skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Robert Smith   27 February [1873]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Feb. 27

Dear Sir

I thank you sincerely for your extremely kind letter, & I wish you well through your difficult task.2 A good many books have been published about my views but not many by distinguished foreign naturalists. Very many have, however, expressed a decided judgment in their favour in various memoirs. In any remarks, which you may make, it would be well state that almost all foreign naturalists (with the exception of some of the older ones, such as Agassiz)3 now believe in evolution, though many only agree with me partially on the importance of natural selection. Kölliker4 for instance, believes in evolution, but hardly at all, (less than almost anyone) in Nat. Selection.— The great botanist Nägeli believes to a somewhat larger extent in N. Selection, but thinks that there is some innate tendency to progressive development.5 Häckel6 is the great supporter in Germany of N. Selection. Claus7 believes in it to a large extent, Cohn has recently in his excellent anniversary address spoken most strongly in favour of my views.8

So has Alp. De Candolle in Switzerland, as well as the recently dead great geologist Claparède.—9 The greatest American Botanist, Asa Gray, takes the same line. So does Count Gaston de Saporta in France, who has lately written so well on fossil plants.10

But I could go on in this manner for any length of time.— The zoologist Cope in America, believes most firmly in evolution, but only very moderately N. Selection.11

I hope that this from memory will suffice

Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

I had forgotten Gegenbaur,12 one of the Greatest Comp. Anatomists in the world, who is very strong supporter.

Footnotes

The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Robert Smith, 24 February 1873.
Smith was preparing to read a paper in favour of Darwinism to the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club (see letter from Robert Smith, 24 February 1873).
Louis Agassiz.
Rudolf Albert von Kölliker.
CD had responded to Carl Wilhelm von Nägeli’s views in Origin 5th ed., pp. 150–7.
Ernst Haeckel.
Carl Friedrich Claus.
Ferdinand Julius Cohn, in his lecture on the development of science in the last twenty-five years (Cohn 1872, pp. 20–3), had identified Origin as the seminal work of the period, and argued that CD’s theory of natural selection had shed new light on the development of all life.
Alphonse de Candolle and Edouard Claparède.
CD probably refers to the first part of Saporta’s study of Tertiary flora in gypsum beds near Aix (Saporta 1872–4). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
CD had discussed the views of Edward Drinker Cope in Origin 6th ed., p. 149.
Carl Gegenbaur.

Bibliography

Origin 5th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 5th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1869.

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.

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.

Saporta, Louis Charles Joseph Gaston de. 1872–4. Études sur la végétation du sud-est de la France à l’époque tertiaire. Supplément I: Révision de la flore des gypses d’Aix. Annales des Sciences Naturelles. Botanique 5th ser. 15 (1872): 277–351; 17 (1873): 5–44; 18 (1874): 23–146.

Summary

CD answers a question about the attitude of foreign naturalists towards Darwinism by distinguishing between the belief in evolution and belief in natural selection. Gives the views of [Louis] Agassiz, [R. A.] Kölliker, [C. W.] Nägeli, [Ernst] Häckel, [C. F. W.] Claus, [F. J.] Cohn, Alphonse de Candolle, [J. L.] Claparède, Asa Gray, Gaston de Saporta, [E. D.] Cope, and [Carl] Gegenbaur.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-8790F
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
Robert Smith
Sent from
Down
Source of text
DAR 185: 138
Physical description
4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8790F,” accessed on 12 April 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-8790F.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21

letter