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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   27 [September 1876]1

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


My dear Frank

I send by this Post the last Chapt.2 It has been a very difficult one to correct. I fear that all this work must have been a great strain on your mind, but its dullness will not have signified to you.

Yesterday I received from Cohn the 2d Heft of his Beitrage, Biolog d. Pflanzen, & he tells me that there are 3 interesting articles in it, one by Nowakowski on a wonderfully simple form of sexual Reproduction in a cryptogam.— A second one on an infectious disease proved to be caused by a low organism—3 And a third, his own paper, on Bacillen, which “gives, I suppose, the key to Dr. Bastian’s astounding observations”.—4 I mention all this to know whether you wd like the vol. sent to you. The latter paper wd. interest the English public, but then as you have not mingled in the controversy, perhaps you had better not.—

I have thought myself bound to ask Cohn & his wife here, (who are Jews) but I hope they wont come, as it kills me,—not but what I withstood poor dear Häckels bellowing at us yesterday very well; & he was in every way very nice.5

It is a great consolation to us to hear that you are able to exert yourself. Häckel suffered the same loss after only one year & suffered dreadfully; & he said work was his sole alleviation.—6 Your mother never has you or the Baby for five minutes out of her head.7

My dear son | Your affectionate Father | C. Darwin

P.S. Revises have come so I shall get on much slower with the Slips.—8


The month and year are established by the reference to the visits of Ernst Haeckel and Ferdinand Julius Cohn (see n. 5, below).
CD sent proof-sheets of Chapter 12 of Cross and self fertilisation. The chapter contained a summary of CD’s results and general theoretical conclusions.
The letter from Cohn has not been found, but see the letter to F. J. Cohn, 26 September [1876].The second volume of the journal Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen, of which Cohn was the editor, consisted of three issues (Heften). The second issue has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. The articles were Leon Nowakowski’s ‘Beitrag zur Kenntniss der Chytridiaceen II. Polyphagus Euglenae, eine Chytridiacee mit geschechtlicher Fortpflanzung’ (Contribution to the understanding of the Chytridiaceae. II. Polyphagus euglenae; a Chytridiacean with sexual reproduction; Nowakowski 1876), and Robert Koch’s ‘Die Aetiologie der Milzbrand-Krankheit, begründet auf die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Bacilus Anthracis’ (The aetiology of anthrax-sickness, based on the developmental history of Bacilus anthracis; Koch 1876). A review and summary of Nowakowski’s paper appeared in Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science 27 (1877): 175–81.
In ‘Beiträge zur Biologie der Bacillen’ (Contributions to the biology of bacilli; Cohn 1876b), Cohn discussed experiments on spontaneous generation performed by Henry Charlton Bastian. Bastian had described numerous experiments in which sealed flasks with organic infusions were subjected to high temperatures and later found to contain living organisms (see Bastian 1872). Cohn noted that several of the bacilli he tested were able to remain viable for long periods at temperatures around 100°C, and concluded that Bastian’s experimental protocol was flawed. For more on the controversies surrounding Bastian’s work, see Correspondence vol. 20.
Cohn had come to London for the Loan Collection of Scientific Apparatus, an international exposition of scientific instruments held at South Kensington from May to December 1876 (Klemm 2002, p. 234; see The Times, 15 May 1876, p. 10, for a report on Queen Victoria’s opening of the exposition). Ernst Haeckel had visited on 26 September 1876; Cohn, his wife, Pauline, and Ferdinand Römer visited on 28 September. Emma Darwin described the visit, noting that Cohn was quite deaf: ‘Any thing like the noise they made I never heard’ (letter from Emma Darwin to Leonard Darwin, [29 September 1876] (DAR 239.23: 1.51)).
Haeckel had lost his first wife, Anna, to typhoid fever in 1864, after being married for less than two years (see Correspondence vol 12, letter from Ernst Haeckel, 10 August 1864). Francis Darwin’s wife, Amy, had died on 11 September 1876. Francis and Amy were married on 23 July 1874 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Francis and Amy’s son was Bernard Darwin.
CD was working on both the revised proof-sheets of earlier chapters and the slips or first proof-sheets (made on long strips of paper before the type was divided into pages) of Cross and self fertilisation.


Bastian, Henry Charlton. 1872. The beginnings of life: being some account of the nature, modes of origin and transformations of lower organisms. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

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

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Klemm, Margot. 2002. Ferdinand Julius Cohn 1828–1898: Pflanzenphysiologe, Mikrobiologe, Begründer der Bakteriologie. Stuttgart: University of Stuttgart.

Koch, Robert. 1876. Untersuchungen über Bacterien. V. Die Aetiologie der Milzbrand-Krankheit, begründet auf die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Bacillus Anthracis. Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen 2 (1876–7): 277–310.

Nowakowski, Leon. 1876. Beitrag zur Kenntniss der Chytridiaceen II. Polyphagus Euglenae, eine Chytridiacee mit geschechtlicher Fortpflanzung. Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen 2 (1876–7): 201–19.


Sends last chapter of Orchids [1877] for revision.

Has some articles that might interest FD.

Has invited Ferdinand Cohn and his wife to Down but hopes they will not come.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 211: 13
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10621,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24