Correspondence V

Heilmann explained that he had been incredibly busy putting D'Arcy's method of transformations to use in order to investigate more the evolution of birds from prehistoric reptiles. Due to this business, Heilmann's reply (ms19145) was not written until 19th January 1916. Along with this letter, Heilmann sent D'Arcy his drawings of Equidae which were to be used in On Growth and Form. He thanked D'Arcy for suggesting he write a paper on the Equidae, however explained that he simply had no time due to his other commitments. Instead, he suggested that he write about the reconstruction of the Pro-Avis in more detail than he did in his book. Clearly Heilmann's main interest remained firmly in his investigation of the descendants of birds and his attempts to show that they evolved from ancient reptiles and not, as we now know is the case, from dinosaurs. It is important that Heilmann did use D'Arcy's method to advance his own work as this allowed for the method to be more widely tested and to be used in many different applications. He concluded by discussing The Antiquity of Man by Professor Arthur Keith. Clearly Heilmann's biological knowledge was very advanced, despite the suspicion he faced in his country. It is fortunate that D'Arcy recognised his talents and that he and Heilmann were able to contribute to each other's work in such important and meaningful ways.

D'Arcy in turn thanked Heilmann for his drawings in a letter (ms19146) sent on 10th February 1916. He explained that he was unable to make use of all of the drawings, suggesting he was impressed with how many Heilmann had been able to achieve, but he would select a few for On Growth and Form. D'Arcy expressed that his "book [was] not making very rapid progress through the press". This is perhaps a result of the First World War which was raging at this time and the inevitable effect this had on the resources available.

Heilmann announced the completion of his book on the Origin of Birds to D'Arcy in a letter (ms19147) on 11th May 1916. Along with this he actually sent a copy of his book despite there being only 50 copies printed. Perhaps this indicated Heilmann and D'Arcy's growing friendship or perhaps Heilmann was keen to receive D'Arcy's opinion on his work owing to his great respect for him. Heilmann explained that he was able to reconstruct the whole skeleton of Pro-Avis but due to "want of space (money) only a minor part of the reconstructions is shown" Unfortunately due to the lack of funding Heilmann received in Denmark he was unable to include the entirety of his findings.

He concluded the letter by explaining that he would be away in the countryside and so would not be able to write but may send a postcard. Yet more indication that the scientists saw each other as friends as well as colleagues.

The next four letters in this selection (ms19148-ms19151) were sent from D'Arcy to Heilmann and span the course of a little over a year. On the 22nd May 1916 (ms19148) D'Arcy wrote to Heilmann thanking him for his book. He was very complimentary and wrote that "the whole 'get-up' of the book does infinite credit to all concerned in its production" D'Arcy went on to explain the difficulties he was facing getting his own book, On Growth and Form through the press. He optimistically predicted that it would "be a few weeks before it is in the readers hands" Unfortunately this was not to be and the letter (ms19149) announcing its publication was not written until 23rd April 1917, almost a year later. Along with the letter he sent a copy of his book and thanked Heilmann for his illustrations which he admits are superior to his own. He also expressed his desire to finally meet Heilmann in person once the War drew to an end. What started out as a casual suggestion by a mutual friend that they should discuss Hesperornis blossomed into not only a professional relationship but also a true friendship.

These letters also help to paint a picture of the the difficulties with which D'Arcy was faced with during the War. Not only did his work suffer when lack of resources meant that his book was published a year after he had hoped, he was also unable to visit his friends who were spread across the world. Mentioned in this letter is the death of his good friend Professor Jungerson. It must have been incredibly difficult to be prevented from travelling to be with your friends after such sad news. Restricted travel must have also affected D'Arcy's professional life as he was unable to talk to like minded individuals face to face and, as can be seen in the following letters, it made it difficult for him to send his work overseas. Indeed, on the 25th April 1917 (ms19151) only two days after his previous letter was written, D'Arcy wrote that due to the circumstances he was not allowed to send his book to Heilmann as he had hoped to. These circumstances persisted for three more months but happily on 30th July 1917 D'Arcy wrote (ms19150) to Heilmann to say that he was now able to send him a copy of On Growth and Form through their publishers. He also mentioned that the day before writing the letter he "was again reading with pleasure and admiration [Heilmann's] own book". Even a year after receiving on the Origin of Birds D'Arcy was still finding great interest within it.

Despite Heilmann's less than favourable reception in Denmark it would appear that some of his ideas were in fact correct. In a letter (ms26415) from the 17th September 1919 he wrote to D'Arcy explaining that his prediction that Parahippus did not lie on the direct line of descent between Equus and Eohippus had been confirmed by Professor Lull in his book Organic Evolution. Sadly however Heilmann's fortune did not change. According to Heilmann's letter, Robert Shufeldt had intended to translate Origin of Birds. Note that this is some seven years before this translation was actually published. Shufeldt was unsuccessful in obtaining help from any publishers and the translation did not go ahead, leaving Heilmann to go ahead with the translation himself. Along with this letter, Heilmann sent D'Arcy a number of sketches one of which shows a Hesperornis skull drawn from above.

Hesperornis skull, sketch by Heilmann.


Happily, Heilmann was found praise outside of Denmark, writing to D'Arcy (ms19153) on 31st August 1926 said that his book Origin of Birds (which had now been released in English) had done very well in England and America, even being named "a classic".

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