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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emil Witte1   29 December 1879

Pless in Ober- | Schlesien

d. 29. Dec. 1879

Hochgeehrter Herr!

In einer Chronik des Fürstenthums Pless, verfasst vom Kammerrath Schaeffer, finde ich nachstehenden Fall, der Sie interessiren dürfte.2

Ende December 1827 war im hiesigen Kreise die Rinderpest ausgebrochen. “Der Krankheitsstoff wurde durch podolisches Rindvieh ins Land gebracht”.3 Anfang Januar 1828 brach die Krankheit in der aus 85 Stück bestehenden Rinderherde des Fürstlichen Vorwerkes Jaroschowitz aus.4 Nachdem bis zum 11. Januar 28 Stück gefallen waren, wurde den übrigen 57 “auf Befehl des Herrn Regierungs- und Medicinal-Raths Lorinser aus Oppeln die Viehpest eingeimpft”.5

Von diesen 57 Stück fielen innerhalb 9 Tagen 51, die übrigen 6 blieben am Leben. “Merkwürdig ist hierbei, das nur 2 Zugochsen podolischer Raçe die Krankheit überstanden haben, und 2 andere Ochsen derselben Raçe, zeimaliger Impfung ungeachtet, gar nicht erkrankt sind”.6

Soweit der Bericht. Die Erklärung scheint einfach. Die Rinderpest stammt aus den podolischen, galicischen,7 ungarischen etc. Steppen. Das dortige Rindvieh aber hat sich durch natürliche Zuchtwahl schon nahezu Immunität gegen die Krankheit erworben.

Gestatten Sie, hochgeehrter Herr, die Versicherung meiner ausgezeichnetsten Hochachtung, womit ich zeichne | ergebenst | Witte | Oberlehrer am Gymnasium | zu Pless.

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
Henryk Wilhelm Fryderyk Schaeffer’s unfinished chronicle of Pless was published in a Polish translation in 1997 (Schaeffer 1997).
Podolian cattle have grey coats and long horns and originated in Podolia, a historical region encompassing Moldova, western Ukraine, and eastern Romania (Porter et al. 2016, p. 272).
Jaroschowitz (Jaroszowice) was a village in the district of Pless (now Pszczyna, Poland; Michael Rademacher, Deutsche Verwaltungsgeschichte, http://www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de/sch_pless.html (accessed 15 May 2018)).
Karl Ignatius Lorinser. Oppeln in Silesia is now Opole in Poland. On the 1827 and 1828 outbreak of rinderpest in Upper Silesia, see Lorinser 1831, pp. 253–64.
On early attempts to inoculate against rinderpest, which often killed more than half the cattle inoculated, see Huygelen 1997.
Galicia is a historical region crossing the borders of modern Poland and Ukraine.

Bibliography

Huygelen, C. 1997. The immunization of cattle against rinderpest in eighteenth-century Europe. Medical History 41: 182–96.

Translation

From Emil Witte1   29 December 1879

Pless in Upper- | Silesia

29 Dec. 1879

Most esteemed Sir!

In a chronicle of the principality of Pless, penned by privy counsellor Schaeffer, I found the following case that should be of interest to you.2

At the end of December 1827, the rinderpest broke out in the local district. “The contagion was introduced through Podolian cattle”.3 At the beginning of January 1828 the disease broke out among the cattle of the princely demesne Jaroschowitz, a herd comprising 85 head of cattle.4 After 28 had died by 11 January, the remaining 57 were “inoculated with the rinderpest by the order of senior executive officer and senior medical officer Lorinser of Oppeln”.5

Of these 57 head of cattle, 51 died within 9 days, the remaining 6 lived. “What is noteworthy about this is that only 2 draught oxen survived the disease and they were of the Podolian race, and that 2 other oxen of the same race, despite having been inoculated twice, never contracted the disease”.6

So far the report. The explanation appears simple. The rinderpest originated in the Podolian, Galician,7 Hungarian etc. steppes. The cattle there have acquired almost perfect immunity against the disease through natural selection.

Allow me, most esteemed Sir, to assure you of my highest respects, remaining | most devoted | Witte | senior master at the grammar school | of Pless.

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original German, see p. QQQQ.
Henryk Wilhelm Fryderyk Schaeffer’s unfinished chronicle of Pless was published in a Polish translation in 1997 (Schaeffer 1997).
Podolian cattle have grey coats and long horns and originated in Podolia, a historical region encompassing Moldova, western Ukraine, and eastern Romania (Porter et al. 2016, p. 272).
Jaroschowitz (Jaroszowice) was a village in the district of Pless (now Pszczyna, Poland; Michael Rademacher, Deutsche Verwaltungsgeschichte, http://www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de/sch_pless.html (accessed 15 May 2018)).
Karl Ignatius Lorinser. Oppeln in Silesia is now Opole in Poland. On the 1827 and 1828 outbreak of rinderpest in Upper Silesia, see Lorinser 1831, pp. 253–64.
On early attempts to inoculate against rinderpest, which often killed more than half the cattle inoculated, see Huygelen 1997.
Galicia is a historical region crossing the borders of modern Poland and Ukraine.

Bibliography

Huygelen, C. 1997. The immunization of cattle against rinderpest in eighteenth-century Europe. Medical History 41: 182–96.

Summary

Relates case of selective immunity to rinderpest.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-12376
From
Emil Witte
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Pless
Source of text
DAR 181: 134
Physical description
3pp (German)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12376,” accessed on 19 October 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/?docId=letters/DCP-LETT-12376.xml

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