skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Dwight Dana   4 December 1862

New Haven,

Dec. 4, 1862

My dear Mr Darwin:

A year and a half ago I partially completed a letter to you in reply to your kind words which greeted me soon after my arrival in the country.—1 I have been delaying ever since then against my inclination, with the hope of being able soon to report that I was in a condition to read your work.2 Many long months, and now, even years, have passed by, and still your book remains unopened. You see that I have been gaining and doing some work in the Geological Manual which I trust will have reached you before you have the reading of this note.3 But I have worked to great disadvantage, 1 to 3 hours a day and often none at all and thus, have gradually pushed through the labor to the end. I am now resuming my duties in the University.4 But one hours intercourse with the Students in the lecture room, is a day’s work for me. Thus you will yet pardon my seeming neglect of your work. In my geology, I had a chapter partly prepared on the question whether the origination of species was a subject within the range of Dynamical Geology,—taking sides, I confess, against you—: but I omitted it entirely because I could not study up the subject to the extent that was necessary to do it justice. I have however expressed an opinion on this point in the geology; and this you will excuse: for my pesuasions are so strong that I could not say less.—5 You will perhaps be the more interested in the work because of its American Character.—6

I have thus far had nothing to do, since the summer of 1859, with the editing of the Jour. Sci. although wholly charged with it before then. I hope soon to take hold again.7

I shall take great pleasure in hearing from you; and if a photograph of yourself could be added to your letter it would enhance greatly the pleasure.

Although so long silent, there is no failing of esteem and admiration on the part of your friend | James D. Dana

Charles Darwin Esq—


See Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Dana, 30 July [1860]. In 1859 Dana suffered a ‘serious nervous breakdown’ and travelled to Europe to convalesce; he never fully recovered, but was ultimately able to continue his work (DAB).
CD sent Dana a copy of Origin in 1859, and had been anxious to know his views on the subject, but expressed a wish that Dana should not read it until he was well enough to do so (see Correspondence vol. 7, letters to J. D. Dana, 11 November [1859] and 30 December [1859], and Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Dana, 30 July [1860]).
The preface of Dana’s Manual of geology was dated 1 November 1862 (Dana 1863, p. ix), and the work was included on the ‘List of New Books’ in the 1 December 1862 issue of the American Publishers’ Circular (American Publishers’ Circular 8 (1862): 131). However, the title-page bears the year ‘1863’, and the Manual of geology was apparently not published in Britain until January 1863 (Publishers’ Circular 26 (1863): 9). CD did not receive his copy of the book, which is now in the Darwin Library–Down, until February 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letters to J. D. Dana, 7 January [1863] and 20 February [1863], and letter from J. D. Dana, 5 February 1863).
Dana was Silliman Professor of geology at Yale University (DSB).
At the conclusion of his section on ‘historical geology’, Dana argued that, while it was right for science to seek for natural causes, geology suggested ‘no theory of natural forces’ that could account for the origination of species (Dana 1863, p. 602). Referring in particular to palaeontology, he continued: It has brought to light no facts sustaining a theory that derives species from others, either by a system of evolution, or by a system of variations of living individuals, and bears strongly against both hypotheses … Geology appears to bring us directly before the Creator … and leads to no other solution of the great problem of creation, whether of matter or of species of life, than this:— DEUS FECIT. On Dana’s changing views on evolution and natural selection, see Sanford 1965.
Dana 1863 was entitled Manual of geology: treating of the principles of the science with special reference to American geological history.
Dana had been one of the editors of the American Journal of Science and Arts since 1846 (DSB).


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

DAB: Dictionary of American biography. Under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies. 20 vols., index, and 10 supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Simon & Schuster Macmillan. London: Oxford University Press; Humphrey Milford. 1928–95.

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Sanford, William F., Jr. 1965. Dana and Darwinism. Journal of the History of Ideas 26: 531–46.


Illness has prevented his reading Origin. He has, however, expressed his [negative] opinion on the subject of mutability of species in his Manual of geology [1862]. Since his persuasions are so strong, he can do no less.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Dwight Dana
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New Haven
Source of text
Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Dana Family Papers (MS 164) Series 1, Box 2, folder 44)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3845,” accessed on 13 July 2024,

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