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Letter 7718a

Darwin, C. R. to Mivart, St G. J.

21 Apr [1870]


On amount of modification and lines of descent in determining the position in man.

Reference to StGJM’s article “On the appendicular skeleton of the primates” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. [157 (1867): 299–430],

and his [and James Murie’s] article on lemurs ["On the anatomy of Lemuroidea"] Trans. Zool. Soc. [7 (1872): 1–114].


Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Ap. 21st

My dear Sir

Will you forgive me for troubling you with 2 or 3 questions.—

In some M.S. after discussing the bearing of the amount ofmodification & the lines of descent on the terms used inclassification, & after giving your class. of the Primates in thePhil. Tr., I go on to add, that on genealogical principles alone, &considering whole organisation man probably diverged from theCatarhine stem a little below the branch of the anthropo: apes(i.e. higher up than in your diagram in Phil. Tr.)f2 I have thenadded in my M.S. that this is your opinion, but I cannot rememberwhether I derived this from you from conversation or inferred itafter reading your 2 great papers.—f3 Is this your opinion? & mayI say (if so) that you tell me so.— I conceive that the line ofdescent may be as just indicated, & yet from the amount ofmodification suffered by man, he may perhaps deserve to be called adistinct sub-order or Family.—f4

Secondly you describe in Zoo. Tr. in your paper on Lemurs (inwhich, by the way, I found much very interesting to me onrudiments—variability &c) you describe great differences in theshape of muzzles of the genera; but I want to know whether thatstructure of the nose, which led Owen to use term “Strepsirhine”(not that I understand how the nose is twisted) holds good in all thegenera.—f5

Lastly, Büchner in one of his compilations says Rütimeyer hasfound a fossil ape uniting Catarhine & platyrhine characters; do youknow anything about this? I have seen no such account, & I thoughtthat his eocene monkey was apocryphal.f6

I left London before your return so could not profit by your kindinvitation to call on you.—f7 Pray forgive me for being sotroublesome & believe me | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums



The year is established by the relationship between this letter andthe letter from St G. J. Mivart, 22 April 1870.
CD refers to his manuscript for Descent and to Mivart’s paper ‘Onthe appendicular skeleton of the primates’ in the PhilosophicalTransactions of the Royal Society of London (Mivart 1867); Mivart’sdiagram is on page 425. See Descent 1: 185–99.
CD refers to Mivart 1867 (see n. 2, above), and probably to Mivart 1866a, a paper in the Transactions of the Zoological Society ofLondon on the appendicular skeleton of Simia. Simia is a Linneancategory roughly equivalent to the modern suborder Haplorrhini exceptthat it excludes the genus Homo.
See Descent 1: 194–5.
CD refers to Mivart’s paper ‘On the Lemuroidea’ in the Transactions of theZoological Society of London (Mivart 1866c). Someclassifications of primates include, as well as catarrhine andplatyrrhine species, strepsirrhine (literally ‘twisted-nose’) species,which have moist tips to their noses and a cleftupper lip bound to the gum (e.g., lorises and lemurs; Allaby ed. 1999). Richard Owen used the term strepsirrhine (or strepsirhine) inOwen 1866–8, 2: 290.
Ludwig Büchner described Ludwig Rütimeyer’s discovery of afossil ape in Büchner 1868, pp. 202 or 204 (different printings ofthe edition are paginated differently). This passage is scored in CD’sannotated copy of Büchner 1868 in the Darwin Library–CUL (seeMarginalia 1: 97–8). Rütimeyer described the fossil apeCaenopithecus lemuroides in Rütimeyer 1862, pp. 88–92. On page92, Rütimeyer noted that the fossil ape had characteristics in commonwith modern-day lemurs and New-World (platyrrhine) apes. There is acopy of Rütimeyer 1862 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
See letter from St G. J. Mivart, 8 March [1870]. CD was in London from 5 to 12 March 1870 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
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