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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Andrew Crombie Ramsay   17 February 1862

Jermyn St

17 Feby 1862

My dear Sir

I have a paper coming on at the Geol: Soc: on Wednesday the 26th. which I will tell you the subject of, as it will interest you, though I do not expect you will be able to attend.1 I am going to prove (I believe) that all the lake basins of the Alps have been scooped out by glacier ice. After two re-examinations of the country, with Lyell I have come to the conclusion that the old glaciers did extend as far as the Jura on the North, & quite into the Plains of Lombardy & Piedmont on the South.2 The vast moraines of Ivrea &c completely prove the latter.

Further both in America & Europe the number of lakes (true rock basins) increase in number just in proportion as the country has been glaciated, & therefore I apply my theory to glaciated regions in the widest sense, showing, I conceive, that nothing but a solid such as ice could scoope out deep true rock-basins.

Of course I also allow special areas of subsidence, but these are not what I deal with. North of the St Lawrence you would require them every few miles & of all sizes from a few yards in diameter, which is I think impossible.

Ever truly | Andw C Ramsay


Ramsay’s paper, entitled ‘On the glacial origin of certain lakes in Switzerland, the Black Forest, Great Britain, Sweden, North America, and elsewhere’, was read to the Geological Society of London on 5 March 1862 (Ramsay 1862).
Both Charles Lyell and CD had formerly propounded the belief that the erratic boulders of the Jura were transported from the Alps in icebergs that floated across a vast submerged tract of Switzerland (see C. Lyell 1855, p. 151). After travelling in Switzerland to study glacial phenomena in the summer of 1857, Lyell decided that the erratics had been carried from the Alps to the Jura by glaciers extending across the intervening region (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 243–62). CD informed Ramsay of Lyell’s new opinion in the letter to A. C. Ramsay, 24 June [1859] (Correspondence vol. 7). See also Davies 1969, pp. 291–2, 310–11.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


In his paper for Geological Society ["Glacial origin of certain lakes", Q. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 18 (1862): 185–204] he will prove that all the lake-basins of the Alps were scooped out by glaciers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Jermyn St
Source of text
DAR 176: 8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3450,” accessed on 25 February 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10