁠ to us will some day be clear! A hint i⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ form of the Liliaceæ may be this: that the ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ of liliaceæ is distinguished for alkaloids, these alkaloids contain nitrogen, which is essentially triatomic and according to Atomechanics giving triangular compounds—and may not that influence the form of the flower? Please do not misunderstand me— I do only make a mere guess, perhaps far too bold—but then, as a mere guess I trust it is not too bold for You!

Permit me one other remark.— The publication of my ideas on Atomech. has hitherto been exclusively at my own expense. My last cent almost went for it—my health has also suffered much. You know from my Documents in relation to Dana why I had to hurry the preliminary publication; for only as such I consider the german Atomechanik of which I present you one of the few copies still in my hand.—3 At the Chicago meeting of the Am. Assoc. f. the Adv. of Sc. I obtained a very respe⁠⟨⁠ctful⁠⟩⁠ hearing, & some very able friends; the papers will of course appear in the Proceedings.4 That will be the first not printed at my own costs. I have also succeeded in getting the promise of two American houses that they will publ. my Chemistry & my engl. Atomechanics (much enlarged & cont. much more details than the German Work).—5 Now, can you in any way help me to get a publisher who will pay a reasonable percentage also in England to whom the advance sheets might be sent? The Atomech. will—if my health does not get lower—be ready in 8 to 10 months from now. You readily will see, that not until my book is in the market can it at all become accessible to the plastic minds of younger scientif men— the older specialists have often cast-steel bra⁠⟨⁠ins⁠⟩⁠ excellent in regard to their own investigations and conservative sci⁠⟨⁠ence⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠bu⁠⟩⁠t new principles make no impress. on them. As yet but few ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ have had access to Atomech.— Please, let me hea⁠⟨⁠r⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠2 words⁠⟩⁠ of this matter—also whether the Package reaches you! The enclosed ⁠⟨⁠3 or more words⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ts!

⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠, with great consideration, sincerely ⁠⟨⁠yours⁠⟩⁠ | Gustavus ⁠⟨⁠Hinrichs⁠⟩⁠

⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Have you seen D’Archiac: review of your “Origin of Species”? in Introd. à l’étude de la Paléontologie stratigraphique, T. II, Paris 1864.6 From page 65–114.

On page 67 he has something ridiculously rich: he supposes that every human action is something outside of nature (en dehors de la nature)! Hence if I crystallize alum by producing the necessary conditions, I act outside of nat; hence all experimentatn is in the same fix! But if not, if D’Archiac is wrong, why the breeding of cattle is but experimentation. This opinion of D’Archiac reminds me of the child, who in accordance with strictly super-puritan training asked her mother whether she might not omit taking a vomitive on sabbath, because it would not work on a sabbath!—

I do not pretend to thoroughly understand the value of D’Archiac’s paleontol. reasonings, but the above mode of discussion is useless and his reductio ad absurd. does rather hit himself himself than the Orig. of Species.— I do not see that man has any super- or extra-natural powers; all his actions are but by the powers of ⁠⟨⁠nature⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠ve⁠⟩⁠sted in him.—


Enumeration of papers

Sent to Charles Darwin in one package.7

1 Atomechaniks, etc.— The original work, of which only 112 copies were printed— very few private persons have obtained it— if you know any young worker in molecular sciences, please lend it to him for study. I do not expect you to read it at all, but send it only as a compliment.—8

1. Planetology— part of this paper may be interesting9

1. Spectral lines & Comp. of the Elements10 this paper has made quite a stir, & been extensively republished in France & Germany, at least in extracts.

1. Iowa-City   Republican of Febr 5, containing a discussion on the Chemical & Geological History of Coal— it probably may interest you. My oponent is Geologist, Physicist, Chemist, Zoologist, etc. etc., and Congregational Minister and Prof. of the above etc. etc.   if you wish, I send you a copy of the Geol. Report of Dana. 11 Same paper contains a mention of Atomech.

1. Scientif. Deptm’t of Iowa Insts for March 1868; the note on Phyllopt. eg. may interest you.— This Dptm’t is destined to create a little interest for science among our school teachers. Hence you must not judge it from a professional standpoint.12

20 Copies of Synopsis of New Memoirs on Atomechanics—13 these I desire you to distribute to the best advantage of my work.—

The notice on Tridymît14 may interest you, in my Atomech (1867) the forms given ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ AB2 actually represent not only the th⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ compounds, like Quartz SiO2, but also ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ remarkable dimorphous ⁠⟨⁠con⁠⟩⁠dit⁠⟨⁠ions⁠⟩⁠ rec⁠⟨⁠ent⁠⟩⁠ly discov. by your P⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠3 or 4 words⁠⟩⁠


See enclosure and n. 13, below.
Hinrichs refers to James Dwight Dana. See letter to G. D. Hinrichs, 13 August 1868 and n. 1. The ‘German atomechanik’ was presumably Hinrichs 1867; see letter from G. D. Hinrichs, [before 13 August 1868] and n. 2.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science met in Chicago in 1868; Hinrichs’s papers were published in the Proceedings (Hinrichs 1868a and 1868b).
No contemporary English translation of Hinrichs 1867 has been identified.
Hinrichs refers to Adolphe, Vicomte d’Archiac, to Archiac 1864, and to Origin.
None of the papers listed have been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL; see, however, the letter to G. D. Hinrichs, 16 September 1868, and the letter to John Tyndall, 7 October 1868.
Hinrichs refers to Hinrichs 1867. See letter from G. D. Hinrichs, [before 13 August 1868] and n. 2.
The words ‘if you wish … Dana’ were added in pencil. The Iowa City Republican was a weekly newspaper. Hinrichs also refers to James Dwight Dana and possibly Dana 1849.
The reference has not been identified.
Synopsis of new memoirs on atomechanics (Iowa City, July 1868) is item 22 in the bibliography of Hinrichs’s books and papers in Hinrichs 1874.
Tridymite: a form of silica.


Archiac, Adolphe, Vicomte d’. 1864. Introduction à l’étude de la paleontologie stratigraphique: cours professé au Muséum d’histoire naturelle. 2 vols. Paris: F. Savy.

Hinrichs, Gustavus Detlef. 1865. Introduction to the mathematical principles of the nebular theory or planetology. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 39: 46–58, 134–50, 276–86.

Hinrichs, Gustavus Detlef. 1866. On the spectra and composition of the elements. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 42: 350–68.

Hinrichs, Gustavus Detlef. 1867. Programme der Atomechanik oder die Chemie eine Mechanik der Panatome: Programme d’une atomécanique ou la chimie une mécanique des panatomes. Iowa City: the author.

Hinrichs, Gustavus Detlef. 1874. The principles of chemistry and molecular mechanics. Davenport, Iowa: Day, Egbert, & Fidlar. New York: B. Westermann & Co.


Explains "Pantogen".

Summarises his papers.

Asks for help in finding a publisher.

Criticises d’Archiac’s review of Origin [in Paléontologie stratigraphique 2 (1864)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Gustavus Detlef Hinrichs
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Iowa State University
Source of text
DAR 166: 221
Physical description
4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6337,” accessed on 1 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16