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Darwin Correspondence Project

To S. P. Woodward1   6 May 18542

A letter from Darwin to S. P. Woodward, of the British Museum, best known as the author of the “Manual of the Mollusca.”3 In this letter Darwin expresses his inability to accept the view (Carpenter’s, 1844) that the Hippuritidæ are in any way a connecting link between the Oysters and the Barnacles.4


The letter has not been found. The text given here is taken from a guide to the British Museum (Natural History) Darwin exhibition of 1909.
The date as given in a later edition of the exhibition catalogue, British Museum (Natural History) 1910, p. 10.
Woodward 1851–6. An annotated copy of the work is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
William Benjamin Carpenter had suggested, on the basis of microscopic examinations of the structure of shells, that the Hippuritidae were intermediate between Conchifera and Cirripedia (Carpenter 1843, pp. 389–90; CD’s copy of Carpenter 1843 is in the Darwin Library–CUL). Woodward considered the Hippuritidae to be ‘the most problematic of all fossils’ and described previous interpretations of the group: Christian Leopold von Buch had regarded them as corals; Johannes Japetus Smith Steenstrup as annelids; Alcide Charles Victor Dessalines d’Orbigny as brachiopods; and Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet de Lamarck and others as a group intermediate between other known families of bivalves (Woodward 1851–6, 2: 280 and n.). Woodward classified Hippuritidae as a family of the class Conchifera and believed that their peculiar form was a result of fossilisation processes.


British Museum (Natural History). 1910. Memorials of Charles Darwin: a collection of manuscripts, portraits, medals, books and natural history specimens to commemorate the centenary of his birth and the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The origin of species. Special guide no. 4. 2d edition. London: British Museum. [Facsimile reprint. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series 14 (1988): 235–98.]

Carpenter, William Benjamin. 1843. General results of microscopic inquiries into the minute structure of the skeletons of Mollusca, Crustacea and Echinodermata. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 12: 377–90.

Woodward, Samuel Pickworth. 1851–6. A manual of the Mollusca; or, a rudimentary treatise of recent and fossil shells. 3 pts. London. [Vols. 6,8,9]


CD expresses his inability to accept the view that the Hippuritidae are in any way a connecting link between the oysters and the barnacles.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Samuel Pickworth Woodward
Sent from
Source of text
Natural History Museum, Library and Archives (1909: 9)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1570,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5