skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Friedrich Hildebrand   17 July 1875

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R

July 17. 75

My dear Sir

I am preparing a new Edit. of my Var. under Domestication, & have been quoting your paper in the Bot. Zeitung May 15 1868.1 At page 327 I find a statement, exactly like one made by Gaertner, on the difficulty of crossing certain vars. of maize.2 Have you made any further observations on this subject which I might quote? I will venture to suggest to you that this subject would be pre-eminently worthy of careful investigation, both with respect to the first cross & the fertility of the crossed offspring. To prove that two undoubted varieties are mutually sterile would be of the greatest service to the principle of evolution. I should myself have worked on this subject, had not our climate been so ill fitted for maize.

Since writing to you I have read with the greatest interest your “Verbreitungsmittel &c” with its many philosophical remarks.3

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin

P.S In the hurry of dictation I forgot that you had received my book—4


CD refers to the article ‘Einige Experimente und Beobachtungen’ (Hildebrand 1868), a discussion of crossing two varieties of maize; he cited it in Variation 2d ed. 1: 430.
CD was interested in Karl Friedrich von Gärtner’s work on the sterility of unions between differently coloured varieties of Verbascum (see Gärtner 1849, Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 October [1861], and Correspondence vol. 10). CD marked the passage in which Hildebrand discussed similar findings in maize in Hildebrand 1868, p. 327; CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Hildebrand had sent CD a copy of Die Verbreitungsmittel der Pflanzen (The means of propagation of plants; Hildebrand 1873); see Correspondence vol. 21, letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 November [1873]. There is an annotated copy of the book in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 379–80).
In the second paragraph above, the passage, ‘I hope that you have received the copy of my “Insectivorous Plants” sent to you a short time since’, has been deleted. Hildebrand’s name is on CD’s presentation list for the book (Appendix IV). No letter of acknowledgment from Hildebrand has been found.


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

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Hildebrand, Friedrich. 1873. Die Verbreitungsmittel der Pflanzen. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.


Asks about FH’s research on maize. Suggests experiments.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10075,” accessed on 6 December 2021,

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