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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   17 May 1873

Munich | Palaeontological Museum. Academy.

17 May 1873.

Dear Sir

I write You with a peculiar request and should be very gratified for Your granting it. The whole winter I was occupied by a memoir on the Anthracotheriums, of which I found in different collections a large quantity, so that many species may be completely restored and their bony frame completely investigated.1 But, besides, at the request of some palaeontological friends, especially Prof. Rutimeyer, I tried to make a general review of all the extinct Ungulates and propose a natural classification for them.2

Little by little as my materials grew more abundant the sketch enlarged until it reached now considerable dimensions, the result beeing a very clear account of the developement of the whole Ungulata from the oldest Eocene to the recent period. There is little circumlocution, but a large body of dry positive facts, and these prove most undoubtedly the gradual evolution of all the recent forms from a limited number of Eocene and miocene types. I am actually printing the memoir in the “Palaeontographica”, but as it contains about twenty sheets, it will not be out before ten or twelve weeks.3 Will You allow me dear Sir to dedicate it to You; as it is the first positive attempt in this direction, founded on a large body of evidence derived from the whole skeleton I will be very happy if the dedication will be made to You as the founder of the Evolution-theory.—4

My paper in the Royal got through the Ordeal of the comittee and is ordered to be printed, so that my German memoir and the paper in the Ph. Trans. will appear at once.5

As good news I may communicate to You that my brother is gone to la Calle, near the Tunisian frontier and made there the complete development of two Brachiopoda, the Argiope and Thecidium.6 The Argiope has a free swimming larva very alike the Sagitta with a bipartite mantle and a slender tail; after some time the larva attaches itself by this tail to some surface and turns her mantle over the head; the tail grow now to a peduncle and both halves of the upturned mantle begin to secrete the shell. The development of internal organs is also completely worked out. Thecidium is much more complex.— There are some faint hopes that the Crania will lay eggs too, but it is not quite sure.

When I left England Your health was far from being well, I hope You had a better winter and are going well now.7 More than one thousand copies of Your book is sold in Russia, as soon as the cost of printing will be covered my brother will be most happy to send in Your schare in the Edition.—8

Please remember me to Mrs. Darwin and the ladies.—

Your very truly | W. Kowalevsky

P.S. You have certainly read the account of Marsh about the cretaceous bird with teeth in both jaws and fish vertebrae.9 And the Dinoceras! really one is happy to be a Palaeontologist in the Vertebrates.10


Kovalevsky mentioned many of the collections he visited in the foreword to his monograph on Anthracotherium, an extinct genus of ungulate mammals (see V. O. Kovalevsky 1873–4, pp. I–IV).
Ludwig Rütimeyer also studied the evolutionary palaeontology of ungulate mammals.
Kovalevsky’s monograph on Anthracotherium was published in three parts in Palaeontographica (V. O. Kovalevsky 1873–4). There is a lightly annotated copy of the first two parts (published in September 1873 and January 1874), inscribed from the author, in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 471).
Kovalevsky’s monograph (V. O. Kovalevsky 1873–4) was dedicated to CD.
Kovalevsky’s paper ‘On the osteology of the Hyopotamidae’ (V. O. Kovalevsky 1873) was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky’s observations on the development of the Brachiopoda were published by the Imperial Society of Amateur Naturalists, Anthropologists and Ethnographers (A. O. Kovalevsky 1874). The brachiopod genera Argiope, Thecidium, and Crania are now known as Megathiris, Lacazella, and Novocrania; Sagitta is an arrow worm. The name Crania has been retained for fossil species.
Kovalevsky had been in England from mid-June to mid-October 1872 (see Gaisinovich 1988, pp. 180, 210), and had visited CD (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, [after 8 June 1872] and n. 3).
This is probably a reference to the Russian translation of Expression (V. O. Kovalevsky trans. 1872).
Othniel Charles Marsh’s discovery of the cretaceous fish-bird, Ichthyornis, was announced in the American Journal of Science (O. C. Marsh 1873a). Ichthyornis provided significant evidence in support of the theory of evolution.
Marsh had also published on the Dinocerata (O. C. Marsh 1873b), arguing that this group was more closely allied to the perissodactyls (hoofed mammals with an odd number of toes such as horses and rhinoceroses) than to elephants, as Edward Drinker Cope had claimed. Dinoceras was the focus of the ‘bone wars’ between Cope and Marsh. See Wheeler 1961, pp. 4–6.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Gaisinovich, A. E., ed. 1988. A. O. i V. O. Kovalevskie. Perepiska 1867–1873gg. Moscow: Nauka (science).

Kovalevsky, Alexander Onufrievich. 1874. Nabliudenia nad razvitiem Brachiopoda (Observations on the development of the Brachiopoda.) Izvestia Obshchestva liubitelei estestvoznanii, antropologii i etnografii 14: 1–40.

Kovalevsky, Vladimir Onufrievich. 1873–4. Monographie der Gattung Anthracotherium Cuv. und Versuch einer natürlichen Classification der fossilen Hufthiere. Palaeontographica. Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte der Vorwelt 22 (1873–6): 131–347.

Kovalevsky, Vladimir Onufrievich. 1873. On the osteology of the Hyopotamidae. [Read 6 February 1873]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 163: 19–94.

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.

Wheeler, Walter Hall. 1961. Revision of the uintatheres. Bulletin 14. New Haven, Conn.: Peabody Museum of Natural History.


Wishes to dedicate his memoir ["Monographie der Gattung Anthracotherium", Paleontographica 22 (1876): 131–347] to CD as founder of evolutionary theory.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 94
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8914,” accessed on 26 February 2020,

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