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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Wilhelm Behrens   29 August [1878]1

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

Aug. 29th

Dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for having sent me your “Geschichte der Bestäubungstheorie”, which has interested me much.2 It has put some things in a new light, & has told me other things which I did not know.— I heartily agree with you in your high appreciation of poor old C. Sprengel’s work; & one regrets bitterly that he did not live to see his labours thus valued.3 It rejoices me also to notice how highly you appreciate H. Müller, who has always seemed to me an admirable observer & reasoner.4 I am at present endeavouring to persuade an English publisher to bring out a Translation of his Befruchtung &c.5

Lastly permit me to thank you for your very generous remarks on my works.— By placing what I have been able to do on this subject in systematic order, you have made me think more highly of my own work, than I ever did before!6 Nevertheless, I fear, that you have done me more than justice.

I remain Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin.


The year is established by the date of Behrens’s publication (see n. 2, below).
CD’s annotated copy of Behrens’s Beiträge zur Geschichte der Bestäubungstheorie (Contributions to the history of pollination theory; Behrens 1878) is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Behrens discussed the work of Christian Konrad Sprengel and his observations of flower morphology and the action of insects in Behrens 1878, pp. 16–29.
Behrens had judged the work of Hermann Müller, Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten (The fertilisation of flowers by means of insects; H. Müller 1873) to be the first true extension of pollination theory, in that Müller was the first researcher to concentrate on the adaptations of insects as well as those of flowers (Behrens 1878, pp. 39–40).
An English translation of H. Müller 1873, with a preface by CD, was published in 1883 (H. Müller 1883).
Behrens had discussed the importance of Darwinian evolution as the basis for advances in pollination theory, as well as enumerating specific contributions CD had made to the study of pollination (Behrens 1878, pp. 30–8).


Behrens, Wilhelm Julius. 1878. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Bestäubungstheorie. Separatabdruck aus dem Programm der Königl. Gewerbeschule zu Elberfeld 1877–78. Elberfeld: A Martini & Grüttefien.

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Müller, Hermann. 1883a. The fertilisation of flowers. Translated and edited by D’Arcy W. Thompson. London: Macmillan and Co.


Thanks him for ["Beiträge zur Geschichte der Bestäubungstheorie", in Program der Königlichen Gewerbeschule zu Elberfeld, 1877/78 (1879)]. Agrees with appreciation of Carl Sprengel’s work. Rejoices how highly GWJB appreciates Hermann Müller.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Georg Wilhelm Julius (Wilhelm) Behrens
Sent from
Source of text
Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv – Standort Wolfenbüttel (VI Hs 11 nr. 12)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11678,” accessed on 21 October 2021,