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Darwin Correspondence Project

To [A. J. Woodhouse?]   25 January [1867?]1

Down. | Bromley.| Kent. S.E.

Jan. 25th

My dear Sir

Will you have the kindness to excuse me begging a favour of you.— I am anxious to know whether any peculiarities of any kind in the milk-teeth of man are inherited. Have you ever had a case of a child with some peculiarity & on enquiry have heard that the father or mother had same peculiarity in the milk-teeth when a child. A very old practioner would have the best chance of observing this. Would you object at the next meeting of the Dental institution asking any old & accurate practioner.—2 Mr Bell3 told me he had seen plenty of cases of inheritance of character in second teeth, & he thought he had seen cases in milk-teeth, but could not advance positive cases. I believe that your kindness will lead you to aid me if in your power.—

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Out of idle curiosity I will ask one other question; on average or occasionally are canine teeth larger in Man, than in woman? Everything goes by gradation & therefore I shd expect some trace of this from relationship of man to the Gorilla & Coy.—4


The correspondent is conjectured from the content of the letter. Woodhouse was the Darwin family dentist and an active member of the Odontological society of Great Britain (see n. 2, below). The date is conjectured from the headed notepaper, which is of a type used by CD from May 1861 until April 1869, and from the relationship between this letter and the letter to Edward Blyth, 23 February [1867] (Correspondence vol. 15).
The Odontological Society of Great Britain met once a month; Woodhouse was a member of the council of the society from 1867 to 1879, vice president from 1877 to 1879, and president in 1880 (Transactions of the Odontological Society of Great Britain n.s. 23 (1891): 24).
Thomas Bell.
See Correspondence vol. 15, letter to Edward Blyth, 23 February [1867]. CD had asked Blyth about differences in the size of canine teeth in sexes of the Carnivora. In Descent 1: 156, CD mentioned differences in canine teeth in male and female apes, but did not discuss canine teeth in humans in this context.


Two queries on teeth: 1. Is there evidence of inherited peculiarities in milk teeth?

2. Are male incisors longer than female?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred James Woodhouse
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.11: 14 (EH 88206066)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13645,” accessed on 6 March 2021,

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