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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edmund Mojsisovics von Mojsvár   1 June 1878

Down. | Beckenham, Kent.

June 1. 1878.

Dear Sir.

I have at last found time to read your first chapter of your Dolomit Riffe, & have been exceedingly interested by it. What a wonderful change in the future of geological chronology you indicate, by assuming the descent-theory to be established, & then taking the graduated changes of the same group of organisms as the true standard! I never hoped to live to see such a step even proposed by anyone.1

Nevertheless I saw dimly that each bed in a formation could contain only the organisms—proper to a certain depth & to other there existing conditions and that all the intermediate forms between one marine species & another could rarely be preserved in the same place & bed—2 Oppel, Neumayer3 & yourself will confer a lasting and admirable service on the noble science of Geology if you can spread your views so as to be generally known & accepted—

With respect to the continental & oceanic periods common to the whole N. hemisphere to which you refer, I have sometimes speculated that the present distribution of the land & sea over the world may have formerly been very different to what it now is; & that new genera & families may have been developed on the shores of isolated tracks in the South & afterwards spread to the North.4

With my best thanks for the present of your great works & with the highest respect | I remain, Dear Sir. | Yours faithfully— | Charles Darwin.


Mojsisovics von Mojsvár had sent CD the first part of his book Die Dolomit-Riffe von Südtirol und Venetien (The Dolomite reefs of South Tyrol and Veneto; Mojsisovics von Mojsvár 1878–9); see letter from Edmund Mojsisovics von Mojsvár, 28 April 1878. CD’s copy is in the Darwin Library–Down. Mojsisovics von Mojsvár took CD’s theory of descent as established and argued that fossil evidence rather than the characteristics of rocks was crucial in determining geological age (ibid., pp. 1–2).
See Origin, pp. 297–301.
Albert Oppel had published on the Jurassic formations of England, France, and south-west Germany (Oppel 1856–8). CD had read Melchior Neumayr’s work tracing the lineage of gastropod shell evolution in freshwater Pliocene sands and clays of Slavonia (Croatia) (Neumayr and Paul 1875; see Correspondence vol. 25, letter to Melchior Neumayr, 9 March 1877). For the influence of these authors on Mojsisovics von Mojsvár’s work, see Mojsisovics von Mojsvár 1878–9, pp. 15–18.
See, for example, Origin, pp. 305–6. A fundamental division between marine and terrestrial formations is outlined in Mojsisovics von Mojsvár 1878–9, pp. 6–8.


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

Mojsisovics von Mojsvár, Edmund. 1878–9. Die Dolomit-Riffe von Südtirol und Venetien: Beiträge zur Bildungsgeschichte der Alpen. Wien: Alfred Hölder.

Mojsisovics von Mojsvár, Edmund. 1878. Kleine Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Anneliden. I. Die Lumbricidenhypodermis. Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Classe 76: 7–20.

Oppel, Albert. 1856–8. Die Juraformation Englands, Frankreichs und des Südwestlichen Deutschlands. Nach ihren einzelnen Gliedern eingetheilt und verglichen. Stuttgart: Verlag von Ebner & Seubert.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Discusses EM’s book [Die Dolomit-Riffe von Südtirol und Venetien (1878–9)]. Pleased by EM’s views of geological chronology based on evolution. Thinks distribution of land and sea formerly very different. New genera and families may have been developed on isolated tracks and migrated.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Johann August Georg Edmund (Edmund) Mojsisovics von Mojsvár
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 383
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11539,” accessed on 22 September 2021,