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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Auguste Forel1   31 October 1874

München

31 X 1874

Monsieur,

Je vous avoue que je ne m’attendais pas à voir mon travail jugé si favorablement par vous, et votre seconde lettre si bonne et si aimable a plus de prix à mes yeux que tout ce que pourront me dire d’autres personnes.2 Malheureusement je ne sais pas l’anglais, et j’ai dû me la faire traduire, ce qui a retardé ma réponse. C’est une honte de ne pas savoir l’Anglais, de nos jours; mais ma carrière pratique me laisse si peu de temps libre que je ne sais comment je pourrai y arriver.—

Je vous remercie infiniment du titre du livre de Mr Belts3 que je ne connaissais pas et que je me ferai venir par un libraire (je ne veux pas que vous vous donniez la peine de me l’envoyer); je m’arranges toujours dans ces cas là pour me faire traduire. Je me suis fait p. ex. traduire en entier l’ouvrage danois de Meiner sur l’anatomie des fourmis.—4 Mais ce dont je vous suis surtout reconnaissant, c’est de l’honneur que vous me faites en me communiquant une de vos observations personnelles et même en me permettant d’en disposer. Je suis entièrement de votre avis sur la signification à donner à ce curieux fait de fourmis portant inutilement leurs cocons vides à de si grandes distances.5 Je n’ai jamais observé ce fait d’une manière aussi frappante que vous, Monsieur; je l’ai par contre observé très-souvent en petit, c’est à dire que j’ai vu à l’époque de l’éclosion des nymphes des Formica rufa et pratensis6 les @mercury@7 porter çà et là les coques vides à de très grandes distances (mais je ne les ai encore jamais vues monter sur les arbres avec ces coques). Le fait est noté en deux mots dans mon travail, p. 396 ligne 8.8 Je m’étais souvent étonné de ce fait sans me rendre bien compte de sa raison que votre explication me donne d’une façon évidente. Si dans cette fourmilière le nombre des fourmis portant des coques vides était si grand, cela vient évidemment de la grandeur de la fourmilière. Et peut-être les fourmis allaient-elles plus loin que d’habitude parce-qu’elles voyaient à côté d’elles un grand nombre de leurs compagnes chargées aussi de coques vides.— Or les fourmis, surtout celles des grandes communautés, ont évidemment un instinct trés fort qui les porte à imiter leurs compagnes et à les suivre. Un fait analogue est celui que j’ai noté page 298, ligne 19 à 24 (amazones portant des cadavres ou des coques vides au lieu de nymphes). Les faits qui m’ont fait le plus d’impression parmi ceux que j’ai observés sont ceux rapportés aux pages 276–283 (♀ s’alliant a des @mercury@ sanguinea étrangères contre des @mercury@ de leur espèce, et l’alliance forcée entre des F sanguinea et pratensis adultes de fourmilières différents, avec ses singulières conséquences). De même les cas de fourmilières mixtes naturelles anormales (p. 371) et la découverte d’organes des sens très variés dans les antennes des fourmis (p. 144–147).9

Je suis en effet persuadé que les nouvelles communautés (à part les cas analogues à celui de la p. 285: scission d’une colonie en deux fourmilières) sont en général le produit d’un croisement entre fourmis non parentes, car les ♀ et ♂ des communautés les plus diverses se réunissent dans les airs pour s’accoupler.— Il n’y a que le genre Anergates avec ses ♂ aptères où cela paraisse impossible.10

J’ai commencé cet été l’expérience dont le plan est indiqué au haut de la page 401. J’ai fondé dans mon appareil une fourmilière uniquement avec des @mercury@ tout à fait fraîches écloses (encore blanches) et beaucoup de nymphes @mercury@ pour voir si j’obtiendrai le printemps prochain une génération d’oeufs et de larves par parthénogénèse. Pour le moment cela va bien; les nymphes sont écloses et les @mercury@ sont devenues adultes et se sont creusé des cases dans la terre de l’appareil. Mais il s’agit de conserver ma fourmilière en bon état jusqu’a l’été prochain.

Maintenant je suis médecin (Assistenzarzt) dans un hospice d’aliénés où il y a aussi clinique et travaux à faire sur l’anatomie normale et pathologique du cerveau, sujét qui m’intéresse aussi, de sorte qu’il ne me reste guère de temps pour ce qui serait mon étude favorite si j’étais assez riche pour me passer de gagner ma vie, savoir la Zoologie et l’Anatom. comparée.11

Veuillez recevoir encore une fois, Monsieur, mes sincères remercîments pour votre bonne lettre et pour l’honneur immérité que vous faites à mon livre. Croyez à l’assurance de mon respect et de mon affection.

Votre tout dévoué | Aug. Forel.

P.S. Je me permets de vous envoyer encore deux petits écrits que j’ai publiés avant celui que je vous ai déjà envoyé.12

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
Forel refers to Thomas Belt and Belt 1874; see letter to Auguste Forel, 15 October 1874 and n. 9.
Meiner: Frederik Vilhelm August Meinert. His work on ants is Anatomia Forficularum. I. Anatomisk Undersøgelse af de Danske Ørentviste (Anatomical study of the Danish earwigs; Meinert 1863).
Formica rufa and F. pratensis are species of red wood ant.
@mercury@ is the worker (non-reproductive female) ant; see also letter to Auguste Forel, 15 October 1874 and n. 6.
The reference is to Forel 1874.
Formica sanguinea is the slavemaker ant. Forel concluded that, since individual ants of F. sanguinea and F. pratensis behave differently and unpredictably, they have intelligence and unique characters (Forel 1874, p. 283). In Forel 1874, pp. 371–3, Forel gave several examples of naturally occurring mixed-species nests. He did not know how the alliances had arisen, but concluded each case might have resulted from unique circumstances. On pp. 144–7, Forel described differences in the external and internal sensory organs of different species. He concluded (p. 147) that not only was it clear that external sensory organs were modified hairs, but that internal ones were hairs that had gradually sunk into the interior of the antennae.
Forel worked as an assistant physician at the München Oberbayerische Kreisirrenanstalt (district lunatic asylum); see letter from Auguste Forel, 23 September 1874.
Forel probably enclosed his two-part article ‘Notices myrmëcologiques’ (Forel 1870). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Forel had sent Forel 1874 with his letter of 15 October 1874.

Translation

From Auguste Forel1   31 October 1874

Munich

31 X 1874

Sir,

I confess that I was not expecting to see my work judged so favourably by you, and your second letter which was so good and so amiable has more value in my eyes than anything other people might say to me.2 Unfortunately, I cannot read English, and I had to have it translated, which has delayed my reply. It is embarrassing not to understand English, these days; but my practical career leaves me so little free time that I do not know how I would learn it.—

My infinite thanks for the title of the book by Mr Belts,3 which I did not know and which I will have sent to me by a publisher (I don’t want you to give yourself the trouble of sending it to me); I always arrange in such cases to have a translation made. For example, I had the whole of Meiner’s Danish work on the anatomy of ants translated.—4 But what I am especially grateful for is the honour that you do me in communicating one of your personal observations and even allowing me to make use of it. I am entirely of your opinion regarding the significance to give to that curious fact of ants uselessly carrying their empty cocoons over such great distances.5 I have never observed this fact in such a striking manner as you, Sir; however, I have very often seen it on the small scale, that is to say that, during the hatching period for the nymphs of Formica rufa and pratensis6 I have seen the @mercury@7 carrying empty cocoons here and there over very great distances (but I have not yet seen them climbing trees with these cocoons). The fact is noted in a couple of words in my work, p. 396 line 8.8 I had often been astonished at this fact without fully accounting for its reasons, which your explanation gives me in an obvious fashion. If in that anthill there was such a great number of ants carrying empty cocoons, the size of the anthill must obviously be the cause. And perhaps the ants were going further than usual because they saw a great number of their fellows next to them, also laden with empty cocoons.— Now ants, especially those from large communities, obviously have a very strong instinct that causes them to imitate and follow their fellows. An analogous fact is what I have noted on page 298, lines 19 to 24 (Amazons carrying cadavers or empty cocoons instead of nymphs). The facts which made most impression on me, among those that I have observed, are those reported on pages 276–283 (♀ allying themselves to strange @mercury@ sanguinea against @mercury@ of their species, and the forced alliance between adult F. sanguinea and pratensis from different anthills, with its singular consequences). Also the cases of natural mixed abnormal anthills (p. 371) and the discovery of very varied sense organs in the antennae of ants (p. 144–147).9

I am in fact persuaded that new communities (apart from cases analogous to that on p. 285: the scission of one colony into two anthills) are generally the product of a cross between unrelated ants, for ♀ and ♂ from the most diverse communities unite in the air to mate.— Only in the genus Anergates, with its wingless ♂, would this seem to be impossible.10

This summer I began an experiment, the scheme of which is given at the top of page 401. I founded an anthill in my apparatus using only completely freshly hatched (still white) @mercury@ and plenty of @mercury@ nymphs, to see if I get a generation of eggs and larvae by parthenogenesis next spring. For the moment it is going well; the nymphs have hatched and the @mercury@ have become adult and have dug themselves cells in the earth of the apparatus. But it is a matter of keeping my anthill in good condition until next summer.

I am currently a doctor (Assistenzarzt) in a lunatic asylum where there is also a clinic and work to be done on the normal and pathological anatomy of the brain, a subject which also interests me, so that I have hardly any time left for what would be my favourite study if I were rich enough not to have to earn a living, namely comparative Zoology and Anatomy.11

Please accept my sincere thanks once more, Sir, for your kind letter and for the unmerited honour you do my book. With respect and affection, I remain

Yours truly | Aug. Forel

P.S. I make bold to send you two more short pieces which I published before the one I have already sent you.12

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see p. QQQQ.
Forel refers to Thomas Belt and Belt 1874; see letter to Auguste Forel, 15 October 1874 and n. 9.
Meiner: Frederik Vilhelm August Meinert. His work on ants is Anatomia Forficularum. I. Anatomisk Undersøgelse af de Danske Ørentviste (Anatomical study of the Danish earwigs; Meinert 1863).
Formica rufa and F. pratensis are species of red wood ant.
@mercury@ is the worker (non-reproductive female) ant; see also letter to Auguste Forel, 15 October 1874 and n. 6.
The reference is to Forel 1874.
Formica sanguinea is the slavemaker ant. Forel concluded that, since individual ants of F. sanguinea and F. pratensis behave differently and unpredictably, they have intelligence and unique characters (Forel 1874, p. 283). In Forel 1874, pp. 371–3, Forel gave several examples of naturally occurring mixed-species nests. He did not know how the alliances had arisen, but concluded each case might have resulted from unique circumstances. On pp. 144–7, Forel described differences in the external and internal sensory organs of different species. He concluded (p. 147) that not only was it clear that external sensory organs were modified hairs, but that internal ones were hairs that had gradually sunk into the interior of the antennae.
Forel worked as an assistant physician at the München Oberbayerische Kreisirrenanstalt (district lunatic asylum); see letter from Auguste Forel, 23 September 1874.
Forel probably enclosed his two-part article ‘Notices myrmëcologiques’ (Forel 1870). CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Forel had sent Forel 1874 with his letter of 15 October 1874.

Summary

Thanks for CD’s favourable opinion of his book [Les fourmis de la Suisse (1874)]. Habits of ants; observations on their carrying empty eggs.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9704
From
Auguste-Henri (Auguste) Forel
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Munich
Source of text
DAR 164: 154
Physical description
5pp (French)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9704,” accessed on 19 May 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-9704

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

letter