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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Bentham   7 August 1878

25, Wilton Place. | S.W.

Aug 7/78

My dear Mr Darwin

I see by the Times that the French Academy of Sciences has at last elected you a Corresponding Member1 I do not write to congratulate you because you have only now got what had been so long your due and they have not yet placed you where you ought to have been long since in the higher rank of their Foreign Associates but yet I cannot help rejoicing that the irresistible strength of your theories has prevailed over the violent perhaps rather national than religious prejudices which have hitherto opposed their progress in France. They felt galled that you an Englishman by the sound basis upon which you had founded your conclusions should have succeeded where all the speculations of their own Lamarck had failed and the Académie gladly availed themselves of the exclamation attributed to Quatrefages Comment voulez vous que nous choisisions un homme qui dit que nous sommes descendus des singes!2 and without enquiring whether you ever said any such thing they at once voted against you— Perhaps also they felt hurt at the prevailing idea that we believed that they inherited too much of the characteristics of these their supposed ancestors. However they seem now to have come to their senses and the only nation where (since the death of Agassiz)3 really scientific naturalists opposed themselves to your views has now succumbed and I cannot help congratulating you on what may more fairly be called their universal adoption

Yours very sincerely | George Bentham


A brief notice of CD’s election by the Académie des sciences appeared in The Times, 7 August 1878, p. 5. See letter from J.-B. Dumas and Joseph Bertrand, 5 August 1878.
The most detailed exposition of the transmutation theory of Jean Baptiste de Lamarck is in his Philosophie zoologique (Lamarck 1809). Armand de Quatrefages had supported CD’s earlier nominations to the Académie des sciences (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 18, letter from Armand de Quatrefages, 30 March 1870). It is unlikely that the quotation, which translates as ‘How would you like it if we chose a man who says that we are descended from apes’, originated with Quatrefages.
Louis Agassiz had died in 1873. On his opposition to CD’s theory of descent, see Correspondence vols. 8 and 11 and Dupree 1959, pp. 216–32.


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

Dupree, Anderson Hunter. 1959. Asa Gray, 1810–1888. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste-Pierre-Antoine. 1809. Philosophie zoologique; ou exposition des considérations relatives à l’histoire naturelle des animaux; à la diversité de leur organisation … et les autres l’intelligence de ceux qui en sont doués. 2 vols. Paris: Dentu; the author.


CD’s election to the French Academy delights GB. Nationalistic prejudices have at last been overcome; congratulates him on what is now universal adoption of his views.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Bentham
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Wilton Place, 25
Source of text
DAR 160: 170
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11642,” accessed on 20 April 2021,