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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lawson Tait   1 March 1876

7, Great Charles St. | Birmingham.

March 1/76

My Dear Sir,

In your book you amend some observations in the first edition, about the regrowth of an amputated thumb on account of imperfection in the evidence.1

In 1862 or 3, when a pupil in Edinburgh I assisted my master to amputate half of a double thumb in a newly born infant. In three or four months it has grown again completely & was again amputated. The operator was Mr. McKenzie Edward, who is dead2 & I have no evidence of the case but a very vivid recollection of every detail. The case occurred in the practice of Dr. Sinclair to whose memory I have tried to recall the circumstances but without success. His answer I enclose as he gives a fact in support.3

You need not answer this unless there is any further information you may desire.

I have just corrected proofs of my first notice,4 | Yours faithfully, | Lawson Tait


CD discussed inherited polydactylism and the regrowth of amputated digits, including the regrowth of a child’s second thumb after it was amputated, in Variation 2: 14–15; however, after consulting James Paget, he doubted the evidence for the case and removed it from Variation 2d ed. 1: 459 (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter to Annie Dowie, 16 August [1875]).
Alexander McKenzie Edwards married Mary Chambers, daughter of Robert Chambers. Another daughter of Robert Chambers, Alice (born in 1850), was the child described in n. 1, above. Edwards died in 1868.
Tait probably refers to Veitch Sinclair; the enclosure has not been found.
Tait was reviewing Variation 2d ed. for the Spectator (L. Tait 1876b); see letter from Lawson Tait, 21 February 1876 and n. 1.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.


Regrowth of an amputated extra thumb.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Lawson (Lawson) Tait
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 30
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10412,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

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