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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hugo de Vries1   7 November 1875

Würzburg.

7 Nov 75.

Hochverehrter Herr!

Empfangen Sie meinen besten Dank für die grosse Freundlichkeit, mir die zweite Auflage Ihres Werkes über Climbing Plants zu schenken.2 Noch mehr aber danke ich Ihnen für die freundliche Anerkennung meiner beiden Aufsätze über diesen Gegenstand, welche gar keinen Anspruch machen sollten auf eine so grosse Ehre, als Sie ihnen zukommen lassen.3

Erst vor wenigen Tagen, als ich von einer längeren Reise, nach Würzburg zurückkam, fand ich Ihr werthvolles Geschenk hier vor, und jetzt mache ich mir ein Vergnügen daraus, es genau durchzustudiren. Für die viele neue Belehrung, welche ich hierin, so wie stets in Ihren Werken finde, bringe ich Ihnen meinen aufrichtigsten Dank.

Erlauben Sie mir, diese Gelegenheit zu benützen, Ihnen speciell meine Bewunderung für Ihr letztes Werk, über Insektenessende Pflanzen auszusprechen.4 Ich hatte die Gelegenheit in diesem Sommer fast alle Hauptversuche mit den verschiedenen Pflanzen theils bei Hofrath Sachs zu sehen, theils selbst nach zu machen, und mich dabei nicht nur von der Richtigkeit Ihrer Beobachtungen und Folgerungen zu überzeugen, als Zumal diese eingehender würdigen und bewundern zu lernen.5

Sie tragen Bedenken gegen die Auffassung, dass bei den Ranken der Unterschied im Längenwachsthum der beiden Seiten die Ursache der Krümmungen sei. Ich muss gestehen, dass Sie hier einen Schwachen Punkt getroffen haben. Meine Versuche beweisen direct nur, dass diese Krümmungen für gewöhnlich von einer solchen Aenderung des Längenwachsthums begleitet sind, und ich gestehe dass es eine rein theorethische, für den speciellen Fall nicht bewiesene Auffassung ist, dass ich diese Wachsthumsänderung im Eingang zu meiner Arbeit als die Ursache der Krümmungen hingestellt habe. Ihre Auffassung, dass die Krümmung eine andere Ursache habe, und selbst den Unterschied in der Wachsthumsgeschwindigkeit herbeiführe, scheint mir ebenso berechtigt alswie die andere, und die von Ihnen angeführten Thatsachen sprechen sehr zu ihrem Gunsten.6 Ihr Bedenken trifft aber, wie ich meine, sämmtliche bis jetzt sogenannten Wachsthumskrümmungen in gleichem Maasse, und ich möchte deshalb kein Urtheil aussprechen, bis die Sache von einem allgemeinem Gesichtspunkt aus bearbeitet ist.

Indem ich Ihnen nochmals meinen warmen Dank für Ihre freundliche Gesinnung gegen mich ausspreche, empfehle ich mich Ihnen höflichst und zeichne | Mit wahrer Hochachtung | Ihr dienstf. Diener | Hugo de Vries.

[Contemporary translation]

Würtzburg

Nov 7./ 75

Highly honoured Sir

Accept my best thanks for your great kindness in sending me the 2nd. Edition of your work on Climbing Plants.7 I thank you still more however for your kind recognition of my two essays on this subject which did not think worthy of so much honour as you have assigned to them.8 On returning to Würzburg a few days ago after a somewhat lengthened absense, I found your valuable present, and now I am enjoying the pleasure of studying it thoroughly. I give you my sincerest thanks for the fund of new information which I find in this as in all your works. Permit me to make use of this opportunity to express to you my especial admiration for your last work “Insectivorous Plants.”9 I have had the opportunity during this summer of seeing almost all the principal experiments repeated partly at Hofrath Sachs’, and partly having tried them myself; and I have by these means not only convinced myself of the correctness of your observations & conclusions, but also learned to value and admire them with deeper appreciation.10

You do not agree with me as to the view that the difference in the growth in length of the two sides of the tendrils is the cause of their spiral form (Krümmungen). I confess that you have here hit a weak point. My experiments prove only that these spiral forms are generally accompanied by such a difference of growth in length & I admit that in stating in the introduction to my work this difference in growth to be the cause of the spiral form I have given a purely theoretical view not proved by any special case. Your view that there is another cause for the spiral form and it is the spiral form which causes the difference in the rapidity of growth seems to me of equal value, and the facts given by you are much in its favour.11

But your doubt it seems to me equally attaches to all spiral growths (hitherto so called) and I do not like therefore to give an opinion until the matter shall have been worked out from a more general point of view.

I thank you once more for your kind consideration and remain with great respect Your obed servt. | Hugo de V.

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I. A contemporary translation found with the letter is included above.
Vries’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Climbing plants 2d ed. (see Appendix IV).
CD’s annotated offprints of Vries’s two articles on climbing plants, ‘Längenwachsthum der Ober- und Unterseite sich krümmender Ranken’ (Longitudinal growth of upper and lower sides of twining tendrils; Vries 1873a) and ‘ Zur Mechanik der Bewegungen von Schlingpflanzen’ (On the mechanics of movement in climbing plants; Vries 1873b) are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD mentioned Vries’s two essays as worthy of careful study in the preface to Climbing plants 2d ed., p. v, and cited them frequently throughout the book.
Vries’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
Julius Sachs, in whose laboratory Vries worked from 1871, had been so interested in Insectivorous plants that he acquired most of the species mentioned by CD and repeated several of the experiments in lectures and demonstrations (letter from Julius Sachs to Hugo von Thiel, 1 August 1875; quoted in Pas 1970, p. 180). Hofrath: literally ‘court counsellor’, but also an honorary title given to senior civil servants, including, in the nineteenth century, academics (for a contemporary explanation of the usage, see, for example, United States Literary Gazette, 1 May 1826, p. 102).
See Climbing plants 2d ed., pp. 132–3,179–82. CD described an experiment he performed on a twining tendril of Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber) that showed that the convex side of the tendril did not increase in length as the tendril coiled around a stick, and concluded that the curvature resulted from contraction of the cells on the concave side (ibid., pp. 180–1).
Vries’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Climbing plants 2d ed. (see Appendix IV).
CD’s annotated offprints of Vries’s two articles on climbing plants, ‘Längenwachsthum der Ober- und Unterseite sich krümmender Ranken’ (Longitudinal growth of upper and lower sides of twining tendrils; Vries 1873a) and ‘ Zur Mechanik der Bewegungen von Schlingpflanzen’ (On the mechanics of movement in climbing plants; Vries 1873b) are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD mentioned Vries’s two essays as worthy of careful study in the preface to Climbing plants 2d ed., p. v, and cited them frequently throughout the book.
Vries’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
Julius Sachs, in whose laboratory Vries worked from 1871, had been so interested in Insectivorous plants that he acquired most of the species mentioned by CD and repeated several of the experiments in lectures and demonstrations (letter from Julius Sachs to Hugo von Thiel, 1 August 1875; quoted in Pas 1970, p. 180). Hofrath: literally ‘court counsellor’, but also an honorary title given to senior civil servants, including, in the nineteenth century, academics (for a contemporary explanation of the usage, see, for example, United States Literary Gazette, 1 May 1826, p. 102).
See Climbing plants 2d ed., pp. 132–3,179–82. CD described an experiment he performed on a twining tendril of Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber) that showed that the convex side of the tendril did not increase in length as the tendril coiled around a stick, and concluded that the curvature resulted from contraction of the cells on the concave side (ibid., pp. 180–1).

Bibliography

Climbing plants 2d ed.: The movements and habits of climbing plants. 2d edition. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Pas, Peter W. van der. 1970. The correspondence of Hugo de Vries and Charles Darwin. Janus: revue internationale de l’histoire des sciences, de la médecine, de la pharmacie, et de la technique 57: 173–213.

Translation

From Hugo de Vries1   7 November 1875

Würzburg.

7 Nov 75.

Most honoured Sir!

Many thanks for having been so very kind as to send me the second edition of your work on Climbing Plants.2 I thank you still more however for acknowledging so kindly my two essays on the subject, which I had never expected to receive so great an honour as you bestowed on them.3

Only a few days ago, upon my return to Würzburg from a prolonged journey, I found your precious gift awaiting me here, and now I derive great pleasure from studying in thoroughly. For the extensive instruction which I find here, as ever in your works, I offer you my sincerest thanks. Allow me to take this opportunity to express to you in particular my admiration for your latest work, on Insectivorous Plants.4 This summer I had the opportunity to witness almost all the chief experiments with various plants, partly at Hofrat Sachs’, partly by repeating them myself, and I was thus able not only to convince myself of the correctness of your observations and conclusions, but also to learn to appreciate and to admire them in greater depth.5

You have doubts about the hypothesis that the curvature of tendrils is caused by the difference of the rate at which both sides grow lengthwise. There, I must admit, you have put your finger on the weak spot in my argument. My experiments demonstrate directly only that these curvatures are commonly accompanied by a change in the longitudinal growth, and I admit that I made a purely theoretical assumption, not proven for the special case, when I offered this difference in growth, at the beginning of my work, as the cause of the curvature movement. Your opinion, that the bending is caused by something else, and that it brings about the difference in the rate of growth, to me seems equally justified, and the evidence you adduced very much supports your argument.6 In my view, however, your doubts must concern all so-called curvature movements to the same extent, and I would rather not give my opinion on the matter before it has been investigated from a general point of view.

Again warm thanks for your kindness towards me, & I remain | With the greatest respect | Your obdt. servant | Hugo de Vries.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, and a contemporary translation, see pp. 441–3.
Vries’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Climbing plants 2d ed. (see Appendix IV).
CD’s annotated offprints of Vries’s two articles on climbing plants, ‘Längenwachsthum der Ober- und Unterseite sich krümmender Ranken’ (Longitudinal growth of upper and lower sides of twining tendrils; Vries 1873a) and ‘ Zur Mechanik der Bewegungen von Schlingpflanzen’ (On the mechanics of movement in climbing plants; Vries 1873b) are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD mentioned Vries’s two essays as worthy of careful study in the preface to Climbing plants 2d ed., p. v, and cited them frequently throughout the book.
Vries’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Insectivorous plants (see Appendix IV).
Julius Sachs, in whose laboratory Vries worked from 1871, had been so interested in Insectivorous plants that he acquired most of the species mentioned by CD and repeated several of the experiments in lectures and demonstrations (letter from Julius Sachs to Hugo von Thiel, 1 August 1875; quoted in Pas 1970, p. 180). Hofrath: literally ‘court counsellor’, but also an honorary title given to senior civil servants, including, in the nineteenth century, academics (for a contemporary explanation of the usage, see, for example, United States Literary Gazette, 1 May 1826, p. 102).
See Climbing plants 2d ed., pp. 132–3,179–82. CD described an experiment he performed on a twining tendril of Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber) that showed that the convex side of the tendril did not increase in length as the tendril coiled around a stick, and concluded that the curvature resulted from contraction of the cells on the concave side (ibid., pp. 180–1).

Bibliography

Climbing plants 2d ed.: The movements and habits of climbing plants. 2d edition. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Pas, Peter W. van der. 1970. The correspondence of Hugo de Vries and Charles Darwin. Janus: revue internationale de l’histoire des sciences, de la médecine, de la pharmacie, et de la technique 57: 173–213.

Summary

Thanks for 2d edition of Climbing plants and for CD’s recognition of HdeV’s two essays on the subject [Climbing plants, pp. v–vi, 9 n., 22, 160]. Cause of spiral growth of tendrils.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10248
From
Hugo de Vries
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Würzburg
Source of text
DAR 180: 19
Physical description
3pp (German), trans 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10248,” accessed on 26 November 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10248.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23

letter