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Darwin Correspondence Project

Correspondents

Darwin exchanged letters with nearly 2000 people during his lifetime. These range from well known naturalists, thinkers, and public figures, to men and women who would be unknown today were it not for the letters they exchanged with Darwin.


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William Yarrell
http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw194286/William-Yarrell?
William Yarrell by Thomas Herbert Maguire, printed by M & N Hanhart lithograph, 1849, NPG D36232
mw194286
© National Portrait Gallery, London

William Yarrell

William Yarrell was a London businessman, a stationer and bookseller, who became an expert on British birds and fish, writing standard reference works on both.  He was a member of several science and natural history societies, including the Linnean Society, and was a founder member of both the Zoological Society of London and the Entomological Society of London. 

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Hermann Müller
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHermann_M%C3%BCller_01.jpg
Heinrich Ludwig Hermann (Hermann) Müller
Gundolf Barenthin/Reinhart Müller

Hermann Müller

Hermann (Heinrich Ludwig Hermann) Müller, was born in Mühlberg near Erfurt in 1829. He was the younger brother of Fritz Müller (1822–97). Following the completion of his secondary education at Erfurt in 1848, he studied natural sciences at Halle and Berlin, focusing on botany, zoology, and geology. In 1852, he qualified as a teacher, but returned home to recover from illness before making his first of many trips to the Alps in the summer of 1853. He spent a probationary year teaching at a secondary school in Berlin and then half a year as a substitute teacher in Schwerin.

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Caroline Kennard

Kennard’s interest in science stemmed from her social commitments to the women's movement, her interests in nature study as a tool for educational reform, as well as her place in a tightly knit network of the Bostonian elite. Kennard was one of a handful of American women who carried on correspondence with the British gentleman-naturalist Charles Darwin. On 26 December 1881, Caroline Kennard wrote to Darwin to ask about his position regarding the inferiority of women. Darwin replied on 9 January 1882, referencing his positions in Descent of man (1872), writing that women had superior moral qualities but inferior intellectual qualities when compared to men.

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John Stevens Henslow
http://resource.nlm.nih.gov/101418379
John Stevens Henslow by T.H. Maguire
B014334
U.S. National Library of Medicine, IMH

John Stevens Henslow

The letters Darwin exchanged with John Stevens Henslow, professor of Botany and Mineralogy at Cambridge University, were among the most significant of his life. It was a letter from Henslow that brought Darwin the invitation to sail round the world as companion to captain Robert FitzRoyof HMS Beagle, and during the voyage it was Henslow who received the vast numbers of specimens Darwin sent home, and sent practical advice about how best to prepare, preserve, and ship them. Despite Henslow's reservations about the evolutionary ideas put forward in Origin the two men remained friends to the end of Henslow's life.

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Conrad Martens
http://acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=404668
Conrad Martens, ca. 1840, painted by Maurice Felton
ML 28
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Conrad Martens

Conrad Martens was born in London, the son of an Austrian diplomat. He studied landscape painting under the watercolourist Copley Fielding (1789–1855), who also briefly taught Ruskin. In 1833 he was on board the Hyacinth, headed for India, but en route in Rio de Janeiro, learned that Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle, was looking for a replacement after Augustus Earle, the Beagle’s original artist, had become seriously ill.

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Alexander von Humboldt
http://biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/34393#/summary
Alexander von Humboldt
Image from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Digitised by the University of Pittsburgh

Alexander von Humboldt

The phases of Charles Darwin’s career have often been defined by the books that he read, from Lyell’s Principles of Geology during the Beagle voyage to Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population during his London years. The book that encouraged him to pursue a scientific voyage in the first place was the Personal Narrative of Alexander von Humboldt’s travels in Central and South America between 1799 and 1804.

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Adam Sedgwick
http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw40351/Adam-Sedgwick?
Adam Sedgwick by Samuel Cousins, after Thomas Phillips mezzotint, published 1833, NPG D5929Adam Sedgwick by Samuel Cousins, after Thomas Phillips mezzotint, published 1833, NPG D5929
mw40351
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Adam Sedgwick

One of the early leaders of geology in Britain, Adam Sedgwick  was born in the Yorkshire village of Dent in 1785. Attending Trinity College Cambridge, he was ordained as clergyman and in 1818 was appointed to the Woodwardian Chair of Geology, which offered a small stipend. Despite having little prior knowledge of the subject, Sedgwick soon commenced fieldwork, offered regular annual lectures, and joined with John Stevens Henslow, William Whewell and others to build up the University's reputation in the sciences.

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Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell, photograph by Ernest Edwards, 1863, From L. Reeve ed. 1863-6
CUL Ii.4.35
Cambridge University Library

Charles Lyell

As an author, friend and correspondent, Charles Lyell played a crucial role in shaping Darwin's scientific life. Born to a wealthy gentry family in Scotland in 1797, Lyell had a classical and legal education but by the 1820s had become entranced by the popular and exciting subject of geology. Geologists had already revealed a succession of unexpected forms of animals and plants and demonstrated the need for a vastly longer time scale than that allowed for by traditional Biblical criticism. Lyell believed, however, that the subject remained beset by speculation and uncertainty

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Johann Friedrich Theodor (Fritz) Müller
Johann Friedrich Theodor (Fritz) Müller
Cambridge University Library

Fritz Müller

Fritz Müller, a German who spent most of his life in political exile in Brazil, described Darwin as his second father, and Darwin's son, Francis, wrote that, although they never met 'the correspondence with Müller, which continued to the close of my father's life, was a source of very great pleasure to him. My impression is that of all his unseen friends Fritz Müller was the one for whom he had the strongest regard.'

 

 

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Francis Galton
Francis Galton
CUL DAR S405.b.92.1
Cambridge University Library

Francis Galton

Galton was a naturalist, statistician, and evolutionary theorist. He was a second cousin of Darwin’s, having descended from his grandfather, Erasmus. Born in Birmingham in 1822, Galton studied medicine at King’s College, London, and also read mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. On inheriting a large fortune from his father, he abandoned medicine, which he disliked, indulged in travel and sport, and then financed his own expedition to southwest Africa (1850-52), completing a natural historical narrative of the journey (Galton 1853).

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