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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Karl von Scherzer   20 October 1868

Ministry of Commerce | Vienna,

Octb. 20th. 1868

Dear Sir

I take the liberty to inform you that the Expedition for Eastern Asia and South America has left Trieste on the 18th. Octbr consisting of the Screw-frigate Donau (Danube) and the Screw Corvette friedrich, with together 590 men crew.1

Although the principal object of the mission is a commercial one, yet I have endeavoured to make the expedition likewise as useful to science as possible and hope that we shall also gather some valuable scientific results.

We have with us a good Zoologist, who is sent to China and Japan to study there the sériculture and report on the condition of the silkworm in Eastern Asia—2

Besides, there are three medical officers who are good botanists and one of them will take up the bodily measurements.3 We have also with us a very first rate photographer.4 The Expedition will make a short stay at the Cape of Good Hope and then proceed to Singapore where I expect to meet the vessels early in february. from Singapore the vessels will continue the voyage to Bangkok, where a treaty will be negotiated with the King of Siam and then go to China and Japan.

When the Treaties with these two Empires have been concluded, the mission will return to Europe by the Pacific and call at the Sandwich Islands, at San francisco, Punto Arenas, Panama, Callao, Valparaiso, Montevideo and Buenos Ayres.

If during this cruise I should be able to become in any way serviceable to you, I beg to dispose of me freely. I shall not leave Vienna before December as I intend to take the Overland Route & I shall feel most happy to be entrusted with your Commands. I send you also a copy of the instructions for the commercial Reporters, which however contains also a number of Scientific Desiderata and to which I have added a german translation of your own queries.5

I remain | With heart and hand | your most devoted | Dr Scherzer.


Scherzer refers to the Austro-Hungarian East Asian expedition of 1868 to 1871. For the official report of the expedition, produced by the ministry for trade, see Scherzer ed. 1872.
For Szymon Syrski’s reports on sericulture in China and Japan, see Scherzer ed. 1872, pp. 122–74, 228–86.
The medical officers on the Donau and the Friedrich were Heinrich Wawra, Emanuel Weiss, and Dr Janko, who has not been further identified. Wawra and Weiss collected plants, while Janko specialised in anthropology (Scherzer ed. 1872, p. xv).
Wilhelm Burger (Scherzer ed. 1872, p. v).
The printed version of the instructions (‘Instruktionen für die fachmännischen Begleiter der k. u. k. Mission’; Scherzer ed. 1872, pp. 388–418) contained only material relevant to the commercial goals of the expedition (see ibid., p. 388 n.). CD’s copy of the instructions, which evidently contained a translation of his queries on expression, has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. For a printed version of the queries, see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix V.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Describes departure of expedition to China, Japan, and South America.

Copy of CD’s queries provided to expedition.

Invites CD to make suggestions for scientific work to be carried out.

Letter details

Letter no.
Karl von Scherzer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Ministry of Commerce, Vienna
Source of text
DAR 177: 50
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6425,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16