Ditlev Gerhard Monrad (1811-1887)

Clergyman and politician, MA theology 1836, bishop of Lolland-Falster 1849-54 and 1879-87, prime minister 1863-64. 

D.G. Monrad was among the leaders of the national-liberal political movement and drafter of the first democratic constitution in 1849. He was prime minister during the war with Prussia in 1864. After Denmark’s defeat Monrad settled in New Zealand. He returned to Denmark in 1869 and engaged in the political and cultural debates of the day, including Darwinism. In 1872, a satirical and polemical comment by Monrad on J.P. Jacobsen’s articles on Darwinism was published in Nyt dansk Maanedsskrift [New Danish Montly]. Monrad criticised the empirical basis of the theory of common decent and warned against the ethical consequences of a theory that postulated that man was created in the image of an ape rather than in the image God. Monrad suggested that Jacobsen should establish an ‘ape academy’ in order to transform apes into humans. In his reply Jacobsen repeated Monrad’s humorous tone and made it clear that the academy would result in sick apes, since man did not descend from contemporary apes. The controversy between the reputed Monrad and Jacobsen was widely commented on in the press and was probably the best known debate on Darwinism in nineteenth-century Denmark.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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