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Letter 2869

Darwin, C. R. to Henslow, J. S.

16 July [1860]

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    Discusses Charles Daubeny's views on sexuality of plants [Rep. BAAS 30 (1860) pt 2: 109–10]. "There is no greater mystery in the whole world, as it seems to me, than the existence of sexes, – more especially since the discovery of Parthenogenesis."

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    Says apropos of the FitzRoy Bible incident [at Oxford BAAS meeting], "I think his mind is often on verge of insanity."


at Miss Wedgwoods | Hartfield | Tonbridge Wells

July 16th

My dear Henslow

I thought it wd be better to write direct to Daubeny & tell him there was nothing direct on subject in my Book.— I did not see much in his paper.— The frequency of ``Sports'' ie modified buds in plants goes direct against his view. There is no greater mystery in the whole world, as it seems to me, than the existence of sexes,—more especially since the discovery of Parthenogenesis. The origination of sexes seems beyond all speculation.— Nevertheless I quite agree with your remarks in answer to Daubeny.—

I am glad to hear Mrs Barnard's affair is safely over.—

How successful your Fete seems to have been!—

In Haste | My dear old Master | Yours affect. | C. Darwin

I did not hear of poor FitzRoy with the Bible at the Geographical Section— I think his mind is often on Verge of insanity.—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2869.f1
    CD's letter to Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny has not been found. Daubeny discussed the sexuality of plants in relation to CD's views in a paper delivered at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Daubeny 1860). See Appendix VI.
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    f2 2869.f2
    Daubeny presented a copy of his paper (Daubeny 1860) to CD; it is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection--CUL. CD noted that it contained `excellent facts new to me' on p. 30, where Daubeny gave examples of monstrous plants that, in their abnormal state, resemble plants of quite different genera. These passages were marked by CD.
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    f3 2869.f3
    Daubeny suggested that sexual reproduction in plants exists to prevent uniformity; vegetative reproduction, he stated, could only produce a `mere counterpart' of the parent (Daubeny 1860, p. 110).
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    f4 2869.f4
    CD refers to Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold's research on parthenogenesis (Siebold 1856), which demonstrated that the ova of bees and certain butterflies are capable of developing without being fertilised. For CD's views on Siebold's work, see Correspondence vol. 6.
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    f5 2869.f5
    Henslow's remarks may have been made at the British Association meeting. Henslow was president of Section D, in which Daubeny read his paper.
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    f6 2869.f6
    Henslow's daughter Anne Barnard gave birth to a daughter on 16 July 1860 (Gentleman's Magazine n.s. 9 (1860): 312).
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    f7 2869.f7
    Robert FitzRoy attended the British Association meeting in Oxford, at which he delivered a paper on the prediction of storms to improve the safety of shipping (FitzRoy 1860). No record of his having spoken in the geographical section of the meeting has been found, but he had made comments during the discussion of CD's theory in Section D (see Appendix VI and also F. Darwin ed. 1892, p. 239).
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