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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   9 December [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

Dec 9th

My dear Huxley

I am infinitely obliged for your note with Siebolds most wonderful facts, which stretch one’s faith to the utmost in that admirable observer.—2 Males always coming from unimpregnated eggs beats everything one ever heard!—3 I will send your letter to Lubbock.—4 Now that I hear of vitality of spermatozoa, I begin to think a few must have got into the ovarium of Ld. Moreton’s Mare.—5 But incidentally I am extremely curious about hybridising of Bees; for as you speak about “pure races”; it seems to imply that there are varieties of the Domestic Bee, about which I feel an especial interest; for Bees offer in one respect by far my greatest theoretical difficulty.6

I am delighted to hear of your work on Crustacea, on the gland of antennæ.7 The conviction of an author, who has published goes for nothing; but from the many specimens which I have dissected, I cannot get it out of my head that the cement receptacle, as called by me, is continuous with & opens into the ovarian tubes; but that at the earliest age, before the ovarian tubes are developed, the cement-duct leads to those glands, which I formerly called the “true ovaria”.8 Before you publish I do so wish you could get a good specimen of Otion (= Conchoderma aurita) for in this the cement receptacles are visible within the sack,9 on the sides low down & you could easily dissect the connection between cement-receptacle, & the ovarian tubes.— This would alone convince me of my error.10

I shall not be at Club,11 for my wife has just been confined of our sixth Boy! Adios, I thank you heartily for your letter.

Ever yours | C. Darwin

Many thanks for your Lectures, which seem to me most valuable12

Sometime when you can spare Siebold’s Book for 2 or 3 weeks (for I am slow at German) I shd. very much like to borrow it— Will it not be translated?13

By Jove I can hardly believe it— Oh if neuters were agamic offspring, what a load it wd. remove from me.—

If ever you stumble on reference to Hicks on Sexual organ in Flustra, let me have it.14


Dated by CD’s reference to the birth of Charles Waring Darwin on 6 December 1856 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
Huxley spoke about Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold’s Wahre Parthenogenesis bei Schmetterlingen und Bienen (Siebold 1856) at a meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society on 11 December 1856 (Bonney 1919, p. 134). He called attention to Siebold’s strong evidence to show that the females of certain Pychidae [Psychidae] and of Bombyx mori produce fertile ova without previous fecundation, and with the former the process may be repeated for several generations. With the bees, not only can the unimpregnated queen-bee lay fertile eggs, but she also appears to fertilize, after impregnation, only those ova which are laid in neuter or female cells, those laid in drone cells remaining unfertilized. CD’s annotated copy of the English translation of Siebold’s book (Siebold 1857) is in the Darwin Library–CUL. He discussed this work in Natural selection, p. 365.
CD cited the fact ‘that in the Queen Hive Bee it is exclusively the unimpregnated eggs which produce males’ in Natural selection, p. 365 n. 3.
John Lubbock was preparing a paper on the parthenogenesis of Daphnia (see letter to John Lubbock, 27 October [1856]).
For CD’s discussion of the varieties of the common hive-bee, see Natural selection, p. 372 n. 5. The difficulties posed by neuters and sterile forms among social insects are discussed at length in Natural selection, pp. 364–8.
Huxley’s lectures were published in the Medical Times & Gazette beginning in May 1856 (T. H. Huxley 1856–7). In the fourth part of the tenth lecture, published in April 1857 and treating the internal anatomy of Astacus, Huxley discussed the antennae and the secreting glands connected to these, which he related to glands found by CD in cirripedes. In T. H. Huxley 1856–7, 14: 354, Huxley stated that: the similarity in the position, structure, and contents of the antennary “gland” in the decapods with those of the “gut-formed organ,” described as the “true ovary” by Mr. Darwin, in the Cirripedes, leaves no doubt on my mind that they are homologous organs, and that the sac is the homologue of the “cement duct” in the Cirripedes.
In Living Cirripedia (1851) and (1854), CD had advanced these observations to support his view that the ovarian system of cirripedes had been transformed to fulfil the new function of cementing the organism to a substrate (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix II, pp. 397–9). CD had previously asked Huxley to investigate this point independently (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to T. H. Huxley, 29 [September 1855]).
This species was singled out by CD because his observations had convinced him that it clearly displayed the cementing gland as a part of a modified ovarian tube (Living Cirripedia (1851): 34). Conchoderma aurita is a misspelling of C. auritum.
Huxley devoted part of his twelfth lecture to the Cirripedia, and there he discussed this matter. Huxley confirmed CD’s observation that the gut-formed glands were part of a continuous organ with the cement ducts and the peduncular tubules. But he differed with CD over the interpretation of the functions of the glands and tubules, believing that the latter and not the former were the ‘true ovaria’ (T. H. Huxley 1856–7, 15: 239). CD’s (and Huxley’s) error was later pointed out by August David Krohn in Krohn 1859.
See n. 2, above.
The most recent part of T. H. Huxley 1856–7, the second part of lecture nine, had appeared on 29 November 1856.
Siebold 1856 was translated by William Sweetland Dallas (Siebold 1857). CD read the translation early in 1857.
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 8 July [1856], in which Thomas Hincks’s work on Polyzoa was mentioned.


Bonney, T. G. 1919. Annals of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society written from its minute books. London: Macmillan.

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

Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1856–7. Lectures on general natural history. Medical Times & Gazette n.s. 12: 429–32, 481–4, 507–11, 563–7, 618–23; 13: 27–30, 131–4, 157–60, 278–81, 383–6, 462–3, 537–8, 586–8, 635–9; 14: 133–5, 181–3, 255-7, 353–5, 505–8, 638–40; 15: 159–62, 186–9, 238–41, 467-71.

Krohn, August David. 1859. Beobachtungen über den Cementapparat und die weiblichen Zeugungsorgane einiger Cirripedien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 25 (pt 1): 355–64.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Siebold, Karl Theodor Ernst von. 1856. Wahre Parthenogenesis bei Schmetterlingen und Bienen. Ein Beitrag zur Fortpflanzungsgeschichte der Thiere. Leipzig. [Vols. 7,8]

Siebold, Karl Theodor Ernst von. 1857. On a true parthenogenesis in moths and bees; a contribution to the history of reproduction in animals. Translated by William S. Dallas. London: John van Voorst.


Grateful for Siebold’s wonderful facts [C. T. E. von Siebold, On a true parthenogenesis in moths and bees (1856), trans. by W. S. Dallas (1857)].

Vitality of spermatozoa.

Hybridisation of bees. Bees are in one respect his greatest theoretical difficulty.

CD still convinced about the relation of cement receptacles and ovarian tubes [in Crustacea].

Birth of C. W. Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 42, 374)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2017,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

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