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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Price   2 April [1878]1

Down. | Beckenham Kent &c.

April 2nd.

My dear Price.

Your own excellent Memory makes you think others have an equally good one. I can only remember seeing the gemmules (or whatever they ought to be called) of Sponges, swimming about & afterwards affixing themselves; & I suppose the Locomotion was effected by Ciliæ, This, as you well know, was exclusively Grant’s discovery; but I saw first the gemmules of Flustra swimming about also no doubt by aid of ciliæ— I wish I could have aided you but I have never attended to cilia— Wonderful as the Phenomenon truly is.2

Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin.

Pray do not call me Dr Darwin, the title seems to me quite ridiculous.—3


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to John Price, 10 February [1878].
No letter from Price mentioning gemmules has been found. CD had observed ‘that the so-called ova of Flustra had the power of independent movement by means of cilia, & were in fact larvae’ at a meeting of the Plinian Society in 1827, when he was a student at Edinburgh University (‘Recollections’, p. 372). The cilia, or hair-like projections on cells, propel the cell forward by regular beating. Robert Edmond Grant, who studied corals and sponges, had been secretary of the Plinian Society; in 1825, he had discovered that the ova of sponges could move through the use of cilia (Grant 1825). CD and Price had become friends when they were pupils at the Royal Free Grammar School in Shrewsbury. Price was probably preparing the paper on ‘Ciliary movement’ that he presented to the Chester Society of Natural Science on 3 April 1879 (Annual Report of the Chester Society of Natural Science (1879): 11).
CD had been awarded an honorary doctorate (LLD) by Cambridge University in November 1877; Price had written to congratulate him on this honour (see letter to John Price, 10 February [1878]).


Grant, Robert Edmond. 1825. Dr Grant on the ova of the sponge. Edinburgh Philosophical Journal 13: 381–3.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.


On his discovery of ova of Flustra.

"Pray do not call me Dr Darwin."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Price
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 281
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11461,” accessed on 5 March 2021,