Letter from Charles Darwin to Carl Semper
The letter presented here is from a series of letters written between 1877 and 1882 by the British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–82), and his son, Sir Francis Darwin (1848–1925), to the German scientist Carl Gottfried Semper (1832–93). The letters are preserved in the University and State Library Düsseldorf. Semper specialized in invertebrate zoology and ecology and is best known for his extensive field studies in the Philippines and the scientific findings based on them. In 1880 he published Die Natürlichen Existenzbedingungen der Thiere, which appeared in English in the same year as Animal Life as Affected by the Natural Conditions of Existence. In his letter to Semper of February 8, 1881, Charles Darwin praised the work, which he had just finished reading. “Although a book of small size, it contains an astonishing amount of matter.” Darwin also remarked on the originality with which it treated its subject. The two letters to Semper by Francis Darwin in the series concern his father’s correspondence. In a letter written in May 1882, the month after Charles’s death, Francis wrote to ask Semper “if you would do me the favour to let me see any letters from my father that you may have, which I might make copies of.” A prominent botanist in his own right, Francis published his three-volume The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin in 1887.
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- Charles H. Smith, “Semper, Carl Gottfried (Germany 1832-1893),” in “Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists: Chrono-Biographical Sketches: A Biographical History of Biogeography by Charles H. Smith, Ph.D., Joshua Woleben, and Carubie Rodgers.” http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/chronob/SEMP1832.htm.
- Adrian Desmond, and James Moore and Janet Browne, “Darwin, Charles Robert (1809‒1882),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
- Thomas Junker, “Darwin, Sir Francis (1848‒1925),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Last updated: December 20, 2017