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Letter 7228

Forbes, David to Darwin, C. R.

13 June 1870


Has completed a memoir on the Aymara Indians of Bolivia [J. Ethnol. Soc. n.s. 2 (1870): 193–305] and is going to lecture on them.

Believes he has data relevant to CD’s work on man.


11, York Place, | Portman Square, | London. W.

13 June. 1870

My dear Mr Darwin

I have just returned from a two months residence in Poland andon Tuesday 21st. am to give my lecture on the Aymara Indians—f1It would give me profound pleasure to see you there if your healthwould permit you, for I believe I shall bring forward some veryimportant points in support of your views— I took all my notes withme to Poland and accomplished there what I am sure I should not havedone here, ie a somewhat complete memoir on the subject— I thinkit will be about 90 pages or so of 8vo print—and if I amnot overrating its importance, I believe it contains some ratherimportant data in fact I was surprised myself at the number ofobservations when I came to string them together. My intention wasif time had allowed it to have placed the MS in your hands before thelecture but I have only just got back and find I have to copy out fair,some of it and fill in some references &c which I had not with me—soI shall not be able to do so— the measurements are all put inproper form and I have made out a sketch so as to compare them with otherNations. black & white—proving I think the case about the altitude &ccompletely & several other differences for which I at present can assignno reasonf2

Mr Squeer the Nicaraguan–Peruvian traveller is now in Paris andcomes over the morning of my lecture expressly for it & has sentalready a number of illustrations which will assist me—and I thinkthat there will be others who can speak on the subject.—f3 I shallof course only give an abstract of the more interesting and importantconclusions vivâ voce—or otherwise it would take up far too muchtime—

I do not know whether your book is as yet so far advanced that itis too late to supply you with any data but now that I have got thismatter off my hands at last—I think you will find in my MS. better or rather more correct data than what you noted down inthe course of our conversation when I had to trust mainly torecollectionsf4

Trusting that your health is better now that we have such fine weather |I remain my dear Mr Darwin | Yours most sincerely | David Forbes

DAR 164: 144



Forbes’s lecture took place at the Ethnological Society of Londonand was published as Forbes 1870. CD visited London only from 24 June(CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
In Forbes 1870a, pp. 213–15 (see also ibid., pp. 277–81), Forbes printed a table comparing relativeaverage proportions of ‘normal’ Aymara men from high cold mountains; two‘abnormal’ Aymara men from hot valleys; two Englishmen, one ‘Saxon’and one ‘Celtic’, and three ‘Menas negroes’ from West Africa(presumably male). Forbes speculated that the larger chest measurement ofthe Aymara was due to the fact that they normally lived in the hightablelands of Bolivia and Peru, where the air was more rarefied, sothat they needed greater lung capacity (ibid., p. 218). He alsoconsidered that various other differences between the highland andlowland Aymara were due to the change in altitude (ibid.,p. 222). There is an offprint of Forbes 1870a, inscribed by the author, in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. It has one annotation on the backcover (‘p. 16 blushing’).
The discussion following Forbes’s paper, including remarks byEphraim George Squier, is summarised in the Journal of theEthnological Society of London following the paper.
It is not known when Forbes and CD had a conversation about theAymara Indians. CD cited Forbes on the Aymara in Descent 1: 119, 246, 2:320, 322, 348, and cited Forbes 1870a in Descent 1: 119 n. 32. Most of the information that CD cites is in the letter fromDavid Forbes, 26 March 1868 (Correspondence vol. 16). CD also citedForbes for information in Forbes 1870a and in his letter inExpression, pp. 232, 318, 336.
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