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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   17 [August 1878]1



My dear G.—

I send a note which you can forward to Mr Paul. & so save you all trouble: Also what he wants & which I hope will do, for I do not know what else I can do.—2 I cannot tell you how I & your mother rejoice that your mathematical troubles are come to an end.3 It sounds like a miracle that you shd. unconsciously followed the right course in so awfully complex an affair. I shd. as soon have expected that a man shd have composed a sonata by a fluke—

Please send another card or note with your address, for I gave that received this morning to your mother, & it disappeared for ever like a flash of lightning!!!4

I am tired so no more.— I wonder whether I could solve a mathematical problem unconsciously.—

Yours | C. D.


The month and year are established by the address. The Darwins visited Barlaston, Staffordshire, the home of Emma Darwin’s brother Frank Wedgwood and his family, from 15 to 22 August 1878 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
CD’s note to Mr Paul has not been found; Mr Paul has not been identified.
George evidently described his mathematical success in a letter that CD forwarded to Francis and that is now missing (see letter to Francis Darwin, [17 August 1878]). George’s mathematical troubles probably related to his work on the precession of a viscous spheroid and its relation to determining the age of the earth. George presented his preliminary results to the Dublin meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science on 20 August 1878 (G. H. Darwin 1878c). His more detailed paper on the topic was later communicated to the Royal Society of London and was published in full in 1879 (G. H. Darwin 1878d).
George evidently sent a postcard with his address in Dublin during the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from 14 to 21 August 1878.


He and Emma rejoice that GHD’s mathematical troubles are at an end. It is miraculous that he unconsciously followed the right course – like composing a sonata by a fluke.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 73
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11663,” accessed on 18 April 2021,