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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. L. Brunton   12 February 1882

50, Welbeck Street, | Cavendish Square. W.

Feby 12th. 1882

Dear Mr. Darwin

For a long time I have had nothing particular to tell you about the Science Defence or as it is now to be called Science Advancement Association.1 You may have thought it languishing but at last it is beginning to take form. The Presidents of the Colleges of Physicians & Surgeons have agreed to call a meeting at the College of Physicians & a preliminary meeting has been held in order to draw up a programme for discussion at the general meeting.2 There are two different opinions as to the constitution of the Association. The one is that it should be a very limited body of representative men, medical & non-medical not exceeding fifty in all. Such a body it is said would be better able to deal with the questions which arise & would have more influence with the Home Secretary than a large body.

My own view is entirely different. We ought I think to have an association embracing as members every medical man throughout the country if possible & as many others not of the medical profession as are interested in the progress of medicine. Let each pay a small subscription as I think he will take more interest in the association if he does so. The Association should be constituted very much on the plan of the British Association.3 There might be a general committee of selected men to aid in the work of the Association throughout the country & a small body of members to form a Council. The Council of the Association according to my scheme would fulfil the duties which the whole association of 50 members in the other scheme would perform.

It seems to me that if it is wished to found a Society for the advancement of Medicine corresponding in Character to the Royal Society the limited scheme is the best but for the foundation of an Association to diffuse a knowledge of the utility of experiment amongst people in general the wide scheme is best.

There will be another preliminary meeting very shortly to discuss this & I should be very greatly obliged if you would kindly say what you think of the two schemes   If you merely say whether you prefer the wide or narrow scheme it will be sufficient.

I enclose the draft of proposed resolutions.4 At the last preliminary meeting we only got over the first two. I have no other copy so I should like it again when you have finished with it. The next meeting will be on Wednesday week & I may be able to get another copy so there is no hurry for it.

I have been making observations on my baby but the only one of much interest is that it will not go to sleep without something in its hand.5 I find that other babies are the same so I suppose that it is inherited from an arboreal ancestor who could only go to sleep with safety when clinging to a branch. I need hardly say that if I can be of any service in the way of getting either books or information to aid your work I shall be only too happy.

Believe me yours very faithfully | T Lauder Brunton

Chas. Darwin Esq



1. That with the view of bringing the legitimate influence of the Medical Profession more effectively to bear on the promotion of those exact Researches in Physiology, Pathology and Therapeutics, which are essential to sound progress in the Healing Art, an Association be formed, to be called “The Association for the Advancement of Medicine by Research;” and that the co-operation of enlightened persons, not of the medical profession, be invited.

2. That the Association consist of representative members of the medical profession and of other persons desirous of promoting the above objects.

3. That the Presidents for the time being of the Royal College of Physicians of London and of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, be the permanent ex officio Presidents of the Association; and that each of them be requested to nominate annually eight Fellows of their respective Colleges and eight other persons, not necessarily members of the medical profession to be members of the Council of the Association, in addition to the following, who shall be ex officio members: viz.— The President for the time being, of the General Council of Medical Education and Registration, the Master of the Society of Apothecaries, of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in Scotland and Ireland, of the Medico-Chirurgical Society, Dublin, Edinburgh, & Glasgow? of the British Medical Association, of the Pathological Society, of the Medical Society cal Society, of the Epidemiological Society, of the Obstetrical Society, Society of Medical Officers of Health, Hunterian, Harveian, &c., &c. The Chairman of the Council and of the Parliamentary Bills Committee of the British Medical Association, the Regius Professors of Medicine and Surgery in &c., (this list to be subject to consideration in detail).

5. That the President for the time being of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and the President for the time being of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, shall be alternately, for the term of one year, ex officio, Chairman of the Council, and shall each, on entering upon such term, nominate a Vice-Chairman, such nominated Vice-Chairman to re-eligible. That the Council be authorised to invite the co-operation of corresponding members in the principal towns in the United Kingdom   The quorum of the Council shall be six.

4. That registered medical men who are desirous of promoting the above objects be eligible admitted as members of the Association on the nomination of an ordinary or corresponding member.

7. That the Council shall have the entire control of the business of the Association, and the entire management of any funds contributed for its general objects, or for any special purpose; and shall at their meeting in each year appoint a Secretary Treasurer, who shall be re-eligible.

8. That it shall be the principal duty of the Council, in every fitting way, to encourage original research by competent men, and to further the extension of Exact Scientific Knowledge in the fields of enquiry specified in Resolution I.

That with this object, the Council shall take note of, and carefully and judiciously strive to lessen or remove any hindrances which may appear to them to be operating adversely to the spread of medical knowledge, either as impediments merely passive, or as obstacles traceable to the ignorance or prejudice of the ill-informed.

That the working of the Act 39 & 40 Vict., cap. 77,6 shall engage the anxious and watchful attention of the Council, and may rightly become the ground of interpos⁠⟨⁠itio⁠⟩⁠n on their part, under certain circumstances.

9. That no steps of a public nature shall be taken by the Council, and no publication shall be issued by them, or under their authority, unless ordered at a meeting convened after due notice, at which twelve members at the least shall be present, and five-sixths of those present shall concur, the consent in writing of the President of the year being also requsite.

That no annual subscription be required, but that members of the Association are invited to give such aid as they may desire to the general purposes of the Association or towards special expenses incurred.7

10. That the above ten Resolutions shall constitute the Fundamental Rules of the Association, and shall not be liable to alteration, except by the written consent of three-fourths of the entire Council, after consideration at a meeting called for the specified object, on a fortnight’s notice,

CD annotations

3.3 for … best. 3.4] scored red crayon


CD had discussed the proposed Science Defence Association with Brunton when he was in London in December 1881 (see Correspondence vol. 29, letter to T. L. Brunton, 17 December 1881). The fund was to be established for the aid of physiologists who might face prosecution for practising vivisection. On the subscription fund, see British Medical Journal, 19 November 1881, p. 834. On CD’s earlier involvement in the vivisection debates, see Correspondence vol. 23, Appendix VI.
William Jenner was president of the Royal College of Physicians of England; Erasmus Wilson was president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
The British Association for the Advancement of Science had a wide membership; for the association’s rules , see, for example, Report of the 51st Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1881): xxv–xxxi.
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Research was formed in April and had its first meeting on 20 April 1882, one day after CD died (see Boddice 2021, pp. 39–40).
Brunton’s daughter, Elsie, was born on 12 August 1881 (Baptism register of St Thomas’s, Marylebone, London (London Metropolitan Archives p89/tms/003 p. 57)).
The Cruelty to Animals Act (An Act to amend the Law relating to Cruelty to Animals (39 & 40 Vict. c. 77)) was enacted on 15 August 1876.
CD’s contribution of £100 was recorded in the list of subscribers of the Association for the Advancement of Medical Research (see Boddice 2021, p. 40).


Boddice, Rob. 2021. Humane professions: the defence of experimental medicine, 1876–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Writes regarding the form which the proposed Science Defence Association should take and encloses a draft of proposed resolutions.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Lauder Brunton, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Welbeck St, 50
Source of text
DAR 160: 348–9
Physical description
ALS 7pp encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13679,” accessed on 21 February 2024,