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The Late Dr. Engelmann


SO many years have elapsed since Dr. Engelmann, whose death was recently announced in your columns, wrote his academic dissertation “De Antholysi Prodromus, 1832,” that it is no matter for surprise if many among the younger generation of botanists have forgotten this little treatise, or have failed to associate its author with the historian of American conifers and other selected orders. This is the less surprising as, although in Dr. Engelmann's systematic memoirs there are frequent traces of his early morphological studies and of the interest he felt in them, he, so far as I know, wrote no treatise specially devoted to teratology other than the one already mentioned. A few words on this little book may therefore not be unacceptable to those who honour Engelmann's memory. It would be an interesting and not an unprofitable task to trace out the connection between teratology and the modern views of evolution, which is much closer than is generally imagined, albeit the ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest find no place in the older teratological literature. For such a task I have neither the requisite ability nor the necessary leisure. My object in alluding to the matter is to call to mind the light in which Engelmann considered the subject, influenced as he was by the writings of his great fellow-countryman Goethe, whose views, originally published in 1790, were by no means universally accepted, even in 1832. Schimper and Alexander Braun were among those who appreciated the value of Goethe's theory, and those two learned men and acute morphologists were Engelmann's teachers, and as we learn from himself, exerted great sway over him.

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