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Letter 2099

Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D.

2 June [1857]
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    Qualifications of John Lindley, Huxley, Albany Hancock, Joseph Prestwich, J. C. Ross, and Francis Beaufort for Royal Medal.

Transcription

Down Bromley Kent

June 2d

My dear Hooker

I will write about science &c another day, but I must just say how very very kind you always are in helping me.—

Now about medals: I thought that you had quite fixed not to propose Lindley except for Copley: for a Royal I shd never dream of putting Hancock & Prestwich in opposition to Lindley. I will write to Sharpey, for I really have no opening to write to Sabine; & indeed it puts me in an awkward position to express any opinion whatever on Lindley, as I am not a Botanist, but I will do my best, & will make some, I fear it must be egotistical apology.

I will, however, (subject to my manifest ignorance) express strongly my opinion: the letter shall go in day or two.— I am rather taken aback by hearing that my letter to Sharpey was read aloud, as I meant it only for him & fear I expressed myself dogmatically: I am rather annoyed at this, for I cannot remember exactly what I said.—

I am exceedingly glad to hear that Lyell has chance of Copley sometime.—

Now for your remarks on some of the other men: I must think that you underrate Hancock. Do pray talk with Huxley. I think he will be surprised at your speaking of him as a “local cork” sic.— (No No I see it is local work!!!) I shd say he was second as comparative anatomist only to Owen in this country. His work on the circulation of the Mollusca I have always looked at as grand. His papers I believe on the Brachiopoda & Bryozoa are first rate: good anatomical & physiological work, in Zoology ranks, in my opinion, far far above descriptions of species.— His paper on the boring powers of Sponges & Mollusca is admirable: do pray talk with Huxley, for I have for so many years respected Hancock, that I am astounded at your manner of speaking of him.— How difficult it is to judge of Scientific claims! Private If I were put on my oath, though I shd say that Huxley was a far cleverer man than Pretwich, I shd say that the latter had done far more for Science than Huxley! So how we differ, & God knows which is right.— With respect to older names, I had not thought about those you mention, in chief part from thinking that the Royal medals, from restriction of date, were especially intended for younger men. But I rather think that we take distinct views on medals; I would try to disregard general reputation, which no doubt the elder men mentioned by you have, & would ask what especial points in physical science Ross, Beaufort &c have done.— I am far from wishing to hint that they have not done good work, but in the Natural Sciences, which we have to consider, I do not know what.— Although we are very apt, I have observed, at the first approach of a subject, to take different views we generally come to a near approach after a talk, & I daresay we shd in this case; but anyhow my opinion does not signify as I am not on Council.

My only fear is that Lindley might not think the Medal any honour after ourselves have had it, before him.—

I am heartily sorry you will not be at Club. I had quite calculated on meeting you there.

My wife & Etty have just started for Moor Park: she will stay a fortnight, & then I shall relieve guard for another fortnight.— It is most provoking that a cold on leaving Moor Park suddenly turned into my old vomiting, & I have been almost as bad since my return home as before, notwithstanding the really surprising state of health I was in there. I fear that my head will stand no thought, but I would sooner be the wretched contemptible invalid, which I am, than live the life of an idle squire.

Yours affecty | C. Darwin

Have you got settled your Household troubles?

P.S. | In rereading your letter I see I have misunderstood one part, viz that Prestwich was in a quite inferior class to Huxley— I see you do not think so.—

I have written my letter to Sharpey, and as I could not remember any previous expressions of yours, I have given my independent impression, which I have picked up in general reading.— I sincerely hope that you may succeed.— I am glad that Richardson is the last preceder to Lindley, as no one cd dislike following him—

I hope that my letter to Sharpey will satisfy you, but reflect how absurd it must strike anyone in my expressing an opinion.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2099.f1
    The year is given by the discussion of nominations for medals of the Royal Society in 1857 and by CD's reference to visits to Moor Park (see n. 17, below).
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    f2 2099.f2
    Hooker was on the council of the Royal Society of London in 1857 and 1858. CD had retired from the council in November 1856. Balloting for the society's awards took place early in June.
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    f3 2099.f3
    Hooker had been attempting to secure the Copley Medal, the Royal Society's highest honour, for John Lindley for a number of years. In 1856, Hooker had suggested Lindley's name to CD for this medal, but CD apparently convinced Hooker that Lindley had little chance of being selected that year (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 April [1856]).
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    f4 2099.f4
    The previous year, CD had supported Joseph Prestwich and Albany Hancock as ‘eminently well qualified for the Royal Medal’ (letter to Edward Sabine, 23 April [1856]).
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    f5 2099.f5
    See letter to William Sharpey, 2 June [1857]. William Sharpey was one of the secretaries of the Royal Society.
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    f6 2099.f6
    Edward Sabine was treasurer of the Royal Society.
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    f7 2099.f7
    This letter to Sharpey has not been found, but see the letter to him, 2 June [1857], in which CD refers to this incident again.
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    f8 2099.f8
    Charles Lyell received the society's Copley Medal in 1858.
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    f9 2099.f9
    Perhaps a reference to the fact that Hancock lived and worked in Newcastle upon Tyne, far from the scientific circles of London.
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    f10 2099.f10
    Albany Hancock's insistence on the existence of a circulatory system in Mollusca had been recently confirmed, after years of controversy with Jean Louis Armand de Quatrefages de Bréau and Henri Milne-Edwards, by an independent commission set up by the Société de Biologie of Paris. Hancock's views, first put forward in Alder and Hancock 1844, were given in detail in Alder and Hancock 1845–55, pt 7. The work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
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    f11 2099.f11
    A. Hancock 1850 and 1858.
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    f12 2099.f12
    A. Hancock 1848 was a study of the boring powers of Mollusca; Hancock 1849 was concerned with the excavating powers of sponges.
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    f13 2099.f13
    Prestwich, a specialist on the Tertiary geology of England and Europe, was the author of numerous scientific memoirs.
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    f14 2099.f14
    James Clark Ross, naval officer and explorer, had commanded the Antarctic expedition (1839–43) on which Hooker had served as assistant surgeon and botanist. He subsequently commanded an expedition to find Sir John Franklin and was generally regarded as the first authority on matters relating to Arctic navigation (DNB).
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    f15 2099.f15
    Francis Beaufort, a former naval officer, had retired as hydrographer to the Admiralty in 1855. He was 83 years old and died at the end of 1857.
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    f16 2099.f16
    The Philosophical Club of the Royal Society was to meet on 11 June 1857 (Bonney 1919, p. 136).
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    f17 2099.f17
    Emma Darwin took Henrietta Emma Darwin to Moor Park for hydropathy on 29 May 1857 (Emma Darwin's diary). See also letter from Henrietta Emma Darwin, [2 August 1857].
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    f18 2099.f18
    See letter to William Sharpey   2 June [1857].
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    f19 2099.f19
    John Richardson had received one of the Royal Medals in 1856. CD had supported his nomination (see letter to Edward Sabine, 23 April [1856]).
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