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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Richard Owen   12 February [1847]

Down Farnborough Kent

Feb. 12th

My dear Owen

I have received a letter & parcel of Papers from S. F. Muniz,1 the gentleman who has made such wonderful collections of Fossil Bones near B. Ayres. His letter has been unfortunately lying for nearly four months in London. It is to offer to the College of Surgeons various fossils, completing, as he believes, the skeletons collected by me;2 also an apparently nearly perfect skeleton of a new genus of carnivora, but which I have no doubt is the Machairodus. Also those parts of the Megatherium, wanting in the Skeleton at the College.— He desires that the parts most wanted of the Megatherium may be specified. Will you do this? I presume if he ships the specimens at B. Ayres, & sends a letter directed to the Curator of the College; they will come safe to hand. But I should think it wd be highly desirable to offer to pay, if he will point out a channel, for the expences of the Boxes, the land-carriage about 20 or 30 miles, to B. Ayres, & getting them on board. If S. Muniz is encouraged, he will very probably send other things. Would it not be well to offer him copies of some of the College publications? I shall send him my Geology

It is really very remarkable considering this man’s utterly isolated position & that he must be poor, being a medical practioner in the village of Luxan, that he keeps his zeal up: he has sent me a Spanish newspaper with a long description of the Machairodus,3 & which I hope to get translated & if so I will send it to you. To encourage him, I shd. like to get his paper in some of the Journals.—4

Wd. you let me have an answer pretty soon; though I presume you will have to lay the offer before the Museum Committee.—5 What a grand feature a skeleton of the Machairodus would be!—

Have you heard whether any collection of bones from B. Ayres has been received at Paris?? Muniz sent one by Admiral Dupotet6 & is anxious to know whether they ever arrived.—

I have just read your first Chapter & have been delighted with it. Those vertebræ are awfully difficult to understand.—7

Believe me | Very truly yours, | C. Darwin

P.S I did not take advantage of your kind suggestion about applying for a specimen of an Acasta to the College, as I have got some fresh British specimens.—8


Francisco Javier Muñiz, who was appointed professor of the medical faculty, Buenos Aires University, in 1848.
CD’s South American fossils, presented to the Royal College of Surgeons and described by Owen in Fossil Mammalia.
Now usually classified in the genus Smilodon with the other South American sabre-toothed cats. According to M. Doello-Jurado, who published CD’s reply to Muñiz in Nature 99 (1917): 305–6, Muñiz’s description appeared in La Gaceta Mercantil, Buenos Aires, 9 October 1845, and was of a new species of Smilodon.
See letter to F. J. Muñiz, 26 February 1847, n. 4.
A modern abstract of the minutes of the museum committee of the Royal College of Surgeons (Archives, Royal College of Surgeons) has an entry for February 1847: ‘Owen instructed to write to Darwin about a Machairodus that has been offered for sale. Bought for £100 and expenses of discoverer.’ See, however, letter to Richard Owen, [6 March 1847], n. 3.
Jean Henri Joseph Dupotet, former commander of the French fleet station, Brazil.
Owen’s Lectures on the comparative anatomy and physiology of the vertebrate animals, Pt I, Fishes (R. Owen 1846a). According to his reading notes, CD finished reading the lectures on 15 March 1847 (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV).
CD worked on Acasta during March 1847 (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I). In 1848 James Scott Bowerbank provided him with specimens from all parts of the world, which were attached to sponges in his collection (see letter to J. S. Bowerbank, [January–August 1848]).


F. J. Muñiz has offered fossil bones collected around Buenos Aires to the Royal College of Surgeons. He believes he can complete their Megatherium skeleton and provide other specimens. CD feels he should be encouraged in his work.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Richard Owen
Sent from
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1061,” accessed on 29 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4