Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/December 1890/Adelbert von Chamisso as a Naturalist

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Popular Science Monthly Volume 38 December 1890  (1890) 
Adelbert von Chamisso as a Naturalist
By Emil du Bois-Reymond
PSM V38 D156 Adelbert von Chamisso.jpg

ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO.


ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO AS A NATURALIST.[1]

By Prof. EMIL DU BOIS-REYMOND.

IT is one of the lamentable consequences of the rapid expansion of human knowledge in this century that, while the power of comprehension and the adaptability of individuals continue essentially the same, the division of knowledge and mental labor is ever increasing. The paths which scholars and investigators follow are constantly becoming narrower, tending toward more contracted goals, and more distinctly separated; and in our historical view of recent times we regretfully miss such Briarean giants as he whose memorial day we are celebrating. Men like Leibnitz not only give by their wide vision and comprehensive power a conception of the human intellect in its highest manifestations; not only does a mutual fructification of different departments of knowledge take place in their minds through the meeting of different views; not only do they form, like an academy, a bond of union between accomplished labors in widely separated regions of knowledge; but, while they extend its efficacy in many directions more accessible to the common people, they create a wider participation in it than had formerly been given. In their person, mankind honors science; and they therefore endure in the general recollection as memorial stones of human progress after the waves of oblivion have long surged over the names of the makers of the most meritorious single investigations. Let us not delude ourselves. The only member of the Physico-mathematical Section of the Academy to whom a public monument has been erected, Alexander von Humboldt, owes that distinction not to the professional efforts by which his memory is kept alive in these halls, but to the grand recollections which his eloquent pictures of nature, the inspiration toward the true and the good that radiated from him, and his incomparable world-survey, have heaped around his name.

A second member of the Physico-mathematical class is shortly to be commemorated by a monument in one of the public places of our city — a man who, while his fame can not be measured with that of Humboldt, is comparable with that eminent prototype in the universality of his mental interests, the diversity of his work, and the place which he occupied as between two nations — our Adelbert von Chamisso. It is not, however, as a naturalist and traveler that Chamisso is to receive a monument, but for his other talents and excellences. We, his successors in this body, can not, however, refrain from recollecting on this occasion the side by ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO AS A NATURALIST. 253

wliich lie is related to us, although too early taken away ; he only belonged to us for three years. Proposed by Alexander von Hum- boldt and Kunth, he became a member of the Academy in 1835 ; and then was removed by death, at the age of fifty-seven years, on the 31st of August, 1838, the fiftieth return of which day is to be celebrated by the dedication of his monument. Unfortunately, we can find only the dates concerning Chamisso's election in the archives of the Academy. Still more strangely, our publications contain no scientific communications from him except a paper on the Hawaiian language, which was read in the general meeting of January 12, 1837, in which he describes himself as an old, sick, and weary man. Yet he was able to look back on twenty years of busy work, during which he left distinct marks on several branches of science ; and it seems fitting to me to remind the pres- ent generation of some of them.

In what ways and through what vicissitudes the French emi- grant's son, Chamisso, rose and became a German poet and the associate of the literary lights of his time is told in his friend Hitzig's biography of him. The energy with which he pursued literary art, when applied to the study of nature, laid the founda- tion of a scientific career in which he became the academical associate of Humboldt, Von Buch, Ehrenberg, and Johannes Mul- ler ; and it is our purpose to enlarge upon this side of his life.

Chamisso's military career ended when in 1806 he went to France as a prisoner of war in consequence of Hanelin's violation of his parole. He formed connections there by the influence of which he received a call after he had returned to Berlin to become a Professor of Greek and Latin in the lyceum about to be estab- lished at Napoleon ville in La Vendee. The call proved an illu- sory one, but on his second residence in France he was drawn into Madame de Stael's circle, and received instruction in botany from her son, August de Stael. The name of the species Staelia, Cham., in the order of the Eubiacece, commemorates the excursions of this pair among the rich flora of the Lake of Geneva and at the foot of Mont Blanc.

That this employment was suited to him will be evident when we recollect how, when he was still a boy at Schloss Boncourt, he " discovered insects, found new plants, and spent stormy nights looking and meditating at his open window, and that all his plays, his doings and undoings, tended to physical experiments and the investigation of the laws of nature." It is, therefore, not strange that he should have devoted himself with decisive earnestness to his new calling. He returned to Berlin, and was matriculated in his thirty-first year as a student of medicine in the newly estab- lished university. He studied anatomy under the elder Knape; and was not dismayed either by the dry lessons about bones which

�� � 254 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the students facetiously called Knape's osteology, or by the unat- tractive condition of the dissecting art at that time. Thus he went, with a correct instinct, late but thoroughly, through anthro- potomy, the true elementary school of biology. He worked in the Zoological Museum of Lichtenstein, helped arrange the fishes and crustaceans, and certainly heard Rudolphi on comparative anatomy and physiology, Weiss on mineralogy, which was very at- tractive to him, Erman on electricity and magnetism, and Horkel on natural philosophy. We are astonished at what he must have assimilated to himself during those three years in preparation for his journey round the world, when we find how well qualified he proved to be for every kind of observation on land and water.

While Chamisso's poems of the time of the war of deliverance contain nothing of importance, the period was marked by his most famous work, and one that has been translated into most of the languages of civilization The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemil. In Schlemil, in his outer guise, Chamisso presented a prototype in many respects of himself; and in the way that Schlemil comforted himself for the loss of his shadow in striding over the earth with his seven-league boots, " scaling its heights, testing the temperatures of its fountains and of the air, observing its animals and studying its plants, speeding from the equator to the pole, and from one hemisphere to the other, and comparing experiences" this fiction is only a reflection of the longings by which he was possessed, when, a French-German, or a German- Frenchman, there was no place, no sword for him in the combat. Out of the human tangle into the expanse of nature, the deeps of science, was his solution of the difficulty. Sharp questions have been asked concerning the meaning of SchlemiPs loss of his shadow ; it is symbolical of Chamisso's loss of a country. The dream de- scribed by Chamisso in "Schlemil" was soon to be fulfilled, but not by means of seven-league boots. He was not permitted to join the expedition of Prince Max von Wied-Neuwied to Brazil, but Hitzig showed him a newspaper containing an account of a contemplated exploring expedition of the Russians. A ship fitted up by Count Romanzoff was to be dispatched to the south seas, and was also to seek for a northeast passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon's return from Elba had just aston- ished the Congress of Vienna, and set Europe into a fright. In the newly blazing war-fever, in which he would have to remain an idle spectator, Chamisso's dissatisfaction rose to the highest pitch, and, stamping with his feet, he exclaimed, " I wish I was at the north pole with those Russians ! " The sagacious Hitzig man- aged the affair with Russia ; and Chamisso, recommended by Lichtenstein and other teachers, was appointed naturalist of the expedition, and reported himself on the 9th of August, 1815, to

�� � ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO AS A NATURALIST. 255

Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue, commander, on board the Rurik, in the roads of Copenhagen.

A happily decisive turning-point in Chamisso's career was reached with this event. In these days of steamboats and rail- roads, and journeys around the world in eighty days, we can hardly conceive of the importance that was then attached to a voyage like that of the Rurik, and how it would give definite direction and working material to the traveler for his lifetime. Ehrenberg, whose discoveries in the region of the minutest life quite eclipsed his voyages, was a single exception to this rule. The whole of Chamisso's subsequent scientific work may be re- garded as the carrying out of what he began on this voyage. It lasted three years, and led from Plymouth to Teneriffe, Brazil, and around Cape Horn to Chili ; to Salas y Gomez, past the island world of the south seas, to the Radak chain of the Marshall Islands ; thence northward to Kamtchatka through Bering Strait into the Frozen Sea and back to the Aleutian island of Unalaska, where preparations were made for the polar voyage in the following summer. In the mean time the expedition went south again to California, the Sandwich Islands, and Radak ; thence northward again to Unalaska, whence the attempt was made to penetrate the ice. At this point the original and real object of the voy- age had to be given up. Kotzebue Sound, Eschscholtz Bay, and the Chamisso Islands are reminders within the Arctic Circle of this abortive enterprise, of which the voyage around the world was the only part realized. On the return the Rurik visited the Sandwich Islands for the second and Radak for the third time ; then sailed by Guajan, one of the Marianne Islands, to Ma- nila, around the Cape of Good Hope, and past St. Helena, to Europe. In London Chamisso met Cuvier and Sir Joseph Banks, the companion of Cook on his first voyage. On the 3d of Au- gust, 1818, the Rurik anchored in the Neva opposite Count Romanzoff 's house in St. Petersburg. The expedition was broken up, and Chamisso was left in possession of what he had collected. He declined the invitation to remain in Russia, and returned to Berlin.

Chamisso crossed the line four times during this voyage, ap- proached both poles, and made himself at home in the wastes where the ice rises to mountains, in the rude yurts of the tawny fish-eaters of the icy sea, as well as in the palm-crowned splendors of the tropics and among the airy huts of the graceful lotus-eaters of the south seas. Including Europe, he set his foot on the four quarters of the earth, and by a most remarkable coincidence went over SchlemiPs journey ; and just as Schlemir's boots could not take him over the wide intervening waters to Australia, Kotze- bue would not venture to take his cranky vessel through the

�� � 256 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

dangerous Torres Strait, and Chamisso missed seeing the fifth quarter.

Chamisso's voyage was very similar in its general outline with the fruitful one that Darwin made fifteen years later. Darwin was also naturalist on a little war-vessel dispatched on hydro- graphic work, and the course of the Beagle covered that of the Rurik in many points, except that it visited Australia instead of the arctic regions, and Tahiti instead of the Sandwich Islands. Darwin, according to his Autobiography, does not seem to have been better prepared for his journey than Chamisso. He had never dissected, and could not draw like Chamisso. In one point he was better situated than our traveler : Captain Fitz-Roy furthered his ends, while Chamisso's captain gave him as little attention as pos- sible as a naturalist, and treated him hardly better as a man. His collections were generally thrown overboard, and he had to black his own boots. The Rurik having only three quarters the capaci- ty of the Beagle, the limitations of space were extremely adverse to collecting and observing. So much the more creditable is it to Chamisso that he was able under so many difficulties to conceal and bring home natural treasures of every kind, as well as to make copious fine and striking observations in every conceivable field. He has in this way enriched, first, botany, then zoology and natural history, geography of animals and plants, anthro- pology and folk-lore, geology and geographical physics with facts of greater or less importance. In two points his observations stretched over a wider circle than Darwin's in that they extended to the polar regions, and that he, paying more attention to anthro- pology and ethnography than Darwin, studied the languages with which he came in contact. The discomforts of Chamisso's situa- tion on the Rurik were alleviated by the society of two men who shared his scientific tastes. The Russian painter, Login Choris, was ready with his pencil to fix any remarkable features of the landscape or in natural history ; and the ship's surgeon, Dr. Friedrich Eschscholtz, of Dorpat, was often an active, expert participant in his efforts.

Like Darwin, in his Journal of Researches, Chamisso, in his Voyage round the World, published his experiences, pleasantly interwoven with scientific observations, upon which a series of " remarks and views," in the third volume of Kotzebue's narrative, afford a commentary. Chamisso's narrative, rich as it is in pleas- ant details, lacks something that lends a high charm to Darwin's the thread of a general thought, which we may possibly see more plainly drawn across his journal than he was perhaps conscious of at the time.

Our present effort to distinguish Chamisso's more important achievements is made difficult by his having permitted his energy

�� � AD EL BERT VON CH AMIS SO AS A NATURALIST. 257

to be largely absorbed in details. It must first be recollected that lie regarded himself as a systematic botanist. Shortly after his return to Berlin he received a position as assistant in the Botanical Institute at first in the Botanical Garden, and after- ward in the Herbarium and filled that office till his death. He also, at the suggestion of Minister von Altenstein, composed a little botanical text-book for the use of schools, in the introduc- tion to which he laid down his general views on organization and systematics. A memorial of his botanical work was published shortly after his death by his friend and former colleague von Schlechtendahl, in Linnsea, in which, under the running title De plantis in expeditions Romanzofiana observatis (On the Plants ob- served in the Romanzoff Expedition), several of Chamisso's plants were familiarly described. A modest plant of the family of the unwilting amaranths (Chamissoa, Kunth) preserves his name in systematic botany. His favorite plants were those of the water, particularly the Potamogetai.

Chamisso's discoveries on the voyage began when he descried, even on the English coast at Plymouth, a species (Centaur ea ni- grescens) which had escaped the local botanists. In several places, as at Teneriffe and in Brazil, he was pre vented from making im- portant collections by the rainy season, and in Chili by the burn- ing summer heat ; but he obtained nearly the whole of the flora of the Radak chain, and the coast of California, which had been rarely visited by botanists, afforded much that was new ; among others, the papaver called after his fellow-voyager Esclisclwltzia calif or- nica, the seeds of which he brought home with him, and the brill- iant flowers of which still adorn our gardens. The islands of the Arctic Ocean, between America and Asia, furnished a rich spoil in their Alpine flora, which strongly reminded him of the Alpine meadows of Switzerland. So sharp and skilled had his vision become, which he had begun to train to the observation of natu- ral objects three years before his journey, that, botanizing on Ta- ble Mountain at the Cape of Good Hope with Mundt, of Berlin, who was sojourning there, he found, as at Plymouth, several plants that had until then escaped notice.

Schlechtendahl can not sufficiently praise the magnanimous un- selfishness with which Chamisso, after his return home, surren- dered his specimens to be examined by other botanists who seemed better fitted by their studies to that work. Thus, he sent to the Swedish algologue, Agardh, a collection of alge, among which was a rare double form found at the Cape, a living fucoid (F. con- fervicola or Sphairococcus) on a conferva (C. mirabilis or hospiia). Agardh, who was a little too earnest a transformist, and believed that certain algse could become animals, imagined that in this case the one form was changed into the other a view which, true

VOL. XXXVIII. 18

�� � 258 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

to his -well-matured principles, Chamisso contested in a special memoir.*

As a reward for his earnest exertions, and also as a warning against too narrowly limiting the circle of possibilities in organic nature, Chamisso himself was destined to make one of the most remarkable discoveries in the region of metamorphism. This was in the case of the Salpce,, those soft, transparent organisms which, clinging to one another, swim over the sea in chains of from twenty to forty members. Besides the chains there are individual salpse, but of two kinds, one of which bear traces in their organs of adherence of having been members of a chain, while the others do not. During a calm, on the voyage from Plymouth to Ten- eriffe, Chamisso made the surprising observation that the indi- vidual salpse which have never belonged to a chain bear a progeny resembling the chain salpse ; while he found in the members of a chain young of forms agreeing with those of the single salpa. The salpse of the chain, which produce single salpse, are hermaph- rodite; the single salpse are asexual, and the chains are devel- oped in them without fertilization, by inner budding. They thus alternate every two generations, one of which is sexual, and the other asexual and propagating itself by budding ; and they are distinguished by other marks. To use Chamisso's figure, a salpa does not resemble its mother or its daughter, but its grand- mother, its sisters, and its aunts. Chamisso called this kind of propagation that by alternating generations. So new and unpre- cedented was this discovery that, although Chamisso related it after his return in 1819, in a special Latin publication,! it either passed unheeded, or was stamped upon. But there came to Copen- hagen, in 1842, a defender and champion of Chamisso's fame in J. Steenstrup, who discovered that the process of propagation by alternating generations such as Chamisso described was common to a series of organisms, including the Medusae, and Strobilce, the Cercarice. and Distomce,, and the aphides or plant-lice, to which many others have since been added ; so that the whole matter was cleared up in a trice. Johannes Miiller's famous discoveries concerning the development of the echinoderms furnish a tran- sition between the phenomena of alternation and those of meta- morphosis as illustrated in the frogs and butterflies. The honor of having led the way to these discoveries belongs, as Steenstrup has expressly declared, to the accurate and ingenious investigator Chamisso. f

  • Ein Zweifel und Zwci Algen (One Doubt and Two Sea-weeds), 1829.

f De animalibua quibusdam c classe vermium Linnaeana in circumnavigatione terra . . . obscrvatis, etc. (On Certain Animals of the Linnsean Class of Worms observed in the Circumnavigation of the Earth.) Fasc. 1, De Salpa. Berlin, 1S19.

\ Steenstrup on Alternating Generations. Copenhagen, 18-12.

�� � ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO AS A NATURALIST. 259

Another important subject, with the discussion of which Cha- misso was associated, likewise relates to the pelagic fauna, but also belongs as much to geology and physical geography as to biology. It is that of the origin of the co-called sunken islands or atolls of the south seas and the Indian Ocean. It has been recognized from the first that these islands are the work of organic architects, the coral polyps, which absorb lime from the sea-water and build their oceanic castles with it.

After Johann Reinhold's theory that the ring-walls were built by the polyps from the depths of the ocean, and Henrik Steff ens's hypothesis of submarine craters, came Darwin's celebrated theory, which supposed that the corals were built upon a substructure already existing in the ocean-bottom which gradually subsided under a continuous volcanic action so as to keep the rising struct- ure at about the same level ; and after that the contradiction of it by Murray and Wyville Thomson, on the basis of observations made during the Challenger Expedition, which pointed to a rise of the substructure. Here comes in a fundamental observation with which Chamisso's name has been associated, to the effect that the coral animals, never moving away from the one spot to which they attach themselves, need a stirring sea to bring them food, oxygen, and lime. Hence an atoll will rise wherever there is a suitable foundation, at not too great depth, on which the polyps can fix themselves ; and as they thrive better on the edge of their ring, where they are favored by wave-beats and currents than in the middle, a ring- wall will rise, which should be higher, as is the case, on the windward side, where the wave-motion is strong- est. These facts have been put prominently forward in all the discussions that have been had on the subject ; and Chamisso has been credited with having been the first person who observed and mentioned them. I am obliged to disclaim Chamisso's title to this honor. The observation was first ascribed to Chamisso by Darwin, who says, in his Coral Reefs, " The larger kinds of corals, ' which form rocks measuring several fathoms in thickness,' pre- fer, according to Chamisso, the most violent surfs"; and from Darwin's it has passed into other works. A study of Chamisso's writings will show that, while he acccurately examined and de- scribed the atolls petrographically, geognostically, and zoologi- cally, he never made that remark. Darwin's mistake originated in his attributing to Chamisso a remark which appears at the end of the third volume of Kotzebue's First Voyage (containing also Chamisso's Remarks and Observations), in an Appendix from other Authors, which, there is abundant evidence to show, was made not by him but by Eschscholtz.

" The coral reefs and islands of the great ocean," says Chamisso in Ansichten von der Pflanzenkunde und dem Pflanzenreiche,

�� � 260 TEE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

" are as much products of animal life as the peat-bogs are prod- ucts of vegetable life." We get an idea of the comprehensiveness of his view of Nature when we consider the attention he gave, soon after his return from the voyage around the world, to so comparatively insignificant objects as the North German peat- bogs. The opinion, based upon an observation of Alexander von Humboldt, then prevailed, and was held by Leopold von Buch, that such bogs as that of Linum, near Berlin, contained remains of a sea-weed (Fucus saccharinus), and were, therefore, to be regarded as of marine origin. After an examination, which he began at Linum with Poggendorff and Friedrich Hoffmann, and continued alone at Riigen and along the Baltic coast, Chamisso supplied the proof that the sea had had no part, either in the interior or on the coast, in the formation of peat, and that no change in the relative level of land and water need be supposed to explain the process. Chamisso saw again at the peat-bog of Linum the Kimming, or mirage, which had prominently exhib- ited itself to him in the high north. He attached to this observa- tion a less known remark, which I recollect having heard in Paul Erman's Lectures, that the mirage can be seen in vertical planes on long, straight, sunny walls, like the old city wall of Berlin between the Potsdam and Halle Gates.

Chamisso's zoological observations were by no means limited to the lower forms. He regarded the vertebrates of all latitudes with equally earnest attention the flying-fish ; the birds that rested on the Rurik ; the whales, which he dreamed of taming and training to service ; and the sea-lions, through a bellowing herd of which he walked fearlessly on St. George's Island. He made profound psychological observations on the monkeys that were taken on the Rurik. He also had an eye for extinct animals. A tusk which was dug up at Kotzebue Sound was referred by Cuvier in the Ossements fossils, on the evidence of his drawing and de- scription, to the mammoth.

But, as we have already observed, Chamisso gave special atten- tion on his voyage to the study of man himself. Of course, exact observations and determinations of the physical constitution of men coming up to present ideas on the subject were not to be expected from him, although he collected skulls; and he must have been overtaken many times in details by the growth of com- merce in the last seventy years, and the more perfected methods of research, like anthropometry, plaster-molding, and photogra- phy. But he still stands the author who, through his distinction between the two chief provinces of the great ocean and a separate group of islands, first cast light on the mixture of peoples who dwell in the island world. Thus, according to Bastian, the dis- tinction of Micronesia from Polynesia was first indicated by

�� � ADELBERT VON CH AMIS SO AS A NATURALIST. 261

liim, and, in the north, he furnished valuable data concerning the relationship of the Asiatic Chuckches and the American Eskimos.

The general result of his studies of history and nature, as he expresses it, is again opposed to the views now prevailing, in that he regarded man as very young on this old earth. But, although his anthropological views seem to be in many respects antiquated, his ethnographical sketches are of exceeding value in that he has lovingly and carefully given us a vivid and picturesque view of human conditions on the oceanic islands that can never be sur- passed, for the simple reason that the original is irrecoverably lost. With prophetic view Chamisso predicted the annihilation of this endlessly charming culture by contact with the dreadful white man a prediction which has been already to a large extent ful- filled. He knew well what he was doing when he described, drew, and made memorable what he could of customs and usages, reli- gious ideas and superstitions, myths and songs, costumes and weap- ons, vessels and sea-tackle. And after his return he repeated, impressively and loudly, the advice that the threatened treasures that still remained should be saved at once. The poet is recog- nized in the pretty parable in which he clothed his lamentation: " All the keys to one of the most important problems which the history of the human race in its wanderings over the earth pre- sents to us are being thrown by ourselves into the sea of oblivion at the very hour when they are given into our hands." Only in very recent times, when it has become almost too late, have we begun to move in the direction pointed out by his admonition.

Perhaps Chamisso was influenced by some of Rousseau's ideas in his extravagant admiration of the handsome, happy, easy-going men of the south sea islands, particularly of the Radak chain. He had not words enough to praise the native nobility of the men and the chaste grace of the songful women of Radak. He bitterly condemned the silly arrogance of the sham civilization that called these men savage. He contracted what by the taste of these days would be regarded as a somewhat sentimental friendship with an especially intelligent man, a castaway on one of the Radak Islands, who trusted himself upon the Rurik to be taken to his home on one of the Caroline Islands. Kaclu, as he was called, who, how- ever, left the ship when it touched the Radak Islands for the last time, plays an important part in Chamisso's reports, because he was able to give him information not too easily obtained other- wise on a number of questions, and Chamisso laments that he was deprived by the separation of the opportunity of being further instructed by him. Kadu rendered inestimable service in the lin- guistic researches which Chamisso pursued with extraordinary zeal and industry. Chamisso had a gift for languages, although

�� � 262 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

he could not learn Russian, which he displayed in the ease with which he could come to an understanding with the men of differ- ent tribes who came on board the Rurik. His Bemerkungen und Ansichten contain full vocabularies of three Polynesian dialects, among them that of the Radak chain, and proofs of the Radak folk-poems, in which he found a solution of his own for the prob- lem of phonetic transcription, which has been so much discussed since his time. He continued these studies at Luzon, where the Tagalic language (of the Malaysian group) had been reduced to writing, and collected a Tagalic library, which he held as one of his most valuable acquisitions. When his house at New Schone- berg was burned in 1822, after the lives of his family, this Tagalic library was the first thing he tried to save, and, to preserve it from future dangers of the kind, he presented it to the Royal Library. In unison with a conviction of the unity of the human race, he also in philology believed in a single origin for all lan- guages, in striking contrast, as Max Muller has remarked to me in a letter, with his habit of emphasizing the specific in natural history.

A linguistic episode which Chamisso relates is, perhaps, even now of some current interest. The curious custom was in vogue in Tahiti of (on the accession of a new ruler and similar cases) extirpating words from the common (not the old liturgical) speech and replacing them with new ones. About the year 1800, Tamei- ameia, the King of the Sandwich Islands, likewise, on the birth of a son, invented an entirely new language, and began to introduce it. The newly formed words were not related to any roots in the current language, and even the particles were changed. It is said that some of the powerful chiefs, displeased with the move- ment, poisoned the child who was the occasion of it, and what had been undertaken on his birth was given up on his death. The old language was restored and the new one forgotten, so that Chamisso only found a few fragments of it. He learned just enough of the Hawaiian language to enable him to speak intelli- gibly with the natives concerning the most necessary matters, but made no attempt to commit it to writing. When he came to revise his Travels for a new edition, just before he was elected to the Academy, the Hawaiian language had become one of litera- ture, and the murder of a prince was not needed to deliver it from an artificial rival. Publications enough had issued from the Hawaiian press to make a fundamental study of the language practicable. Wilhelm von Humboldt had begun, in the course of his great work on the Kawi language of Java, to cast light upon the Polynesian languages, when death called him away on the same day that Chamisso's election came up. The latter now thought he recognized a calling derived from his voyage and his

�� � ADELBERT VON CH AMIS SO AS A NATURALIST. 263

earlier studies to devote his later efforts to making this field of linguistic research cultivable. He undertook to learn the Ha- waiian language from the books which he had at hand, and as- signed himself the task of preparing a grammar and dictionary of it.

We have thus gone around the circle of Chamisso's scientific work. From a profusion of single observations, remarks, and experiments only a small part of his peculiar activity can be illus- trated here. Considering his activity as a whole, it must be con- ceded that his strength did not lie in the direction of strict theo- retical analysis. This is not to be wondered at if we consider the condition of theoretical science in Germany at the time, when it was just beginning to recover from its enervating entanglement with philosophy. But the characteristic and really remarkable feature of Chamisso's scientific activity is his power of embracing the whole world of phenomena with the same love, freshness, and elasticity from the stone that rung under his geological ham- mer; the hay, as he modestly named his dried favorites; the sea- worm, which revealed to him one of its most wonderful mys- teries ; to that noblest production of Nature, as man represents himself to objective research, whether considered as a single being related to the animals, as a tool-making, fire-using, social creature, or, in his highest expression of speech. With sound, lively sense, with always ready energy, Chamisso stands before the things of Nature, exercises unreservedly every kind of obser- vation, and forms his conceptions without prepossession and with strict limitation to the actually known. He was thus, although his monographs may have been overtaken or his general views have fallen behind those of the present day, a complete naturalist in the best sense of the word, and that at a time when such men had to be looked for through Germany as with a candle.

Many of those who go by his marble image in the future will recall " Peter Schlemil," u Schloss Boncourt," and Salas y Gomez. A few will think of the botanist and ethnologist Chamisso, of the salpse and the coral islands. Greeting from their inmost hearts the few will bow to him who like him, in an iron age, and in the midst of the striving after the real, have kept in disposi- tion, fancy, and spirit a place for all that is of man, for the ideal, and the beautiful. Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from the Deutsche Rundschau.

�� �

  1. Address delivered in the Berlin Academy of Sciences on the anniversary of Leibnitz's birthday, June 28, 1888.