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Laboratory science versus country-house experiments. The controversy between Julius Sachs and Charles Darwin

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Soraya De Chadarevian
Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH.


In 1880, Charles Darwin published The Power of Movement in Plants, a heavy volume of nearly six hundred pages in which he presented the results of many years of experiments conducted with his son Francis on the reaction of plants to the influence of light and gravity. His results contradicted the observations and explanations of the same phenomena offered by the German plant physiologist Julius Sachs in his influential Lehrbuch der Botanik (1868, English translation 1875). Darwin wished rather to ‘convert him than any other half-dozen botanies put together’. Sachs, however, regarded Darwin's work with contempt. Taking up the topic in his Vorlesungen über Pflanzenphysiologie in 1882 and taking issue especially with Darwin's experiments on the movement of root radicles in reaction to gravity, he remarked sharply: In such experiments with roots not only is great precaution necessary, but also the experience of years and extensive knowledge of vegetable physiology, to avoid falling into errors, as did Charles Darwin and his son Francis, who, on the basis of experiments which were unskilfully made and improperly explained, came to the conclusion, as wonderful as it was sensational, that the growing point of the root, like the brain of an animal, dominates the various movements in the root.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 1996

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1 Sachs, J., Lehrbuch der Botanik, Leipzig, 1868Google Scholar; 2nd edn 1870; 3rd edn 1873; Engl., Textbook of Botany, Morphological and Physiological (tr. Bennett, A. W. and Thiselton-Dyer, W. T.), Oxford, 1875.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Whenever possible I will refer to published English translations of the German texts I cite. In all other cases the translations are my own.

2 Letter from Darwin, C. to Darwin, F., 28 06 [1879], DAR 211Google Scholar, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge. The letter was addressed to Würzburg where Francis Darwin was spending a period of study in Sachs's laboratory. For more details on Francis's visit to Würzburg see below.

3 Sachs, J., Lectures on the Physiology of Plants (tr. Ward, H. M.), Oxford, 1887, 689Google Scholar (German, , Vorlesungen über Pflanzenphysiologie, Leipzig, 1882, 843).Google Scholar

4 See for instance Allan, M., Darwin and His Flowers. The Key to Natural Selection, London, 1977Google Scholar, and ‘Charles Darwin and the botanical sciences’, in Charles Darwin, 1809–1882. A Centennial Commemorative (ed. Chapman, R. G. and Duval, C. T.), Wellington, 1982, 259–90Google Scholar; Ornduff, R., ‘Darwin's botany’, Taxon (1984), 33, 3947CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dyer, W. Thiselton, ‘Charles Darwin’, Nature (1882), 26, 145–7.Google Scholar The evolutionary approach in Darwin's botanical investigations is also emphasized in Ghiselin, M. T., The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, Berkeley, 1969.Google Scholar

5 See Darwin, F. (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, 3 vols., London, 1887, iii, 254ff.Google Scholar, and ‘Darwin's work on the movements of plants’, in Darwin and Modern Science. Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Charles Darwin and of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Publication of the Origin of Species (ed. Seward, A. C.), Cambridge, 1909, 385400.Google Scholar

6 Gilmour, J. S. L., British Botanists, London, 1944, 37.Google Scholar For an appreciation of Darwin's botanical investigations and especially of his physiological work independently of his theory of evolution, see also Heslop-Harrison, J., ‘Darwin as a botanist’, in A Century of Darwin (ed. Barnett, S. A.), Cambridge, 1958, 267–95Google Scholar and Morton, A. G., History of Botanical Science. An Account of the Development of Botany from Ancient Times to the Present Day, London, 1981, 415 and 427.Google Scholar

7 Darwin, C., On the Origin of Species, London, 1859.Google Scholar The importance of phytogeography in the Origin has been stressed by Porter, D. M., ‘On the road to the Origin with Darwin, Hooker, and Gray’, Journal of the History of Biology (1993), 26, 138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar On Darwin's first experiments on plant fertilization and on the germination of plants after prolonged immersion in water to prove that their distribution patterns did not depend on the existence of land bridges alone, see Browne, J., The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography, New Haven, CT, 1983CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Charles Darwin: Voyaging, New York, 1995.Google Scholar See also Secord, J. A., ‘Darwin and the breeders: a social history’, in The Darwinian Heritage (ed. Kohn, D.), Princeton, 1985, 519–42Google Scholar on the importance of Darwin's contacts with plant breeders and their knowledge as a source of information for the Origin.

8 Darwin, C., The Power of Movement in Plants, London, 1880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Darwin himself warned his publisher that The Power of Movement in Plants was ‘dry as dust’. He expected that he would have to publish the book on commission and would consider himself lucky ‘to lose only 100 pounds’, letter from Darwin, C. to Cooke, R., 9 09 1879Google Scholar, John Murray, London, copy in the Darwin Correspondence Project, University Library, Cambridge. Contrary to his expectation, the first print run of 1500 copies was followed by a second printing by Murray two years later. In America the book was printed by Appleton in 1881 and saw many reprints. A German translation by J. V. Carus appeared in 1881.

10 The Times, 20 11 1880, 9.Google Scholar

11 Caron labelled the new science of biology instituted in Victorian England by Huxley and others as ‘publicist science par excellence’, see Caron, J. A., ‘“Biology” in the life sciences. A historiographical contribution’, History of Science (1988), 26, 253.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed The impact of Darwin's theory of evolution and the reception of his own later publications have to be seen in this context. Botanical investigations and debates generated great interest also on the Continent. Thus, the reply by the Viennese botanist Wiesner to Darwin's The Power of Movement in Plants was written in a way ‘that made it possible also for non-physiologists to gain an objective understanding of the processes which are discussed’ (Wiesner, J., Das Bewegungsvermögen der Pflanzen. Eine kritische Studie über das gleichnamige Werk von Charles Darwin nebst neuen Untersuchungen, Vienna, 1881, p. v).Google Scholar

12 I use the term ‘physiology’ here in the restricted sense as it is still commonly used today. In the nineteenth century, ‘physiology’ also denoted all work on plants which was not purely descriptive and classificatory. See, for example, the Handbuch der physiologischen Botanik edited by Hofmeister, W. et al. (4 vols., Leipzig, 18651877)Google Scholar which included a volume on experimental physiology written by Sachs, as well as volumes of purely anatomical and morphological content.

13 See Bower, F. O., ‘English and German botany in the middle and towards the end of last century’, The New Phytologist (1925), 24, 129–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Sixty Years of Botany in Britain (1875–1935). Impressions of an Eye-Witness, London, 1938, 26–7 and 77.Google Scholar On the role of botany and work pursued at Kew in the colonial politics of Britain see Brockway, L. H., Science and Colonial Expansion. The Role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens, New York, 1979.Google Scholar Joseph Hooker, director at Kew from 1865, was perceived as the ‘leading botanist of his age’; on Hooker's life and work see Turrill, W. B., Joseph Dalton Hooker. Botanist, Explorer, and Administrator, London, 1963.Google Scholar

14 In England Thomas Huxley pioneered laboratory teaching in biology in his microscopy classes at the Royal College of Science in South Kensington in 1872. Among his first assistants was Sydney Vines who later developed laboratory courses in botany at Cambridge (see below).

15 See e.g. the following reviews: Henslow, G., ‘The movement of plants’, Popular Scientific Review (1881), 19 (NS), 193206Google Scholar; Anonymous, ‘How plants move’, St James's Magazine (1881), 11, 138–43Google Scholar and The Times, op. cit. (10), 9.Google Scholar

16 Barlow, N. (ed.), The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. 1809–1882, London, 1958, 135f.Google Scholar (addition written on 1 May 1881).

17 See letter from Darwin, C. to de Candolle, A., 28 05 1880Google Scholar, in Darwin, F., Life and Letters, op. cit. (5), iii, 334.Google Scholar Darwin had also suggested ‘A Contribution to a Physiology of Plants’ as an alternative title of the manuscript published as The Power of Movement in Plants, see letter from Darwin, C. to Cooke, R., 23 04 [1880]Google Scholar, John Murray, London, copy in the Darwin Correspondence Project, University Library, Cambridge.

18 For a history of Down House see Atkins, H., Down. The Home of the Darwins. The Story of a House and the People Who Lived There, London, 1974.Google Scholar See also pioneering work on the organization of space and its moral meaning regarding the laboratory in gentlemen's private residences in seventeenth-century England by Shapin, S., ‘The invisible technician’, American Scientist (1989), 77, 554–63Google Scholar and ‘The house of experiment in seventeenthcentury England’, Isis (1988), 79, 373404.Google Scholar In her study of seventeenth-century virtuosi cabinets, Paula Findlen has pointed out how these collections were in the house but not of the house. Not actually belonging to the domestic sphere, these spaces excluded women, see Findlen, P., ‘Masculine prerogatives: gender, space and knowledge in the early modern museum’Google Scholar, in The Architecture of Science (ed. P. Galison and E. Thompson) (forthcoming). A separation of domestic and work spaces was most likely operative regarding the room called the ‘study’ of Victorian gentlemen scientists. Darwin's children, especially when small and not feeling well, were exceptionally allowed in their father's study (see Himmelfarb, G., Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, New York, 1959, 119)Google Scholar. But the fact that this detail is particularly mentioned in family reminiscences seems to underline the more usual division of the two spheres.

19 On the volume and scope of Darwin's letter-writing activity see Moore, J. R.'s essay review, ‘Darwin's genesis and revelations’, Isis (1985), 76, 570–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar The extent to which Darwin depended on his ever-spreading support system of correspondents is also emphasized in Browne, , Charles Darwin, op. cit. (7)Google Scholar. On nineteenthcentury natural history networks with particular attention to the exchanges between artisan and gentleman botanists, see Secord, A., ‘Corresponding interests: artisans and gentlemen in nineteenth-century natural history’, BJHS (1994), 27, 383408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

20 Moore, , op. cit. (19), 574.Google Scholar

21 Himmelfarb, , op. cit. (18), 144ff.Google Scholar

22 See especially Darwin, F., Life and Letters, op. cit. (5), i, 146ff.Google Scholar

23 Gray, A., ‘Biographical notices. Charles Darwin’, Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences (1882), 17, 453.Google Scholar

24 de Candolle, A., Darwin. Considéré au point de vue des causes de son succès et de l'importance de ses travaux, Geneva, 1882, especially 14f.Google Scholar Darwin's methodological approach in botanical investigations is discussed in Heslop-Harrison, , op. cit. (6), 294.Google Scholar On the accuracy and precision of Darwin's microscopic work on barnacles see ‘Darwin's study of the Cirripedia’ (Appendix II), in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Volume 4, 1847–1850 (ed. Burkhardt, F. and Smith, S.), Cambridge, 1988, 388409.Google Scholar

25 Heslop-Harrison, , op. cit. (6), 293Google Scholar, equates Charles and Francis Darwin's introduction of the grass coleoptile into plant physiology to Thomas Hunt Morgan introducing the fruit-fly, Drosophila, into genetics.

26 The experiments held to be decisive for the acceptance of the role of gravity for the downward growth of roots were those by Thomas Knight who exposed the plants to centrifugal forces and showed that the effects of gravity could be eliminated; see Knight, T. A., ‘On the direction of the radicle and germen during the vegetation of the seeds’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1806), 96, 99108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar For Sachs a simple consideration of the strict orientation of plant organs in relation to the radius of the earth all over the globe could have settled the question.

27 Darwin, C., op. cit. (8), 545.Google Scholar

28 Darwin, C., op. cit. (8), 543.Google Scholar See also letter from Darwin, C. to Wiesner, J., 25 10 1881Google Scholar, in Darwin, F., Life and Letters, op. cit. (5), iii, 336f.Google Scholar

29 For Sachs's support of a mechanistic interpretation of the growth movement of plants see Sachs, J., Handbuch der Experimentalphysiologie der Pflanzen, Leipzig, 1865, 88ff.Google Scholar (in Hofmeister, et al. , op. cit. (12), iv)Google Scholar, and Sachs, , op. cit. (1), 629f.Google Scholar; 2nd edn, 1870, 576f. A revision of this view is to be found in Sachs, J., ‘Über das Wachsthum der Haupt- und Nebenwurzeln’ (1872), Arbeiten des Botanischen Instituts in Würzburg (1874), 1, 439.Google Scholar This led to a revision of the corresponding paragraphs in the following editions of his textbook; see Sachs, , op. cit. (1) 1873, 755ff.Google Scholar (Engl., Textbook, 1875, 758ff.) and 4th edn, 1974, 811ff. (Engl., 1882, 839ff.).

30 Sachs, J., ‘Über orthotrope und plagiotrope Pflanzenteile’ (1879), in Arbeiten des Botanischen Instituts in Würzburg (1882), 2, 282.Google Scholar Consistently with this change of view, in the first edition of his Vorlesungen (1882) Sachs discussed the tropical movements of plants in a section entitled ‘Irritability’ (Reizbewegungen). In the text itself, however, the concept of the stimulus was barely mentioned; see Sachs, , op. cit. (3), 833 (Engl., 585ff.)Google Scholar. Only in the second edition of the Vorlesungen did Sachs develop his new position (Sachs, J., Vorlesungen über Pflanzenphysiologie, 2nd edn, Leipzig, 1887, 715)Google Scholar. As he mentioned on another occasion, it was the surprisingly fast reaction of Lynchis githago in compensating an extreme tropical inclination that first made him think of the tropical movements as responses to stimuli; see Sachs, J., Gesammelte Abhandlungen über Pflanzenphysiologie, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1893, ii, 967, footnote).Google Scholar

31 According to Pfeffer, Sachs never properly understood the trigger effect of the stimulus; see Pfeffer, W., ‘Die Reizbarkeit der Pflanzen’, Gesellschaft deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte. Verhandlungen, 1893, Allgemeiner Theil, 1893, 1314.Google Scholar Sachs's originally very mechanistic understanding of the geotropical reaction turned increasingly into an almost vitalistic concept of the processes involved. In his Physiologische Notizen, Marburg, 1898, 64, he wrote: ‘In stimuli responses a very special kind of causality is at work. It essentially relies on the fact that every stimulus causes responses which apparently, due to the very complicated structure of the organised body, hardly show any connection to the original stimulus. The extremely simple causal relationships with which the physicist and chemist are concerned, do not suffice to explain the phenomena of life.’

32 Darwin had observed two similar phenomena before. With the tentacles of Drosera he had found that when stimulated at the head, they curved at the base. In some orchids he had found ‘sensory horns’ which, when stimulated, induced the pollen masses to be discharged.

33 For the studies of eighteenth-century naturalists on the sensitivity and movements in plants in relation to the question of the distinction between plants and animals, see Delaporte, F., Nature's Second Kingdom. Explorations of Vegetability in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge, MA, and London, 1982, 149–85Google Scholar and Ritterbush, P. C., Overtures to Biology. The Speculations of Eighteenth-Century Naturalists, New Haven and London, 1964, especially 144–56, 182 and 177–80.Google Scholar

34 The protocols regarding the experiments of The Power of Movement can be consulted in DAR 209, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge.

35 Even regarding his observations on the movements of tendrils Darwin, referring to Sachs, considered it ‘rash to differ from so great an authority’, but still insisted on his opinion; see Darwin, C., On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, London, 1875, 179.Google Scholar

36 Letter from Darwin, C. to Darwin, F., [11 05 1878]Google Scholar, DAR 211, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge.

37 Letter from Darwin, C. to Darwin, F., 28 06 [1879]Google Scholar, DAR 211, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge.

38 Letter from Darwin, C. to Carus, J. V., 28 08 1880Google Scholar, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz; copy in the Darwin Correspondence Project, University Library, Cambridge.

39 Those opposing his Habilitation argued that the whole subject matter of plant physiology could be covered by a two- or three-hour lecture; see Pringsheim, E. G., Julius Sachs, der Begründer der neueren Pflanzenphysiologie. 1832–1897, Jena, 1932, 15.Google Scholar

40 Sachs owed his first position to a memorandum on the usefulness of plant physiology to agricultural chemical establishments which he composed for the Ministry of Saxony; see Franke, W., ‘Julius Sachs in seiner Bonner Zeit’, in Julius Sachs und die Pflanzenphysiologie heute (ed. Gimmler, H.), Würzburg, 1984, 7993, on 81.Google Scholar The interconnections of the early history of plant physiology and agricultural institutions deserves further investigation.

41 Sachs, , op. cit. (1) and (3)Google Scholar and Sachs, J., Geschichte der Botanik vom 16. Jahrhundert bis 1860, München, 1875Google Scholar; Engl. History of Botany (1530–1860) (tr. Garnsey, H. E. F.), Oxford, 1890.Google Scholar

42 Pringsheim, , op. cit. (39), 114.Google Scholar

43 Preceding Francis Darwin's visit to Würzburg, Sachs and Charles Darwin had exchanged sporadic but courteous letters, sending each other their photographs and publications. The existence of this exchange can be gleaned from the letters addressed by Sachs to Darwin which still survive; see letters from Sachs, J. to Darwin, C. of 24 02 1871Google Scholar, 4 July 1875 and 6 January 1877, DAR 177, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge. Darwin's side of the correspondence cannot be traced. In 1878, while Francis was in Würzburg, Charles Darwin invited Sachs to pay a visit to Down; see letter from Darwin, C. to Darwin, F., 25 07 1878Google Scholar, DAR 211, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge. According to Francis, who passed on the message, Sachs ‘seemed much pleased& said… that Down was the first place he would wish to go to, if he manages to come through London’, Darwin, F. to Darwin, C. [25 07–7 08 1878], DAR 162Google Scholar, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge.

44 Gimmler, H. (ed.), Materialien zur Bibliographie and Biographie von Julius Sachs 1832–1897. Band vi: Aphorismen, Würzburg, 1988, 34.Google Scholar The reference to ‘On Movements’ is not precise and in fact could refer to Darwin's earlier book On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, London, 1875.Google Scholar Yet the chronology of events indicates that Sachs referred to The Power of Movement in Plants published in 1880.Google Scholar Towards the end of Francis Darwin's second visit to W¨rzburg, his comments on life in Sachs's laboratory became increasingly sharp. Francis's critique concerned in particular Sachs's authoritarian behaviour and his dismissive judgement of other people's work, including Francis's own investigations pursued in Würzburg; see Darwin, F. to Darwin, C., 4 07 1879Google Scholar, DR 209.3, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge.

45 Detlefsen, E., ‘Über die von Charles Darwin behauptete Gehirnfunktion der Wurzelspitzen’, Arbeiten des Botanischen Institute in Würzburg (1882), 2, 627f.Google Scholar

46 See Darwin, C., op. cit. (8), 575f.Google Scholar

47 Sachs, , Geschichte, op. cit. (41), 387ff.Google Scholar (Engl., 306ff.).

48 Detlefsen, , op. cit. (45), 628.Google Scholar

49 No traces proving a personal exchange between Darwin and Sachs after the publication of The Power of Movement are preserved.

50 Ciesielski, T., Untersuchungen über die Abwärtskrümmung der Wurzel (Ph.D. thesis), Breslau, 1871Google Scholar (also published in Beiträge zur Biologic der Pflanzen (1872), 1, 130)Google Scholar. Ciesielski worked under the supervision of Ferdinand Cohn in the same laboratory where some years later the young Robert Koch would present his first experiments on the anthrax bacillus. His results were published in the same journal edited by Cohn.

51 Sachs, , ‘Über das Wachsthum’, op. cit. (29), 385474 and 584634.Google Scholar In the same paper Sachs abandoned his mechanistic interpretation of the downward curvature of roots, drawing his conclusion from an examination of over 3000 seedlings of Vicia faber and of peas, respectively.

52 Collins, H. M., Changing, Order. Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice, London, 1985, 84.Google Scholar

53 Darwin, C., op. cit. (8), 533.Google Scholar

54 Under this heading his biographer dealt with Sachs's polemic with Darwin; see Pringsheim, , op. cit. (39), 231 and 248ff.Google Scholar

55 Sachs, , History, op. cit. (41), p. xi.Google Scholar Curiously, in the body of the English translation the positive remarks remained untouched. Wilhelm Hofmeister (1824–77), keeper of a music-shop and botanist in Leipzig, later professor in Heidelberg and Tübingen, was credited with having discovered the alternation of generations in plants. Sachs had known him while in Tharandt and always maintained a cordial relationship with him.

56 These are remarks from his unpublished notes, cited after Pringsheim, , op. cit. (39), 166–7.Google Scholar Francis Darwin, who would certainly not have shared such a harsh judgement on his father's work, none the less remarked that for the facts used in the Origin his father was largely dependent on the work of others and despised himself for belonging to the ‘“blessed gang” of compilers’. He correspondingly enjoyed using his own power of observation and experimental skill in his physiological experiments; see Darwin, F., ‘Darwin's work’, op. cit. (5), 385.Google Scholar On Sachs's changing attitude towards Darwin's theory of evolution see also Junker, T., Darwinismus tind Botanik. Rezeption, Kritik und theoretische Alternativen im Deutschland des 19. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart, 1989, 229–60.Google Scholar

57 Darwin, C., op. cit. (35).Google Scholar

58 See Sachs, , op. cit. (1), 3rd edn, 1873, 773Google Scholar; 4th edn, 1874, 843 (Engl., 781) versus Sachs, J., ‘Notiz über Schlingpflanzen’, Arbeiten des Botanischen Institute in Würzburg (1882), 2, 719–22.Google Scholar

59 Sachs, , op. cit. (3), 824 (Engl., 674).Google Scholar

60 Sachs, , Geschichte, op. cit. (41), 457f.Google Scholar (Engl., 423). Sachs's history earned the label of ‘tribunal of botany’ see Hauptfleisch, P., ‘Gedächtnisrede auf Professor Julius von Sachs’, Verhandlungen der Physikalisch-Medizinischen Gesellschaft zu Würzburg N.F. (1897), 31, 425–65, on 450.Google Scholar

61 Schleiden, H.-J., Grundzüge der Botanik nebst einer methodischen Einleitung als Anleitung zum Studium der Pflanze, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1842/1843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar From the second edition (1845/46), the book carried the additional subtitle Die Botanik als induktive Wissenschaft. The English edition appeared under the title Principles of Scientific Botany or Botany as an Inductive Science, London, 1849.Google Scholar

62 See Liebig, J., Die organische Chemie in ihrer Anwendung auf Agricultur und Physiologie, Braunschweig, 1840, 36Google Scholar, and Schleiden, M.-J., Herr Dr. Justus Liebig in Giessen und die Pflanzenphysiologie, Leipzig, 1842, especially 8, 16, 19ff., 28.Google Scholar On Schleiden's renewal of the methods of investigation in botany, particularly relating to the introduction of the microscope, see De Chadarevian, S., ‘Instruments, illustrations, skills, and laboratories in nineteenth-century German botany’, in Non-Verbal Communication in Science Prior to 1900 (ed. Mazzolini, R.), Florence, 1992, 529–62.Google Scholar

63 See Scott, D. H., ‘German reminiscences of the early eighties’, The New Phytologist (1925), 24, 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

64 Bower, F. O., ‘English and German Botany’, op. cit. (13), 132.Google Scholar Vines also stressed Sachs's experimental skill, his manipulative dexterity, and his remarkable artistic faculty; see Vines, S. H., ‘Obituary notice’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (1897–1898), 62, pp. xxivxxxix.Google Scholar Vines was instrumental in founding the first plant physiological laboratory in England on the model of Sachs's laboratory in Würzburg (see below).

65 See Meinel, C., ‘Theory or practice? The eighteenth-century debate on the scientific status of chemistry’, Ambix (1983), 30, 121–32.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

66 In order to measure the radius of curvature of bending roots, Sachs used thin plates of mica on which concentric circles of determined dimensions had been marked. Darwin's The Power of Movement contained, as he himself suggested, a ‘possibly superfluous number of diagrams’, which illustrated the traces of the different movement of roots, shoots and leaves. Darwin himself defended the inclusion of such numerous ‘inscriptions’ by an argument of economy; the picture would occupy far less space than the verbal description of the behaviour of the plant (Darwin, C., op. cit. (8), 68)Google Scholar. The traces were produced by recording the movements of plant organs by dots on a glass-plate in regular intervals. The dots were then copied on tracing paper and joined by ruled lines. These inscriptions were of a qualitative kind. They were none the less discussed in terms which referred back to the possibility that the plants were allowed to trace their own courses on smoked glass or paper. As will become clear below, they emulated the inscription devices developed by Sachs.

67 Sachs, J., ‘Über den Einfluß der Lufttemperatur und des Tageslichtes auf die stündlichen und täglichen Änderungen des Längenwachstums (Streckung) der Internodien’ (1872), Arbeiten des Botanischen Instituts in Würzburg (1874), 1, 111.Google Scholar

68 Sachs, , op. cit. (67).Google Scholar

69 Sachs traced the development of his instrument back to Carl Ludwig's ‘clever instrument’, the kymographion or ‘wave-writer’, originally designed for the measurement of small and quick changes in the blood pressure of animals; see Sachs, , op. cit. (67), 113.Google Scholar On the history of Ludwig's instrument see De Chadarevian, S., ‘Graphical method and discipline: self-recording instruments in nineteenth-century physiology’, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science (1993), 24, 267–91.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed Latour has stressed the importance of ‘inscriptions’ ins cientific practice, Latour, B. and Woolgar, S., Laboratory Life. The Construction of Scientific Facts, Princeton, 1986, 50–3Google Scholar, and Latour, B., Science in Action. How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, Cambridge, MA, 1987, 6470.Google Scholar Yet while he speaks of highly elaborated inscriptions, the special value of the autographs lay in the fact that they were signatures of the plant itself.

70 For the extra-mural expansion of the laboratory and its values see Latour, B., ‘Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world’, in Science Observed. Perspectives on the Social Study of Science (ed. Knorr-Cetina, K. D. and Mulkay, M.), London, 1983, 141–70.Google Scholar Sachs's auxanometer became the model for a series of similar instruments. Baranetzky, a student of Sachs, built an improved version which was much used in England in the 1880s, see Vines, S. H., Lectures on the Physiology of Plants, Cambridge, 1886, 399.Google Scholar Another model was produced by the Cambridge Instrument Company to the design of Horace Darwin. He produced a first prototype of the instrument for his father in 1876, see Darwin, F. and Acton, E. H., Practical Physiology of Plants, 3rd edn, Cambridge, 1901, 153.Google Scholar

71 Sachs, , op. cit. (3), 676 (Engl., 556).Google Scholar

72 Sachs, , Vorlesungen, op. cit. (30), 566.Google Scholar

73 Sachs, , op. cit. (3), 676 (Engl., 556).Google Scholar

74 See Sachs, , op. cit. (67), 122.Google Scholar

75 Olmi, G., ‘Osservazionedella natura e raffigurazione in Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605)’, Annali dell' Istituto storico-germanico in Trento (1977), 3, 105–81Google Scholar and Shapin, S., ‘Invisible technician’, op. cit. (18)Google Scholar and ‘House of experiment’, op. cit. (18), 395.Google Scholar

76 It was then a question of debate if a botanically untrained artist could guarantee a more objective rendering of the microscopical observation: see Schleiden, , op. cit. (61), 105 and 137ff.Google Scholar

77 The whole staff at Würzburg consisted of the chair holder, the assistant and the caretaker. The duties of the assistant were to teach the elementary practical course in botany and to assist Sachs in his own work. In return he enjoyed the privilege of using the laboratory for his own research. The salary was very meagre; see Vines, S. H., ‘Reminiscences of German botanical laboratories in the 'seventies and 'eighties of the last century’, The New Phytologist (1925), 24, 18, especially 2f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

78 See Sachs, J., Über den gegenivärtigen Zustand der Botanik in Deutschland. Rede zu Feier des 290. Stifttingstages der Julius-Maximilian-Unwersität, Würzburg, 1872, 17.Google Scholar

79 For a corresponding understanding of professionalization based not on formal criteria of qualification but on expertise, see Cannon, S. F., Science in Culture: The Early Victorian Period, New York, 1978, 137–65.Google Scholar

80 Later, Francis would go on to work in the botanical laboratory at Cambridge which was set up according to Sachs's standards by Vines (see below).

81 Wiesner, , op. cit. (11), 3, 14.Google Scholar

82 Letter from Darwin, C. to Hooker, J. D., 22 10 1881Google Scholar, DAR 95: 538–41, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge.

83 Letter from Darwin, C. to Wiesner, J., 25 10 1881Google Scholar, in Darwin, F., Life and Letters, op. cit. (5), iii, 337.Google Scholar

84 Darwin, F., Life and Letters, op. cit. (5), 338.Google Scholar For the exchange of letters between Wiesner and Darwin see also letter from Wiesner, J. to Darwin, C., 1 10 1881, DAR 181Google Scholar; letter from Darwin, C. to Wiesner, J., 4 10 1881, DAR 148Google Scholar; letter from Wiesner, J. to Darwin, C., 11 10 1881, DAR 181Google Scholar, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge; and letter from Wiesner, J. to Darwin, C., 11 11 1881Google Scholar, Down House (MS 11:22), copy in the Darwin Correspondence Project, University Library, Cambridge.

85 Morton, , op. cit. (6), 444 n24.Google Scholar

86 The term ‘gentlemanly specialist’ was employed by Rudwick, M. J. S. in his The Great Devonian Controversy. The Shaping of Scientific Knowledge and Gentlemanly Specialists, Chicago and London, 1985, especially 17f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and ‘Charles Darwin in London: the integration of public and private science’, Isis (1982), 73, 189Google Scholar. See also Morrell, J. B. and Thackray, A., Gentlemen of Science. Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement in Science, Oxford, 1981Google Scholar, and Allen, D. E., The Naturalist in Britain. A Social History, London, 1976.Google Scholar Simon Schaffer has argued that the social geography of the country house laboratory informed the way in which for instance the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge was designed and managed, see Schaffer, S., ‘The physical and the pastoral’Google Scholar, in Making Space (ed. J. Agar and C. Smith), in preparation. This argument may help to underline the difference between the British and the German professional pursuance of science in the second half of the nineteenth century.

87 Significantly, in Britain, where other scientific standards were still in vigour, Darwin's experimental work was much more positively received.

88 See letter from Sachs, J. to Vines, S., 29 04 1879Google Scholar, in Pringsheim, , op. cit. (39), 225.Google Scholar

89 See Bower, , Sixty Years, op. cit. (13), 60ff.Google Scholar An important step in the consolidation of the ‘new botany’ in Britain was the foundation of the Annals of Botany as a new repository for plant physiological papers in 1887. Before this time, plant physiological investigations were published in the mainly zoologically orientated Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science.

90 Pfeffer, W., Pflanzenphysiologie. Ein Handbuch des Stoffwechsels und Kraftwechsels in der Pflanze, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1881Google Scholar (Engl. The Physiology of Plants. A Treatise Upon the Metabolism and Sources of Energy in Plants, 3 vols., Oxford, 19001906)Google Scholar. See also Pfeffer's correspondence with Darwin, especially his letter of 6 November 1881, DAR 174, Darwin Papers, University Library, Cambridge. Other German botanists to whom Darwin sent the book also received it positively; see especially the responses from Hermann Vöchting (letter to Darwin, 8 December 1880, DAR 180), from Hugo de Vries (letter to Darwin, 8 December 1880, DAR 180) and by Hermann Müller who reviewed The Power of Movement for Kosmos (letters to Darwin, , 27 11 1880Google Scholar and 30 November 1880, DAR 171). For Darwin, however, these positive responses could not outweigh Sachs's hostile reception.

91 Pringsheim, , op. cit. (39), 256.Google Scholar

92 For a detailed account of the experimental history following Sachs's and Darwin's findings, see Heslop-Harrison, J., ‘Darwin and the movement of plants: a retrospect’, in Plant Growth Substances (ed. Skoog, F.), Berlin and Heidelberg, 1979, 314.Google Scholar