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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Cardale Babington   28 March 1865


28. March. 1865

Dear Darwin

I think that you will be glad to learn that the University has at last provided a proper room for a small Zoological Museum1 and that the Philosophical Society contemplates offering its museum to the University to form part of that to be formed there.2 As the Philosl. Museum contains a large collection of Fish given by you I think it well to inform you of this.3 The fish will be better taken care of and more useful there than where they now are.

Yours truly | Charles C. Babington—

I have got a good place for the Univy Herb. and am beginning to get it put to rights. It seems to be very rich and valuable.4


The reference is to the new Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, situated on the New Museums Site, behind Pembroke Street, Cambridge, on the site of the old Botanic Garden; building work began in June 1863, and the museum was completed in February 1865 (Willis and Clark 1886, 3: 180).
In 1865 the Cambridge Philosophical Society donated its natural history collections to the university, and transferred its library from All Saints’ Passage to new accommodation adjacent to the new Department of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy (A. R. Hall 1969, pp. 26–8).
The reference is to CD’s collection of fish from the Beagle voyage. CD’s classified annotated catalogue of ‘Fish in Spirits of Wine’, prepared in 1836, is in DAR 29.1: B1–20 (see also Correspondence vol. 1, Appendix II, and R. D. Keynes ed. 2000). A description of the collection, prepared by Leonard Jenyns, was published in Zoology between 1840 and 1842. See also D. M. Porter 1985, pp. 1005–6. The fish specimens are in the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology.
Babington had become professor of botany at Cambridge University in 1861, following the death of John Stevens Henslow. The arrangement of the herbarium collections had been postponed owing to a lack of sufficient space; much of the collection was stored in boxes and was inaccessible (Willis and Clark 1886, 3: 161, Babington ed. 1897, p. 354). According to his journal, Babington began moving the botanical collections from the old room by the Anatomical Museum to new rooms on the New Museums Site on 19 January 1865 (Babington ed. 1897, p. 203). The University Herbarium housed CD’s Beagle plant collections (D. M. Porter 1985, pp. 1014–18, and D. M. Porter 1986).


University has at last provided room for a small zoological museum. The Philosophical Society might donate its collections to it, including CD’s fishes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Cardale Babington
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 9
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4799,” accessed on 15 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13