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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Buckland to the Geological Society of London  9 March 1838

Report on Mr Darwyns Paper on the formation of Mould.

I consider the above paper & note appended to it, to be sound in all its views, excepting that which refers the origin of Chalk, to the digestive powers of animals that had fed on corallines

I should strongly recommend its publication in the Transactions as establishing a new & important theory to explain Phenomena of universal occurrence on the surface of the Earth—in fact a new Geological Power— Altho nearly the whole paper has been printed in the abstract of Proceedings I think the subject of sufficient importance to be printed in the Transactions, with a lithograph of the drawing annexed to it—1

I wd recommend that the Author be advised to withdraw the passage relating to the origin of Chalk—as introducing very disputable matter into a paper that is otherwise unexceptionable, & which if established, would be well deserving to form the Subject of a separate Communication2

Wm Buckland

March 9. 1838

I wd advise the author to be requested to add a Section of the 2 very decisive Cases mentioned in his appendix— they might all vy. well be contained in one quarto plate


‘On the formation of mould’, Collected papers 1: 49–53.
CD had concluded the version of the paper that was read to the Society on 1 November 1837 with the statement that ‘a large portion of the chalk of Europe was produced from coral, by the digestive action of marine animals, in the same manner as mould has been prepared by the earth-worm on disintegrated rock’ (Collected papers 1: 53). Buckland’s suggestion was adopted. It did not, however, prevent CD from leaving his theory unchanged in Journal and remarks (p. 553). Lyell also incorporated it in his Elements (C. Lyell 1838, p. 321). The second edition of the Journal of researches (1845), however, reads: ‘this mud, which when wet strikingly resembled pounded chalk, was found by Professor [C. G.] Ehrenberg to be partly composed of siliceous-shielded infusoria’ (p. 465).


Recommends CD’s paper on "Formation of mould" [Collected papers 1: 49–53; read 1 Nov 1837] be printed in Transactions. Praises it as establishing a new "geological power".

Letter details

Letter no.
William Buckland
Geological Society of London
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Geological Society (P4/2)
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Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 404,” accessed on 28 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2