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Darwin Correspondence Project

For the curious...

A series of short pieces introducing letters on aspects of Darwin's life and research.


Partridge foot.jpg

Illustration of a partridge foot, sent to Darwin by Alfred Newton
Illustration of a partridge foot, sent to Darwin by Alfred Newton
DAR 205.9: 366
Cambridge University Library

Strange things sent to Darwin in the post

Some of the stranger things Darwin received in the post can tell us a lot about how Darwin worked at home. In 1863, Darwin was very excited when the ornithologist Alfred Newton sent him a diseased, red-legged partridge foot with an enormous ball of clay attached. He wanted to further test his statement in Origin of species about birds being ‘highly effective agents in the transportation of seeds’ (Origin, p.

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Darwin and dogs

Darwin was almost always in the company of dogs. Nina, Spark, Pincher, and Shiela. Snow, Dash, Bob, and Bran. The beloved terrier Polly (above). They were Darwin's constant companions at home and in the field, on walks and in sport, in his study and by the fireside. They were also fascinating objects of study. Darwin observed their variations in breed and behaviour, their adaptation to specific conditions, and their mental and emotional abilities, which approached those of humans.

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Drosera.png

Drosera rotundifolia
Drosera rotundifolia

Plant or animal? (Or: Don’t try this at home!)

Darwin is famous for showing that humans are just another animal, but, in his later years in particular, his real passion was something even more ambitious: to show that there are no hard-and-fast boundaries between animals and plants.  

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