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Letter 2787

Lyell, Charles to Darwin, C. R.

7 May 1860

    Summary Add

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    Saw Salter's Spirifer specimens; a very good proof of indefinite modifiability.

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    Beginning to think gap between Cambrian and Lower Silurian enormous.

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    Édouard Lartet to give paper before Geological Society ["On coexistence of man with certain extinct quadrupeds", Q. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 16 (1859–60): 471–5].


53, Harley St. London. W.

May 7. 1860

My dear Darwin

I saw Salters spirifers, a very good proof of the fructifying nature of your indefinite modifiability principle. I also asked him if he did not think that Barrandes ``primordial'' (the Cambrian of Manual 5th. Edn. ) was getting more & more separated from Lower Silurian— He replied certainly— I am beginning to think the gap was enormous between them. And then there are the Huronian & Laurentian each with rippled sands 1000ds. of feet thick unconformable to the Potsdam or ``primordial''. The latter I hear has just been found by Cassiano del Prado in some part of Spain.

Suppose the gap as I begin to suspect to be as great as between Cretaceous & Eocene what a grand discovery the Cambrian type is—

On Wednesday May 16th. we expect a large meeting of the Geol. Socy in the hall in Burlington House when Lartet's paper on contemporaneity of

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2787.f1
    See letter to Charles Lyell, 4 May [1860].
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    f2 2787.f2
    Joachim Barrande believed that the lower Silurian formations around Prague constituted a new system, which he named the `Primordial'. Comparable rocks in Britain were the subject of heated debate between Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Impey Murchison. Sedgwick insisted, like Barrande, that the formations were sufficiently distinct to merit a separate name (the `Cambrian'); Murchison, on the other hand, maintained that they were merely part of the lower Silurian. In his Manual of geology (C. Lyell 1855, pp. 452--5), Lyell had given his support to Sedgwick's view. For a study of the debate, see Secord 1986.
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    f3 2787.f3
    Huronian and Laurentian formations, which were being actively studied by members of the Geological Survey of Canada at the time, were later identified as pre-Cambrian. See Zaslow 1975.
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    f4 2787.f4
    Casiano de Prado began a geological survey of Spain in 1848.
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    f5 2787.f5
    ´Edouard Amant Isidore Hippolyte Lartet's excavations of flint-bearing sites helped to establish the contemporaneity of man and extinct animals (DSB). His paper `On the coexistence of man with certain extinct quadrupeds' (Lartet 1860) was read at a meeting of the Geological Society on 16 May 1860. Leonard Horner, president of the society, contributed remarks that were printed with the paper.
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    f6 2787.f6
    The number of CD's portfolio of notes on palaeontology and extinction.
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