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Darwin Correspondence Project

DCP-LETT-4961

To George Howard Darwin   [1866]

Dear George

Can you or any of your friends answer me this.1 In a family of 10 5 of the children squinted & 5 did not & they came alternately—.2 But you must understand it is indifferent whether a squinter or a non squinter comes first. What I want to know is what are the chances against their coming alternately.3

Yours affec | Ch. Darwin | Ch. Darwin | Ch. Darwin4

P.S This case of the squinting & other such cases are real.

Footnotes

1
George Darwin was studying mathematics at Cambridge University (Alum. Cantab.).
2
A case of squinting in five of ten siblings was reported in Streatfield 1857–9, and was referred to in Sedgwick 1861, which CD cited (in relation to a different subject) in Variation 2: 328 n. However, Streatfield stated that squinting affected only the boys among ten siblings, not that alternate children squinted. CD briefly discussed squinting in Variation 2: 9, in the chapter on inheritance, but relied exclusively on evidence provided by William Bowman.
3
At the top of the letter, George calculated a 1:126 chance of squinters and non-squinters being born alternately in a family of ten, by dividing twice the square of the factorial of five by the factorial of ten. At the end of his working, he multiplied 126 by two; the reason for this is unclear. George’s reply to CD has not been found.
4
The letter is in the hand of CD’s daughter Elizabeth. The signatures are copied from CD’s own.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-4961
From
Darwin, C. R.
To
Darwin, G. H.
Sent from
unstated
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 1
Physical description
( ) 3pp †

Summary

Asks GHD what the chances are against squinting and non-squinting children coming alternately in a family of ten.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4961,” accessed on 11 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4961

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