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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Anton Dohrn   6 April 1874


6. April. 1874.

Dear Mr. Darwin!

It is only now, that I feel myself able to thank you for the generous gift and the letter accompanying it.1 The latter arrived during my absence in Rome, where I, in vain, tried to get some assistance from the Italian Government. Immediately on my return I fell sick and could not leave my bed for a fortnight, a Bronchitis accompanied by an insidious attack of Malaria depriving me of the little force, which I had at that time. The fever lasts still and forces me to a complete withdrawal from work, and from Naples.

This statement must be my excuse for not having answered earlier to yourself and to your sons.2

What shall I say, to express my thanks thus as I feel it? If I would try to satisfy my feelings by expressing them, I would tell you, what perhaps you would hardly believe,— and without telling it, I feel, that I am at a loss to express in any way my thanks.

I have accepted your great gift, and it has really saved the Zoological Station from getting into a dangerous embarrasment.

The gradual sinking of my forces since the beginning of the year 1873 caused a great many difficulties to grow up to serious obstacles, through which the development of my enterprise became seriously damaged. It thus happened that all arrangements of the Aquarium as well as still more of the Laboratories suffered great delay and had to be hurried afterwards.

I am very sorry, that I could in consequence of this scarcely offer any considerable facility to those Zoologists, that came to work at the Station.3 Nevertheless I feel confident, that such facilities will be ready, as soon as I can again take my share in the completion of what has been begun, and as soon as the Station shall be enabled to dispose of a regular income.

By great kindness of friends the means of the Embryo-Institution have already been greatly raised so as to give me the possibility of going to Germany without fearing, that during my absence an accident of a serious nature might happen.

In Germany I shall try first to gather a little more strength and then to have arrangements made to free the Station from any further embarrassments. Besides I hope to live quiet at the country-house of my father4 and to work out, what I have begun many years before, some chapters of the Insects-Embryology.5

Mr. Balfour, who is working very hard at Shark’s-Embryology,6 told me about your wish, to see the question of complemental males in Cirripedes studied again.7 I hope, it may not be against your intention, should I try to enter this field, as I feel inclined to study the question of the whole morphological development of Cirripedes. I believe I wrote once to you about my views of the connection of Rhizocephala with Cirripedes by the link formed through Anelasma.8 I gave this chapter over to another German Zoologist, Dr. Kossmann, and handed him two Anelasma-specimens, and he fully made out, that my view was absolutely correct.9 Nevertheless I feel inclined to work the whole question anew and on a larger base, trying to derive some more general result out of this extraordinary case of morphological revolution caused by one fundamental changement of function.

The next year probably will give us a great quantity of new embryological material. I hear that Kowalewsky will bring forth a work on the Embryology of Pyrosoma and Salpa,10 several other Russians on Cephalopoda, Dr. Bobretsky works on Crustaceans,11 Prof. Wilhelm Müller in Jena has since years a great work on Amphioxus, Petromyzon, Myxine, Ascidians and Salpae in his hands;12 Dr. Götte in Strassburg is just publishing a book on the development of Bombinator igneus, Talpa europaea, some birds and some fishes.13 Thus the results of all this work cannot fail to bring forth some new light upon the question of the connection of Vertebrates and Invertebrates.—

Will you be very angry with me, Mr. Darwin, if I am so immodest as to ask your kind intervention with regard to your publisher Mr. Murray? The condition, upon which the better income of the Aquarium rests, is, that the guide-books Murray as well as Baedeker, speak a little more explicitly on it.14 I have asked my friend Ray Lankester to write down a note to be inserted into Murray’s Guide-book to Southern-Italy, but not knowing myself this gentleman I am afraid, I shall not be able to gain his favour to such an extent, as to take the trouble of inserting this note on a slip and to attach it to the now-current Edition of his Guide-book.15

I therefore take the great liberty of sending you as well Lankester’s notice, as a short letter to Mr. Murray, to which you add perhaps one or two lines of recommandation.16

I know, this is trespassing very very far on your kindness,—but as you have so largely and so powerfully helped my enterprise to become afloat again, I risk to ask you this new favour, as it will undoubtedly go far to secure the future prosperity of the Zoological Station.

Hoping that the Photograph, sent by Mr. Balfour may give you some favourable idea of the building of the Station17   I only add my promise, that I will do all in my power to arrange the inside thus, as to be a real help to Zoologists.

This letter has grown already to long,— I finish it with the ardent wish, that I may be able to thank you personally for all you have done for me, and to see you in good health, as soon as I may come next time to England.

To Mrs. Darwin and to both your sons I send my best regards and heartiest thanks. May your son resolve as soon as possible to come to Naples! With all my heart | Yours faithfully | Anton Dohrn.


See letter to Anton Dohrn, 7 March 1874. CD sent £100 in aid of the Zoological Station at Naples.
CD’s sons George Howard and Francis Darwin contributed £10 each to the Zoological Station (see letter to Anton Dohrn, 7 March 1874).
Dohrn planned to let research space at the Zoological Station to help support its running costs (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from Anton Dohrn, 7 June 1873). Among the first visitors to the station were Francis Maitland Balfour and Albert George Dew-Smith (letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 March 1874).
Dohrn’s father, Carl August Dohrn, lived in Stettin, Prussia (now in Poland).
Dohrn’s work on embryology focused on the structure and development of the Arthropoda (see Dohrn 1870 and Correspondence vol. 15, letter from F. A. Dohrn, 30 November 1867). For his early interest in entomology, see Dohrn 1859.
While at Naples, Balfour began research on the embryology of sharks and rays, which culminated in his Monograph on the development of the elasmobranch fishes (Balfour 1878).
CD had first described the extremely minute male barnacles that lived attached to the bodies of hermaphrodites in Living Cirripedia (1851): 207–14, 231–44, 281–93. He had recently called for renewed investigation of the origins of these ‘complemental males’ in a letter to Nature, 20 September [1873] (Correspondence vol. 21).
For Dohrn’s views on the connection between the Rhizocephala and the cirripede genus Anelasma, see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from Anton Dohrn, 7 June 1873 and nn. 11 and 12.
On the work of Robby August Kossmann on Anelasma, see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from Anton Dohrn, 7 June 1873 and nn. 15 and 16.
Dohrn refers to Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky’s article on the developmental history of Pyrosoma (A. O. Kovalevsky 1875). Pyrosomidae and Salpidae are families of marine tunicates.
The Russian zoologist Nikolai Vasilyevich Bobretsky specialised in the embryology of molluscs, crustaceans, and hexapods.
Dohrn refers to Wilhelm Müller’s Ueber das Urogenitalsystem des Amphioxus und der Cyclostomen (W. Müller 1875).
Dohrn refers to Alexander Wilhelm von Goette’s monograph on the developmental history of the toad and the comparative morphology of vertebrates (Goette 1874–5). Bombinator igneus is a synonym of Bombina bombina, the European fire-bellied toad. Talpa europaea is the European or common mole.
The publishers John Murray and Verlag Karl Baedeker both issued handbooks for travellers in southern Italy; the most recent editions were John Murray (Firm) ed. 1873 and Karl Baedeker (Firm) 1873. See also letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 March 1874 and n. 10.
No insert by Edwin Ray Lankester to the current edition of Murray’s Handbook for travellers in southern Italy (John Murray (Firm) 1873) has been found; however, a revised edition appeared in 1878 and included the following description of the Naples Zoological Station: ‘The collection in the sixty tanks of the aquarium is such as can be seen nowhere else in Europe … this interesting establishment, in founding which Dr. Dohrn was assisted by many of the chief learned societies and naturalists of Europe, is entirely dependent for its support on the fees obtained by letting the laboratories, and the admission of visitors to the aquarium’ (John Murray (Firm) 1878, p. 148).
Dohrn’s letter to Murray, who was CD’s publisher, and Lankester’s notice have not been found, but see the letter to Dohrn of 16 April and 9 August 1874.
The photograph has not been found; see, however, the letter to Anton Dohrn, 16 April 1874.


His gratitude for CD’s gift. An account of his difficulties with the Zoological Station and his health.

F. M. Balfour has told him that CD would like to see the question of complemental males in cirripedes studied again. AD would like to enter the field and to study the whole morphological development of cirripedes.

Describes the interest in embryological work in Russia and Germany.

Letter details

Letter no.
Felix Anton (Anton) Dohrn
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 214
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9394,” accessed on 25 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22