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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin   [before 8 June 1858]1

Dear Charles.

To make sure that I now understand look at my diagram.2 The two diagram A, F in the hexagon the section of the Dodec.

Call CB radius of sphere (r) & CF radius of ⊙ in which the hexagon is inscribed r′, then

r′ : r :: .8165 : 1
in the bees hexagon r′ = 0inch.125 or ⅛ inch
.:.   r = r′ .8165 = .125 .8165 = 0inch.153
r−r′ = 0inch.028 distance sought.
The distance from center to obtuse ∠
= r .866 = 0in.153 ×.866 = 0in.1325
distance to ob: ∠ of Dodec = 0.1325
r′ = distance to ∠ of Heg = 0.1250
Difference = 0.0075
or ¾ of 1100 inch.

Make no scruple of asking any number of explanations, as it is very little trouble to me, & saves you bother.3

Yours E D


CB = R = 1 diagram
CC’= R 2 = 1.414
EF = 12 FG = side of hexagon
EF = EC × tang 30o = EC × 13
EC = 22
2EF = FG = 23 = .8165

CD annotations

crossed pencil; ‘Unimportant’added pencil
Bottom of first page: ‘0.028 0.056 0.25 0.306 = diameter of sphere’; ‘sphere rather more than 120 inch larger than hexagon’ pencil . Enclosure: ‘or one side of hexagon = radius’; ‘One side of Hexagon in circle equals radius of circle.’ pencil \note5
Erasmus says Dodecahedron diameter is radius 2. In Wasps nest, hexagon = radius of sphere (on hexagonal theory) & saucer up to lower part of festoon will equal half radius.— from angle to angle of hexagon of course = twice radius. [therefore sign] saucer 14 of diameter of hexagon.—


Dated by the relationship to the following letter.
See enclosure.
CD was eager to revise his calculations relating to the construction of bees’ cells (see letter to W. E. Darwin, [26 May 1858]). Erasmus Alvey Darwin had helped him in the past with geometrical problems (see letter from E. A. Darwin, [May–June 1858], and Correspondence vol. 3, letter from E. A. Darwin, [May 1844 – 1 October 1846]).
The enclosure is in DAR 48 (ser. 2): 46 in association with CD’s notes on bees’ cells.
The note is in DAR 162: 48/2.


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


Gives calculations on the structure of bees’ cells.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 48b
Physical description
ALS 2pp †, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2278,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7