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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. H. Flower   25 February 1878

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Feb. 25. 1878

Dear Flower,

I received the enclosed letter some time ago & the case seems so curious that I asked the writer to send me a wing from one of the offspring, which is herewith enclosed.1 Please to read the letter, & I hope that you will think it worth while to have the bones cleaned & look at them yourself. Until Brown Séquards statements, I could hardly believe that mutilations were ever inherited but now every additional case seems to me worth recording2 Will you be so kind as to send me a few words briefly describing the state of the bones & if there is anything remarkable I would send your account with an extract from Mr Blair’s letter to ‘Nature’.3 Or what would be better, for you to do it yourself, that is if you think it worth while. I do not want the specimen returned.

Believe me, yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | If you do not write to Nature please return me the letter, otherwise I do not want it again


The letter from Reuben Almond Blair has not been found, but it concerned the apparent inheritance of the effects of injury to a goose (see Correspondence vol. 25, letter to R. A. Blair, 27 December 1877).
Charles Édouard Brown-Séquard had induced epileptic convulsions in guinea pigs by means of surgical operations; he claimed that the epileptic tendency was transmitted to offspring (Brown-Séquard 1860); see also Variation 2: 24. CD cited Brown-Séquard’s updated summary of his results (Brown-Séquard 1875) in Variation 2d ed. 1: 468–70.
For Flower’s description of the bones, see the letter from W. H. Flower, 12 April 1878. No account appeared in Nature.


Brown-Séquard, Charles Édouard. 1860. Hereditary transmission of an epileptiform affection accidentally produced. [Read 2 February 1860.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 10 (1859–60): 297–8.

Brown-Séquard, Charles Édouard. 1875. On the hereditary transmission of the effects of certain injuries to the nervous system. Lancet, 2 January 1875, pp. 6–7.

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.


Encloses letter from R. A. Blair concerning goose with abnormal wing. Hopes WHF will look at bones.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Henry Flower
Sent from
Source of text
John Innes Foundation Historical Collections
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11375,” accessed on 22 September 2023,