Darwin exchanged letters with nearly 2000 people during his lifetime. These range from well known naturalists, thinkers, and public figures, to men and women who would be unknown today were it not for the letters they exchanged with Darwin.
In addition to the “brief lives” on this site of all people mentioned in Darwin’s correspondence, we will be providing fuller information about selected correspondents as we develop different areas of the site.
Joseph Dalton Hooker: Director of the Botanic Gardens, Kew, and for forty years Darwin’s closest friend and confidant. More than 1400 letters survive, exchanged by the two men over forty years. There are images of almost all these letters both on this site, and in the Cambridge University Digital Library, and more of Hooker’s correspondence is available on the Joseph Dalton Hooker Correspondence site at Kew.
A selection of the many people who exchanged letters with Darwin
Mary Elizabeth Barber, colonial settler and diamond prospector.
Lydia Becker, suffragist, botanist, and advocate of better education for females.
Emma Darwin, Charles Darwin’s cousin, whom he married in 1839.
George Eliot, novelist, best known today for Middlemarch. Her Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner are discussed in the letters.
Robert FitzRoy, captain of H.M.S. Beagle, the ship on which Darwin sailed around the world.
John Stevens Henslow, the Cambridge professor of botany who first suggested to Darwin that he join the Beagle voyage.
Henry Holland, physician to Queen Victoria.
Charles Kingsley, clergyman and author of The Water Babies and Westward Ho!.
Charles Lyell, geologist, whose Principles of Geology altered the scientific landscape and strongly influenced Darwin’s own work.
John Murray, Darwin’s publisher, and owner of a much respected scientific publishing firm in London.
John Scott, Edinburgh gardener.
Alfred Russel Wallace, whose own discovery of the principles by which species evolve prompted Darwin to publish his theory of ‘