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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Tyndall   4 February 1876

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R. [6 Queen Anne Street, London.]

Feb. 4th./76

My dear Tyndall

I called on you this morning to thank you for writing to me, & to say that I do not believe any of your friends can rejoice more heartily than I do, at the great news in your note.1 No man knows what happiness is till he has a dear, good wife to love by day & by night, & the longer he lives the more he feels & understands this happiness.

And now I want to beg you & the future Mrs. Tyndall to accept a teapot &c (which will be sent tomorrow) as a small token of my hearty admiration & friendship for you.— I hope that you may enjoy peace & joy, & work hard at science, for many & many a year to come.

Believe me | My dear Tyndall | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

It has occurred to me that I may have chosen things which you already possess: if so pray exchange them at Mr Thomas 153 New Bond St.2 & get whatever you like, & I am sure that you will keep something as a remembrance of me.—

P.S. I am particularly glad that you are not going to give up at once the spont. generation question.— I do not care much about what Dr. Bastian says, but I feel very strongly that the whole subject is not made clear until some light is thrown on the question how men like Burdon Sanderson & Wyman of Boston & Dr Child often succeeded in getting bacteria in infusions which they had boiled for a long time.—3 Do for Heaven sake complete as far as possible your beautiful work.


I have as yet read only the first part in Nature.4


Tyndall had announced his forthcoming marriage to Louisa Charlotte Hamilton in his letter of 2 February 1876. CD stayed in London at the home of his brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin from 3 to 5 February 1876 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Francis Boone Thomas & Co. was a firm of manufacturing gold- and silversmiths (Post Office London directory 1875).
See letter from John Tyndall, 2 February 1876 and nn. 2 and 3. Henry Charlton Bastian had made unfavourable remarks in The Times about Tyndall’s work on spontaneous generation. John Scott Burdon Sanderson had conducted experiments with Bastian in 1872 and had defended Bastian in Nature, 9 January 1873, pp. 180–1. Jeffries Wyman had reported results in favour of spontaneous generation (Wyman 1862), but his later work contradicted these results (Wyman 1867). Gilbert William Child had also reported results of experiments supporting spontaneous generation (Child 1864 and 1865).
A summary of Tyndall’s paper read before to the Royal Society of London on 13 January 1876 (Tyndall 1876a) appeared in Nature, 27 January 1876 and 3 February 1876. For more on the debate about spontaneous generation and Tyndall’s role in it, see Strick 2000, pp. 157–82.


Child, Gilbert William. 1864. Experimental researches on spontaneous generation. [Read 16 June 1864.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 13: 313–14.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Strick, James. 2000. Sparks of life: Darwinism and the Victorian debates over spontaneous generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Wyman, Jeffries. 1862. Experiments on the formation of Infusoria in boiled solutions of organic matter, enclosed in hermetically sealed vessels, and supplied with pure air. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 34: 79–87.

Wyman, Jeffries. 1867. Observations and experiments on living organisms in heated water. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 44: 152–69.


Sends congratulations and a teapot on the occasion of JT’s engagement.

Is pleased JT is not giving up on the spontaneous generation question. Feels strongly that subject will not be clear until it is understood how J. S. Burdon Sanderson and others succeeded in getting bacteria in infusions they had boiled for a long time.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Tyndall
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6 Down letterhead
Source of text
DAR 261.8: 24 (EH 88205962)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10379,” accessed on 8 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24