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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Horace Benge Dobell   15 July 1864

41, Harley Street, | Cavendish Square, W.

July 15. 1864.

My dear Sir

Has it ever occurred to you as indicative of Man’s original mode of progression that in walking or running the right arm is put forward when the right leg goes back & vice versa; a movement corresponding to that of the fore & hind legs of quadrupeds. And that this is not essential to the forward movement of the body is shown by the fact that the Cameleopard (giraffe) moves the two legs on the same side forward or backward simultaneously, & that ladies often do away with the movement of the arms common to men & children.

This suggestion may be stale or valueless, but as it occurs to me & I have not seen it mentioned any where I send it to you.

Another idea relative to your subjects has occurred to me in connection with the objections which have been raised, to the effect that no new species has yet been unequivocally traced to its origin.1

Has it occurred to you to answer this objection by referring to the origin of sur-names? Sur-names are things of comparatively recent origin, but so far as I know there is no unequivocal account of the origin of a pure sur-name   the old story of peirce-eye as the origin of Percy is disputed I believe, and such names as have additions of “son” “opp” & “Mac” to other names can, of course, only be considered as varieties.

I am not a genealogist & therefore may be quite ignorant on these points, & the course of my studies does not lead me to work them out,2 & that is the reason I send them to you as crude suggestions

I am my dear Sir | Yours truly | Horace Dobell

Chas Darwin Esq &c


For additional objections to CD’s theory, see especially Correspondence vol. 8, including Appendix VII. Dobell had linked CD’s theory of natural selection to his own hereditary theory of disease (see Dobell 1861, pp. 46–7, 169–70, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to H. B. Dobell, 16 February [1863]). CD had also corresponded with Dobell in 1863 on issues related to CD’s work on Variation (see Correspondence vol. 11).
Dobell, who studied respiratory diseases, was also engaged in the compilation of genealogical tables as part of his research on the hereditary transmission of diseases and deformities (see Dobell 1862 and 1866, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to H. B. Dobell, 21 April [1863], and letter from H. B. Dobell, 12 May 1863).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dobell, Horace. 1861. Lectures on the germs and vestiges of disease, and on the prevention of the invasion and fatality of disease by periodical examinations. London: John Churchill.

Dobell, Horace. 1862. A contribution to the natural history of hereditary transmission. [Read 25 November 1862.] Medico-Chirurgical Transactions 46: 25–8.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Suggests man’s original mode of walking and running is similar to that of quadrupeds.

He also suggests CD answer critics who say no new species has ever been unequivocally traced to its origins, by pointing out that there is no unequivocal account of the origin of surnames.

Letter details

Letter no.
Horace Benge Dobell
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Harley St, 41
Source of text
DAR 162: 190
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4568,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12