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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Edward Sabine   23 April [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

Ap. 23d

My dear Colonel Sabine

As I probably shall not get to the speech of you today, I write to ask you what you think of Sir John Richardson, which occurred to Hooker (who is staying here) & myself whilst considering the Royal medals.— It strikes us a most appropriate award considering the high merit of the Fauna Boreali-Americana & of his late work on Fishes.2 Several of his later works, as the Zoology of the Voyage of the Herald come within the 10 years.3 His whole career will, also, tell forcibly.—

Forgive me for suggesting, that if you would propose him, I shd. be proud to second him.—4

As I shall be soon off the Council, & as you take much interest in Royal Soc. permit me just to mention a few other names, which after much consideration, seem to me eminently well qualified for the Royal medal: viz (according to Hooker, & even what little I know) Bentham,5 Prestwich for his admirable Tertiary Geology6 —& Albany Hancock for Zoology;7 with respect to latter, Huxley was inclined to think that he had higher claims than Westwood.—8 By the way from remarks made by foreigners, I am quite easy that the award to Westwood was a sound one:9 I got frightened about it at one time & vowed to myself that I never would interfere again, & now I want to do so only indirectly.

Your’s very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Dated by the reference to Joseph Dalton Hooker being at Down House. Hooker and his wife were guests together with Thomas Henry Huxley and his wife and Thomas Vernon Wollaston (Emma Darwin’s diary and letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 April [1856]).
J. Richardson 1852. The Royal Medal was awarded to authors for works published within the preceding ten years.
In the event, CD nominated John Richardson and Sabine seconded the nomination (Royal Society council minutes). Richardson was awarded a Royal Medal at the annual meeting of the Royal Society, 1 December 1856, for ‘his contributions to Natural History and Physical Geography’. CD was the author of the announcement of the award, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 8 (1856–7): 257–8.
George Bentham was awarded the Royal Medal in 1859. He was elected FRS in 1862.
Joseph Prestwich was recognised as an expert on the Tertiary geology of Britain through his papers on the Coalbrookdale coalfield in Shropshire (Prestwich 1840) and his work on the stratigraphy of the beds underlying London (Prestwich 1854). He received the Royal Medal in 1865.
Albany Hancock was awarded the Royal Medal in 1857. For CD’s earlier suggestion of Hancock’s name, see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 April [1856].
See Correspondence vol. 5, letters to T. H. Huxley, 31 March [1855] and 18 April [1855]. John Obadiah Westwood had been awarded the Royal Medal in 1855, having been nominated by CD and seconded by Huxley.
See letter to H. T. Stainton, 13 April [1856]. In his 12 April 1856 editorial in the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer, Henry Tibbats Stainton had stated that an eminent German entomologist remarked ‘that by giving the Royal Medal to Mr. Westwood the honour had been conferred on the [Royal] Society’, implying that London scientific circles had been slower to recognise the value of Westwood’s work than had some Europeans ([Stainton] 1856, p. 9).


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

Richardson, John. 1829–37. Fauna Boreali-Americana; or, the zoology of the northern parts of British America. Assisted by William Swainson and William Kirby. 4 vols. London and Norwich: John Murray; Richard Bentley; J. Fletcher.

Richardson, John. 1852. Eskimos, their geographical distribution. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 52 (1851–2): 322–3.

[Stainton, Henry Tibbats]. 1856. Why did Mr Westwood get the Royal Medal? Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer, 12 April 1856, pp. 9–10.


CD and Hooker suggest Sir John Richardson for Royal Medal. Other suggestions are George Bentham, Joseph Prestwich, Albany Hancock.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Edward Sabine
Sent from
Source of text
The Royal Society (Sa: 387)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1858,” accessed on 19 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6