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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Hubert Airy   5 April [1871]1

Down Beckenham | Kent

April 5.

Dear Sir

I am greatly obliged for your letter— Your idea about the easy turning of the head instead of the ears themselves strikes me as very good & quite new to me; and I will keep it in mind, but I fear that there are some cases opposed to the notion.2

If I remember right the Hedgehog has very human ears, but birds support your view, though lizards opposed to it—

Several persons have pointed out my error about the Platysma—3 Nor can I remember how I was misled— I find I can act on this muscle myself, now that I know the corners of the mouth have to be drawn back— I know of case of man who can act on this muscle on one side, but not on the other, yet he asserts positively that both contract when he is startled.—4 And this leads me to ask you to be so kind as to observe, if any opportunity should occur whether the Platysma contracts during extreme terror, as before an operation; and secondly whether it contracts during a shivering fit.— Several persons are observing for me, but I receive most discordant results.—5

Pray accept my best thanks & apologies for this untidy letter, but I am not well today—

Dear Sir. | Yours very faithfully. | Ch. Darwin.

I beg you to present my most respectful & kind compliments to your honoured Father.6


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Hubert Airy, 3 April 1871.
See letter from Hubert Airy, 3 April 1871 and n. 1. CD may refer to William Ogle, amongst others; see letter to P. B. Mason, 24 March [1871] and n. 2.
CD refers to James Crichton-Browne, Francis Darwin, George Green Gascoyen, Charles Langstaff, St George Jackson Mivart, Patrick Nicol, William Ogle, and James Paget (see Correspondence vol. 16, letter to W. E. Darwin, [15 April 1868] and nn. 2–5, Correspondence vol. 17, letter to James Paget, 29 April [1869] and n. 3, Correspondence vol. 18, letter from James Crichton-Browne, 15 March 1870 and n. 7, letter from Patrick Nicol, 13 May 1870 and n. 1, and letter from G. G. Gascoyen, 7 July 1870 and n. 1, and this volume, letter to Francis Darwin, 25 March [1871], and letter to William Ogle, 25 March [1871]).
George Biddell Airy.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Discusses loss of voluntary movement of ears in man and monkey.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hubert Airy
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 15
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7659,” accessed on 17 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19