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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Karl von Scherzer   21 November 1867

8, Postgasse. Vienna

November 21st. 1867

Dear Sir,

I took the liberty to send you by the interference of our Embassy in London a volume containing “the results of measurements taken on numerous individuals of different races during the campaign of the Austrian frigat Novara round the world in 1857–59,” and beg to accept this work as a token of my highest esteem and admiration.1 The measurements were taken by myself and the late Dr Schwarz (physician on board the frigat); the results were gained by my indefatigable friend Dr A. Weisbach and tend to support and to strengthen that wonderful law of which you are the venerated originator!2

I have also given orders that a copy of the linguistic portions of the Novara-publications may be forwarded to you, and so will be the ethnographical part, which I am just now preparing for print.3

There is some hope, that another Expedition will be sent by our government to China and Japan in order to make treaties of commerce with the respective governments.4 It is very likely, that I shall accompany that Expedition as Imperial Commissioner, and if this be the case, you will permit me to ask you for instructions with respect to Scientific Desiderata.

I do not want to add, how much I should be delighted to become of any service to you and your scientific pursuits. Allow me yet to remark, that Dr Karl Vogt, who is now lecturing on the primitive history of man at Cologne and Aix-la Chapelle, has got a sight of the proof-sheets of the results of my measurements and was so much interested with them, that he will make them an object of his lectures.5 Should the work be happy enough to enjoy and gain also your approval, this will considerably strenghten our efforts and endeavours and contribute to let us persevere in these most difficult pursuits. I have the honor to remain with the highest consideration

Sir, | your most obedient | Dr Karl v. Scherzer.


Scherzer refers to part 2 (body measurement) of volume 2 (anthropology) of Novara expedition 1861–75; it was published in 1867. There is a lightly annotated copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (Marginalia 1: 854, s.v. Weisbach)). For CD’s comments following the announcement of the proposed expedition, see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Charles Lyell, 11 February [1857].
In Descent 1: 216, 275, and 2: 320, CD cited Scherzer, Eduard Schwarz, and Albin Weisbach on anatomical differences between human races, and on anatomical features being more variable in men than in women. Scherzer refers to CD’s theory of the transmutation of species by means of natural selection.
Volume 5 (linguistics) of Novara Expedition 1861–75 was compiled by Friedrich Müller and covered Australian, Austronesian, Indian, and African languages; it has not been found in the Darwin Library–CUL or Darwin Library–Down. Part 3 (ethnography) of volume 2 of Novara Expedition 1861–75, published in 1868, was also compiled by Müller. There is a lightly annotated copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (Marginalia 1: 608–9, s.v. Müller, F.). For a detailed account of the Novara expedition, see Scherzer 1861–3.
For an account of the expedition to Siam (now Thailand), China, and Japan, see Scherzer 1872.
CD was aware of Carl Vogt’s work on the origin of humans (see letter to Edward Blyth, 23 February [1867] and n. 3). For more on Vogt’s controversial lectures on the subject, given in various European countries between 1867 and 1869, see W. Vogt 1896, pp. 177–84.


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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.

Novara expedition. 1861–75. Reise der österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859 unter den Befehlen des Commodore B. von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. 9 vols. in 19. Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei.

Scherzer, Karl von. 1861–3. Narrative of the circumnavigation of the globe by the Austrian frigate Novara (Commodore B. von Wullerstorf-Urbair), undertaken by order of the imperial government, in the years 1857, 1858, & 1859, under the immediate auspices of his I. and R. Highness, the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian. 3 vols. London: Saunders, Otley, & Co.

Scherzer, Karl von, ed. 1872. Fachmännische Berichte über die österreichisch-ungarische Expedition nach Siam, China und Japan. (1868–1871.) Stuttgart: Julius Maier.

Vogt, William. 1896. La vie d’un homme: Carl Vogt. Paris: Schleicher Frères. Stuttgart: Erwin Nägele.


Sends copy of book containing measurements taken of individuals of different races during voyage of Novara [Karl Heinrich von Scherzer, ed., Reise der Fregatte "Novara", Anthropologischer Theil (1867)].

Asks for scientific advice concerning newly planned expedition.

Says Carl Vogt plans to use data from book in lectures.

Letter details

Letter no.
Karl von Scherzer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Ministerium für Handel und Volkswirtschaft, Vienna
Source of text
DAR 177: 49
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5691,” accessed on 20 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15