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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. I. Rogers   12 October 1876

119, Cannon Street, | London, | E.C

12th October/76.

Dear Sir,

My brother George Rogers of 5 Fancy Lane, Calcutta, asks me to send you the following which he thinks may interest you:—

“One of my Palanquin bearers1 has his hands divided like a cow’s foot. The middle fingers and metacarpal bones (that is the bone at the back of the hand) are entirely wanting & the hands are as I say divided right down the centre as far as the wrist bone. The man was of course born that way & the skin is perfect. There appears to be a small lump which may be a rudimentary middle finger inside the forefinger, but I should have thought that the rudimentary fin⁠⟨⁠gers⁠⟩⁠ (if any there be) would be found attached to the wrist bone. The man will be burned when he dies so there will be no chance of securing the hands for a museum but in the meantime I could get any examination made that Mr Darwin would like.”2

My brother’s commission must be my excuse for trespassing on your time, | And believe me to be, | Dear Sir, yours obdtly | J Innes Rogers

C. Darwin Esq F.RS. | Beckenham.


A palanquin is a covered conveyance carried on horizontal poles by multiple bearers (OED).
On the importance of cremation in Hindu burial practices, see Olson 2007, pp. 99–100. Cremation was legalized in England in 1885 (see Davies and Mates 2005, p. 137).


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Olson, Carl. 2007. The many colors of Hinduism: a thematic-historical introduction. New Brunswick, N.J., and London: Rutgers University Press.


His brother, George, reports from Calcutta a case of a man whose hands are divided like a cow’s foot.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Innes Rogers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Cannon St, 119
Source of text
DAR 176: 195
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10640,” accessed on 20 May 2024,

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