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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Roderick Impey Murchison   19 August 1864

16, Belgrave Square.

Augst 19 1864

Dear Darwin,

Having heard that you are a supporter of my good friend Ramsay’s rock-excavating theory by ice,1 I send you my confession of faith by the book post, in the hope that you may see that there are more causes than one to account for the striation & wearing away of rocks.2

I expect next to hear that the Dead Sea cavity is not, as I believe it to be, a wondrous synclinal depression, but a hollow eroded by the glaciers of Lebanon & Damascus; & that the whole of the deep channel of the Jordan reaching to 1400 feet beneath the Mediterranean, has either been scooped out by ice or by the wretched stream of Biblical celebrity!!!3

I am very glad to hear that you are better.

I am only passing through Town; but if you should peradventure write me a line, any letter addressed here or still better to the Geological Survey office Jermyn St will soon find me4

Yours sincerely | Rodrk Murchison


Murchison 1864b. See letter from A. C. Ramsay, 18 August 1864 and n. 2. While allowing that glaciers played a role in the formation of mountain landscapes, Murchison argued that the scratching and polishing of large rock surfaces were principally caused by the wearing activity of stones embedded in floating icebergs during a period when much of the northern hemisphere was under water. According to Murchison, such wearing patterns could also be caused by marine currents, atmospheric agencies, and rocks and boulders swept along by strong torrents (see Murchison 1864a, pp. 236–40, and Murchison 1864b).
In a letter published in the Reader, 5 March 1864, pp. 301–3, Hugh Falconer challenged proponents of the glacial theory of rock-basins to explain the formation of the Dead Sea by glacial action.
The offices of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, of which Murchison was director, were in Jermyn Street, London.


Is sending CD an article which he hopes will make him see that there are more causes than ice to account for the structure and wearing away of rocks. [Possibly "On the relative powers of glaciers and floating ice-bergs in modifying the surface of the earth", Can. Nat. 2 (1865): 21–33.] [J. of R. Geog. Soc. London 34 (1864)]

Letter details

Letter no.
Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Belgrave Square, 16
Source of text
DAR 171: 320
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4596,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

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