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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Anton Dohrn   27 January 1873

Napoli. Palazzo Torlonia.

27. Jan. 1873.

My dear Sir!

It is only now, that Your great present to the Station’s Library has reached me.1 I have been for 5 weeks in Germany to treat with the different Governments and Academies on a plan of organising the general participation in the great Laboratories, which during next summer are to be completed.2 I hope, that it has been a successful trip; at least I have met with a general applause and with every readiness to assist from the side of the Governments,—especially at Berlin. Also Italy will do something of the kind. As soon as all will be arranged, I will write an article into “Nature” to communicate at once with all those who take an interest in the whole plan and have already assisted in its execution.3

The library is growing very fast,— I hope in short to publish a catalogue of what it contains already. The British Association has granted the complete set of their publications, and the Zoological Society their Proceedings.—4

My life here is a constant fight with intrigues and difficulties raised by the Municipality. But I knew beforehand that the best part of energy here would be not to get tired, and always rebegin, if anything went wrong. And thus I feel quite safe, that I’ll get over all the numerous obstacles, which they will further throw in my way.

I had, of course, no time for scientific work; nevertheless I have made some progress with the chapter of Vertebrate-ancestry and Morphology, and it drives me further and further away from what now seems pretty generally to be accepted.5 Then I got at last two specimen of Anelasma Squalicola, which I once took the liberty of asking also from You. It was then a most perplexing problem that I hoped to solve by the investigation of this curious Cirriped,—and I am glad, that my deductions at that time were quite right, and are the only true ones to lead to an understanding of that strange group of Parasitic Cirripedia, the Rhizocephala. I hope in short to be able to send You a short notice on that, which will, I hope, meet some interest.6

In April I hope to open the Aquarium and in September the Laboratory,—i.e. the Morphological one and that for Botany. The physiological one will take up some more time of preparation.7

I take the liberty of sending You a small pamphlet, by which I have tried to make understood, what were in general the motives and what are the ends of founding this Zoological Station.

I hope very sincerely, this letter will find You in good health. Please remember me most kindly to Mrs. Darwin and to Your son.8

And once more my heartiest thanks for the generosity You showed in sending all Your books. It will stimulate me to succeed.

Ever Yours very sincerely | Anton Dohrn


CD had sent Dohrn copies of his books for the library of the zoological station at Naples that Dohrn had founded (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Anton Dohrn, 21 August 1872, and letter to Anton Dohrn, 24 August [1872]).
Dohrn planned to help finance the running costs of the zoological station by charging scientific and government institutions annual fees for work space (see Report of the 42nd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1872), p. 48, and Heuss 1991, pp. 129–30). On Dohrn’s trip to Germany in December 1872 and January 1873, see Heuss 1991, pp. 132–5.
In his report in Nature (Dohrn 1873), Dohrn reported that Prussia and Italy had both agreed to hire two tables at the station.
Dohrn refers to his work on his Der Ursprung der Wirbelthiere und das Princip des Functionswechsels (The origin of vertebrates and the principle of change of function; Dohrn 1875).
The taxonomic position of the group Rhizocephala was a subject of controversy. Fritz Müller and CD had discussed a possible evolutionary link between pedunculate cirripedes and Rhizocephala, citing Anelasma squalicola as the intermediate form (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to Fritz Müller, 10 August [1865] and n. 7, and letter from Fritz Müller, 10 October 1865). For more on Dohrn’s work with Anelasma, see the letter from Anton Dohrn, 7 June 1873.
The laboratories of the zoological station opened in October 1873, and the aquarium in December 1873 (Heuss 1991, pp. 153, 156).
Dohrn had visited Down on 26 September 1870 (see Heuss 1991, pp. 108–9). It is not known which of CD’s sons he had met on this occasion.


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

Dohrn, Anton. 1873. The Zoological Station at Naples. Nature, 29 May 1873, p. 81.

Dohrn, Anton. 1875. Der Ursprung der Wirbelthiere und das Princip des Functionswechsels. Genealogische Skizzen. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann. [Reprinted in Theory in Biosciences 125 (2007): 181–241.]

Heuss, Theodor. 1991. Anton Dohrn: a life for science. Translated from the German by Liselotte Dieckmann. Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag.


The Naples Zoological Station and its library are growing fast. His life is a constant battle with the municipality, but has managed to make a little progress on vertebrate ancestry and morphology. His views get further away from what is generally accepted.

Letter details

Letter no.
Felix Anton (Anton) Dohrn
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 212
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8750,” accessed on 13 August 2020,

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