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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Tyndall   5 June [1876]1

Hopedene Dorking

June 5th

My dear Tyndall

I have quite given up marine theory & accepted glacier-lakes,—not that I have seen the place since the birth of the latter theory, & there seems to me some little difficulty about the degree to which the solid rocks have eroded at one point as if by a current. Nothing makes me gnash my teeth so much as the thought of that confounded paper of mine; but I have often endeavoured to utilise it by making it a lesson never in science to infer that one explanation is right because no other one seems possible.—2

The present M..H is I believe certainly the same with D.M.3

In Haste, as we are just going to the Hawkshaws

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to CD’s visit to the Hawkshaws. The Darwins stayed with John and Ann Hawkshaw at Hollycombe in Hampshire from 7 to 10 June 1876 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
In a paper published in 1839 (‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’), CD argued that the so-called ‘parallel roads’ of Glen Roy were the remains of beaches formed by the sea as the landmass of Scotland rose in graduated steps. The ‘roads’ are three terraces that run parallel to one another along the sides of Glen Roy in Lochaber, Scotland. Thomas Francis Jamieson believed that during a great Ice Age ice trapped a series of lakes in the glen and that the roads represented the shorelines of three of these former lakes. See Jamieson 1863, Correspondence vols. 2, 9, and 10, and Rudwick 1974. No letter from Tyndall enquiring about this subject has been found, but Tyndall visited Glen Roy in May 1876 and lectured on the parallel roads at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on 9 June (Eve and Creasey 1945, p. 212; Tyndall 1876b).
A note by Francis Darwin identifies this as a reference to David Milne Home, a Scottish geologist who studied the roads of Glen Roy. Milne Home added ‘Home’ to his surname in 1852.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Jamieson, Thomas Francis. 1863. On the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and their place in the history of the glacial period. [Read 21 January 1863.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 19: 235–59.

‘Parallel roads of Glen Roy’: Observations on the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and of other parts of Lochaber in Scotland, with an attempt to prove that they are of marine origin. By Charles Darwin. [Read 7 February 1839.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 129: 39–81. [Shorter publications, pp. 50–88.]

Rudwick, Martin John Spencer. 1974. Darwin and Glen Roy: a ‘great failure’ in scientific method? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 5 (1974–5): 97–185.


CD has quite given up the marine theory [of Glen Roy] and has accepted glacier lakes. "Nothing makes me gnash my teeth so much as that confounded paper of mine." It is a lesson "never in science to infer one explanation is right because no other one seems possible".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Tyndall
Sent from
Hopedene, Dorking
Source of text
DAR 261.8: 25 (EH 88205963)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10532,” accessed on 23 April 2021,

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