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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Galton   22 September 1875

42 Rutland Gate

Sept 22/75

My dear Darwin

In “Domestication” II. 253. you quote as a striking instance of variation a case communicated by Dr. Ogle of 2 girl twins who had a crooked finger, no relative having the same.1 It happened, in my twin enquiries, that a case was sent me which is possibly, or probably the same as your’s—but which is a case of reversion. I send the particulars of this over leaf.2 You might think it worth while in the view of your 2nd. edition, to ask Dr. Ogle if his case was that of the Misses Macrae.3

I am not acquainted myself either with the Misses Macrae or with Dr. Murchison—Dr. Gilchrist of the Crichton Institution Dumfries, sent me Dr Murchisons communication.4

We are only lately back in England and are not even yet settled in town.5

Will Frank kindly send me a line about the sweet peas?6

With united kind remembrances to you all | Ever sincerely | Francis Galton

I have been delighting in your Insectivorous plants7

Extract from a private letter to me, written by Dr Finlay Murchison. (No address on this letter but it is from Scotland, & was enclosed by Dr. Gilchrist of Dumfries.)

The Misses Macrae (twins. æt 16 in 1875)

“There is a congenital flexion at the second phalangeal joint of the little finger in each case, but the flexion is not so marked as to cause unsightliness or discomfort. I have ascertained that they inherited this peculiarity from their grandmother on the mother’s side.8 The parents had no trace of it, nor any one of four brothers and three sisters.”


See Variation 2: 253. The case was given by William Ogle.
Galton discussed his twin studies in Fraser’s Magazine (Galton 1875a) and with revisions and additions in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (Galton 1876a); he aimed to use them to show the relative influence of nature and nurture.
CD was working on a second edition of Variation (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). The Misses McRae were Alexandrina Cornfute McRae and Elizabeth Anne McRae of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. CD mentioned the McRae twins (but not by name) in Variation 2d ed. 2: 240.
Finlay Murchison was medical officer on North Harris in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, in 1874 and 1875, but in 1876 or earlier became assistant physician at the Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries, where James Gilchrist was medical superintendent (Medical directory).
Galton and his wife, Louisa Jane, had been in France (Pearson 1914–30, 2: 180; see also letter from Francis Galton, 2 June 1875).
For Galton’s sweetpea experiments, see the letters from Francis Galton, 14 April 1875 and 2 June 1875. He published on the experiments in Galton 1877a, 1877b, and 1889, pp. 79–82 and 225–6. Frank: Francis Darwin was CD’s secretary.
Insectivorous plants was published in July 1875 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Galton, Francis. 1876a. The history of twins, as a criterion of the relative powers of nature and nurture. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 5 (1875–6): 391–406. [Reprint of Galton 1875a.]

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Medical directory: The London medical directory … every physician, surgeon, and general practitioner resident in London. London: C. Mitchell. 1845. The London and provincial medical directory. London: John Churchill. 1848–60. The London & provincial medical directory, inclusive of the medical directory for Scotland, and the medical directory for Ireland, and general medical register. London: John Churchill. 1861–9. The medical directory … including the London and provincial medical directory, the medical directory for Scotland, the medical directory for Ireland. London: J. & A. Churchill. 1870–1905.

Pearson, Karl. 1914–30. The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton. 3 vols. in 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thinks CD’s case of twins with crooked fingers may be one from his twin study.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Galton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Rutland Gate, 42
Source of text
DAR 105: A80–1
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10163,” accessed on 29 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23