Carus, Julius Victor

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(b.. Leipzig, Germany, 23 August 1823; d. Leipzig, 10 March 1903)


A comparative anatomist, Carus contributed to zoology as a historian and bibliographer; and his translation and promulgation of the works of Charles Darwin were influential upon scientific thought in Germany.

Carus came of a family that had included several professors at the University of Leipzig: his grandfather was Friedrich August Cams, professor of philosophy, and his father, Ernst August Cams, a doctor of medicine and surgeon, was professor ex-iraordinarius there. His mother, the former Charlotte Agnes Eleonore Kiister. was the daughter of a gynecologist.

After graduating from the Nicolai Gymnasium. Carus matriculated in 1841 at the University of Leipzig, where he studied medicine and natural history. When his father was appointed as professor and as director of a surgical clinic at Dorpat in 1844, Carus accompanied the family, planning to continue his clinical studies there. At the university his enthusiasm was kindled by the lectures he attended in comparative anatomy, physiology, and embryology; and he was especially influenced by Karl Bogislaus Reichert.

Carus returned to Leipzig in 1846 and was an assistant physician at the St. George Hospital while he completed his medical training. He received his doctorate in medicine and surgery in 1849 and decided to follow his inclination to study comparative anatomy. Using a travel stipend given by the Medical Faculty at Leipzig, he spent sometime at Wurzburg, where the histologist Albert von Kölliker taught, and with Karl Theodor von Siebold at Freiburg im Breisgau. Also in 1849 he published a paper on the alternation of generations and became conservator of the Museum of Comparative Anatomy at Oxford, where he remained until 1851. While at Oxford he concentrated on zoology and was in touch with Richard Owen, among others. He visited Sicily in the summer of 1850: in later years he returned to the Mediterranean several times, to study marine fauna at Messina and Naples, and published Prodromus faunae Mediterraneae(1885–1893)

After leaving Oxford, Carus returned to Leipzig, where he lectured on comparative anatomy. He was appointed professor extraordinarius of comparative anatomy in 1853 and was director of the zootomic museum. He was married in that year to Sophie Catherine Hasse; three daughters and a son were born to them. Carus’ wife died in 1884, and in 1886 he married Alexandra Petroff of St. Petersburg, who bore him one son.

Over the years Carus lectured on comparative anatomy, embryology, and histology. During the summers of 1873 and 1874 he lectured at Edinburgh in place of C. Wyville Thomson, who was then on the Challenger expedition.

Within a few years of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species,discussion of the new theory had become a part of Carus’ lectures; but it was through his translations that he furthered evolutionary theory most actively. Carus was careful and painstaking; in his correspondence with Darwin he brought to the latter’s attention minor inaccuracies. He improved on the earlier translation of the Origin by H. G. Bronn and. although he was not favorably impressed by Darwin’s theory of pangenesis, translated into German The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, in which the theory is presented. It is not surprising that Carus became interested in the propagation of Darwin’s works, for in his own System der thieriscken Morpholagie (1853) he had stated that the aim of zoology is the explanation of animal forms and, in a passage that has been cited frequently since then, had maintained the direct connection of presently living organisms with the earliest created forms. But this was not a concept that Carus expressed consistently or developed at that time, even though morphological relationships were important to him in tying together a wealth of scattered facts and details. Nevertheless, Darwin acknowledged these “views on the genealogical connection of past and present forms” in a letter to caurs in 1866. and remarked that he wished he had known of them when he wrote his historical sketch.

Carus also made available to German readers works by Thomas Huxley, Lionel Beale, and George Henry Lewes; thus he was important in linking zoological thought in Germany with contemporary English thought on the subject.

His predilection for scholarship that connected facts related to zoology, rather than for original research, led Carus to write a history of zoology (1872) to which other writers have often referred. His fluency in English was enhanced by his stay at Oxford and gave him the necessary expertise for his translations. Also, his work in a special division of the library at the University of Leipzig (1852- 1859) augmented his income while providing experience that aided him in his extensive endeavors in zoological bibliography. With Wilhelm Engelmann he edited Bibliotheca zoologica, which proved to be an invaluable reference work: and his interest was reflected in the bibliographical section of the Zoologischer Anzeiger, the journal he founded in 1878 and edited until just before his death in 1903. Morphological systematization remained Carus’ enduring interest. In the highly detailed Handhuch der Zoologie which he wrote with A. Gerstaecker, he strove for a complete ordering and related present to fossil forms. It was necessary. he found, to introduce new nomenclature in various groups. Similarly, in his work on the Mediterranean fauna he organized and made available for other scientists a wide range of material.

caurs’ scholarly contributions were recognized with honorary degrees conferred by Oxford, Edinburgh, and Jena; he belonged to learned societies in Germany and England and received several decorations. Although as a zoologist he was not long interested in research, his history of the science and his systematic and bibliographic compilations enlarged and enriched the literature.


I. Original Works A comprehensive list of Carus’ many writings, including his translations, appears in the concluding section of Taschenberg’s article in Leopoldina (see below). They include Zur nähern Kenntniss des Getterationswechsek (Leipzig, 1849); System der thieischen Morphologic (Leipzig, 1853); Bibliotheca zoologica, 2 vols., edited with Wilhelm Engelmann and published as a supp. to the latter’s Bibliotheca historico naturalis (Leipzig, 1861); Handbuch der Zoologie, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1863–1875), written with A. Gerstaeck er; Geschichte der Zoologie his auf Joh. Müller and Chart. Darwin (Munich. 1872; repr. New York – London, 1965): and Prodromus faunae Mediterraneae 2 vols. (Stuttgart. 1885–1893).

II . Seckondary Literature. See Karl von Bardelehen, “Julius Victor carus,” in Anatomischer Anzeiger,23 (1903), 111; Max Beier. “Carus.” in Neue deutsche Biographie, III (Berlin, 1957), 161;C.Chun,“Julius Victor caurs.” in Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Königlich Sϋchsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften ζU Leipzig, Math.–phys. KI 55 (1903), 423–428; “Julius Victor caurs,” in Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, sess. 115 (1903), 28; Otto Taschenberg, “Julius Victor caurs,” in Leopoldina,39 (1903), 50–64, 66–73; and “Zur Erinnerung an Julius Victor caurs,” in Zoologischer Anzeiger.26 (1903), 473–483; and J. A. T. [J. Arthur Thomson], “Julius Victor caurs (1832– 1903),” in Nature, 67(1903), 613–614.

Gloria Robinson

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Carus, Julius Victor

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