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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   24 February [1882]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

Feb. 24th

My dear George

I sent last week’s Nature to you thinking that you wd like to see Dr. Newberrys paper, & I cannot but think that he is right.2 In todays Nature there is a letter by Mr. Callaway & a 2d letter (who has done good work on Pre Cambrian formations) against Newberry; but it seems to me that he quite underrates the effect of gigantic tides rushing over low land. Mr Callaway like other geologists seems to read very carelessly, as he brings forward as his own new view the greater force of the old wind-currents.3 It is wonderful what interest your work has excited. The Archbishop of Canterbury & a lot of other such men have persuaded a number of scientific, more or less religious, men to write a series of articles in the Contemporary Rw. on what is absolutely known & what is theoretical in Science (they applied to me & I refused) & I see it announced that Ball will write on the evolution of the earth, Plants &c.—4

We have had a very nice visit from Ida & Horace of 8 days & William & Sara were here for 2 days, but I was unfortunately bad during those days.5 Ida was very sweet & is a first-rate mother.—6 Horace is full of ideas about new things to make & today Stokes wrote for his address to arrange a meeting with him at the Standard Office. Horace is going to various places in London to see calculating machines & to ascertain what kind of results are most wanted.7

You will see the newspapers even in Jamaica, so it is no use telling you anything about public events; but Parliament seems to me going to the dogs as quickly as it can, & I almost wish that Gladstone would resign.— I would not, however on any account say this to the Litchfields.8 I hope very much before long to receive a letter from you, telling us that you are moderately well.—

Your affectionate Father | C. Darwin

There is an interesting Lecture by Schuster on mathematics in todays Nature.9

We will send Nature to you


The year is established by the reference to the articles in Nature (see n. 2, below).
John Strong Newberry’s article ‘Hypothetical high tides’ was published in Nature, 16 February 1882, pp. 357–8. In it, Newberry considered what effect tidal forces would have had if they were once so great as George’s theory of the moon’s origin predicted. Newberry concluded that the geological record showed no evidence of such extreme tides. For George’s recent work on the the viscous state of the earth and tides, see, for example, G. H. Darwin 1880 and G. H. Darwin 1881a. George had recently written an article in Nature qualifying his earlier estimates of ancient tides (see letter from J. W. Judd, 8 January 1882 and n. 1). In a letter from Emma Darwin to G. H. Darwin, 20 February 1882 (DAR 210.3: 40), Emma added a message from CD, ‘Newbury the author of the first article in Nature is trustworthy man, & what he says about the nature of the most ancient sediments quite agrees with my impression’.
Two letters countering Newberry’s conclusions were published in Nature, 23 February 1882, p. 385. The first, from Charles Callaway, distinguished different types of tides and their varying effects, while the second, from Abraham Hale, pointed out that in more confined waters, such as the Mediterranean, tides were hardly perceptible.
Archibald Campbell Tait was the archbishop of Canterbury. In November 1881, a conference had been held at the archbishop’s residence, Lambeth Palace, and a committee was set up to promote the expression of religious views among men of science. One of the aims was to present a series of articles ‘to consider how far the theories in each science without any reference to Christianity rest on fully proved & verified laws & how far on hypotheses’ (see Correspondence vol. 29, letter from W. R. Browne, [20–2] November [1881]). The announcement regarding Robert Stawell Ball’s forthcoming article has not been identified, but his article ‘Boundaries of astronomy’, about the ‘line which divides the truths which have been established in astronomy from those parts … hypothetical’, appeared in the Contemporary Review, June 1882 (Ball 1882, p. 923). The July 1882 issue featured an article by Balfour Stewart, ‘On the conservation and dissipation of energy’ (Stewart 1882), which concluded that the law of conservation of energy could only be considered a hypothesis. Further articles appeared later (see, for example, Condor 1882 and Romanes 1882b).
Ida and Horace Darwin visited Down from 8 to 21 February 1882; William Erasmus and Sara Darwin visited from 17 to 20 February 1882 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Ida and Horace’s first child, Erasmus Darwin (1881–1915), was born on 7 December 1881 (Freeman 1978).
George Gabriel Stokes was a member of the committee appointed by the Royal Society of London in 1882 at the request of the Board of Trade to advise on improving the existing means of the comparison of standards of length at the Standard Office. Horace’s company, the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, was asked to investigate the subject of temperature regulators, and to consider the general design of a comparing apparatus (see H. Darwin 1886).
George had travelled to Jamaica for a five-week tour (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 2 February [1882] and n. 3, and letter to Anthony Rich, 4 February 1882 and n. 10).
Arthur Schuster’s lecture, ‘The influence of mathematics on the progress of physics’, was published in Nature, 23 February 1882, pp. 397–401.


Ball, Robert Stawell. 1882. The boundaries of astronomy. Contemporary Review 41: 923–41.

Condor, Eustace R. 1882. Natural selection and natural theology. Contemporary Review 42: 400–12.

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

Darwin, George Howard. 1880. On the analytical expressions which give the history of a fluid planet of small viscosity, attended by a single satellite. [Read 18 March 1880.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 30 (1879–80): 255–78.

Darwin, George Howard. 1881a. On the tidal friction of a planet attended by several satellites, and on the evolution of the solar system. [Read 20 January 1881.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 172: 491–535.

Darwin, Horace. 1886. An improved form of temperature regulator. Nature, 22 April 1886, pp. 596–7.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Romanes, George John. 1882b. Natural selection and natural theology. A reply. Contemporary Review 42: 536–43.

Stewart, Balfour. 1882. On the conservation and dissipation of energy. Contemporary Review 42: 33–45.


Has sent last week’s Nature wth J. S. Newberry’s paper ["Hypothetical high tides", Nature 25 (1882): 357–8]. CD thinks Newberry is right. This week’s issue has a letter against Newberry by Charles Callaway ["Letters to the editor: hypothetical high tides", Nature 25 (1882): 385].

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a series by scientists in the Contemporary Review on what is known and what is theoretical in science. [The series appears to have begun with an article by Robert S. Ball, "The boundaries of astronomy", 41 (1882): 923–41]. CD was asked to participate, but refused.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 114
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13704,” accessed on 4 June 2023,