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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Turner   [1871?]1

Extract from a Paper on Hermaphroditism   By Dr. Robert Knox in London Medical Gazette, January 12th., 1844—2

“I have often thought that certain organs found in the Mammalia, with whose functions we are not acquainted, and which seem to have a reference neither to the adult nor foetal condition, nor essential to individual life in any known animal, may be the remains of the organs required by that portion of the animal kingdom which has ceased to exist.3 In the composition of the skeleton of the antediluvian Sauria unusual combinations of structure are obvious: arrangements & forms of bone, with dimension and shapes, not only not familiar to us, but evidently of a nature differing widely from the present animal kingdom. It will be looked on, I fear, as too bold a flight of the imagination to conjecture that the plan of the present creation was included in the former: that the unexplained organs in animal bodies, and which are in as rudimentary, and so far as we know useless, were once developed, and formed, perhaps, important organs, in a race of animals which ceased at a time when the Earth’s surface became unfitted for their support”.—

CD annotations

2.7 but evidently … support”.— 2.13] scored pencil


The correspondent is established by the handwriting and by an early archivist’s note on the verso of the page; the date is conjectured from the same note.
The quotation is from the London Medical Gazette, 12 January 1844, p. 477. The article it comes from was a memoir read to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1827 and 1828.
CD had asked Turner about rudimentary organs in his letter to Turner of 14 December [1866] (Correspondence vol. 14). CD cited other works by Knox when discussing rudimentary organs in humans in Descent 1: 23 n. 26 and 28 n. 37.


Extract from Robert Knox on hermaphroditism [Lond. Med. Gaz. 12 Jan 1844].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Turner
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 196
Physical description
Amem 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7414,” accessed on 21 August 2019,

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