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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   20 June 1876

6 Qu. Ann St.

June 20. 1876 Tuesday

Dear Father

I am sorry to have bothered you to write me a note, as I’ve been to the Geolog. Soc. today on my own account & consulted the book.1 The paper is only an abstract of an address by Sir W. Thomson, but it touches on my point exactly.2 I can see that he has attacked the problem from a different side from what I have done, and I am pretty confident that he has overlooked some considerations which I have taken in. I agree perfectly with all he says but one thing & that makes a considerable difference. It’s rather like a pea meeting a cannon ball to oppose him, but I feel tolerably safe at present, & if I am right it will be so much the greater triumph. I have succeeded too in emmensely simplifying some of the mathematics wh. I sent to Adams, & tho’ the results are the same exactly as before, I’m rather ashamed of my clumsiness. It cuts about 5 pages down to one. If Adams has’nt read it when I get back, I shall get it from him & interpolate.3

Uncle Ras was remarkably brisk yesterday & went down to the Athenæum, & had actually accepted an invitation for dinner today; but last night at about 10 he was taken with an aguish fit & today he seems very prostrate.4 I was in the room for 10 minutes or so this morning & he was talking for about 10 minutes, but this afternoon I went to see him for about two minutes & he appeared quite unfit for anything & so I shall not go in again. I can tell perfectly, now, when he likes talking & I keep quite away when he does’nt so I feel sure my being here does’nt disturb him the least.

I think he likes the marriage on the whole, tho’ of course he is very sorry to lose Hope.5

What lovely weather the Thames party are having.

Tonight I dine with Elliot6 at the Club & I think shall go to a French play. Tomorrow I’m going to see a conjuror at the Balfours7 who says she can do all the spiritualist’s tricks

Yrs affec. | G H Darwin


CD’s letter to George has not been found, and the book has not been identified.
George may refer to Thomson’s ‘On the rigidity of the earth’, which was published in abstract in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 12 (1862–3): 103–4, and in full in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Thomson 1862). George was working on a paper on the influence of geological changes on the earth’s axis of rotation (G. H. Darwin 1876b). In the paper he cited Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait’s Elements of natural philosophy (Thomson and Tait 1873), and Thomson’s address to the mathematics and physics section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Thomson 1876), which, however, was not delivered until September 1876 (George’s paper was read in November 1876). Thomson made some amendments to Thomson 1862 and Thomson and Tait 1873 in Thomson 1876.
George took a draft of his paper to John Couch Adams on 31 May 1876 (letters from G. H. Darwin, 31 May 1876 and 1 June 1876), and heard back from him in July 1876 (letter to G. H. Darwin, 13 July [1876]).
George was staying with his uncle Erasmus Alvey Darwin at Erasmus’s house in London.
Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood, with her sister Effie (Katherine Euphemia), was a particular favourite of Erasmus’s. She had recently become engaged to her widowed cousin Godfrey Wedgwood. The marriage was controversial in the family as Godfrey was suspected to be still in love with Effie, who had turned down his proposal and married the widowed Thomas Henry Farrer. See Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, pp. 261, 302–3, 310.
Hugh Frederic Hislop Elliot.
Presumably 4 Carlton Gardens, London, the home of Arthur James and Alice Balfour, Francis Maitland Balfour’s brother and sister.


Thomson, William. 1876. Address to the mathematics and physics section. Containing: review of evidence regarding the physical condition of the Earth: its internal temperature; the fluidity or solidity of its interior substance; the rigidity, elasticity, plasticity, of its external figure; and the permanance or variability of its period and axis of rotation. Report of the 46th Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1876), Transactions of the sections, pp. 1–12.

Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1980. The Wedgwood circle, 1730–1897: four generations of a family and their friends. London: Studio Vista.


Comments on an address by William Thomson (‘On the rigidity of the earth’?), which is about the same problem that GHD is working on. Is confident Thomson has overlooked some points.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 55
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10541,” accessed on 26 July 2021,

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