Rudolph Peter Christian Varberg (1828-1869)

Politician, journalist, MA law 1854, civil servant, liberal member of Parliament


Rudolph Varberg was the most prolific populariser of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 1860s. As a young student he had advocated Ludwig Feuerbach’s atheism, and when Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 Varberg was an enthusiastic reader. He published several articles on Darwinism, primarily in the liberal newspaper Folkets Avis. Varberg regarded Darwinism as a theory that confirmed atheism, and he criticised what he conceived as reactionary and romantic views among the scientific elite including professor of zoology Japetus Steenstrup. In 1864 he translated a work by the German evolutionist Matthias J. Schleiden on man’s place in nature, and in 1868 a collection of his articles on natural history was published as Udflugter paa Naturvidenskabens Enemærker [Excursions into the Preserves of Natural Science] (Copenhagen: P.G. Philipsens Forlag, 1868). Varberg was instrumental in popularising Darwin’s evolutionary ideas prior to the translations and widespread debates in the early 1870s. Together with the zoologist C.F. Lütken and the horticulturalists J.A. Dybdahl and J.A. Bentzien, Varberg was thus the main actor in the early reception of Darwinism in Denmark.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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