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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Bernhard Tegetmeier   1 February 1864

Muswell Hill | London | N

Feby 1. 1864.

My dear Sir.

I did not reply to the last letter,1 informing me of your illness as I know how much your time is engaged, and how desirable it is for all who work hard not to be troubled with needless correspondence.

I shall be glad, truly glad to hear you are much better

My object in writing now is to request you will, (if you can conveniently do so) let me have the small deal box of fowl skulls.—2 It is suggested that they would interest the members of the Ethnological Society,3 as shewing the extent to which variation in the form of the brain may exist without any corresponding variation in instincts or habits

If you can find the skulls I would gladly call for them as I am often near your house or they could be sent to me at the Gordon Hotel. Covent Garden4

The fertility of mongrels experiments are now in the second year of their progress5 and I shall have shortly some report to make to the Royal society on the subject.—6 As far as I see at present the mongrels promise to be as fertile as the pure breeds   My only cross bred pullet (silk and spanish fowl) is now laying having been associated with her own brother.7

Trusting to hear a good account of your health | Believe me | My dear Sir | Very sincerely Yours | W B Tegetmeier

C Darwin Esq


Tegetmeier probably refers to a letter that has not been found, and that was written after CD’s letter to Tegetmeier of 9 July [1863] (Correspondence vol. 11).
Tegetmeier sent the skulls to CD in April 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 22 March [1861] and 14 April [1861]) for CD’s study of osteological variations in poultry (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 February [1861]). CD’s published discussion of the skulls and illustrations of two of them are in Variation 1: 260–70 (see letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 January [1867] (Calendar no. 5347)).
No record of a presentation by Tegetmeier to the Ethnological Society of London has been found.
CD may have returned some of the skulls during 1864 (see letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, [before 21 December 1864], and Correspondence vol. 18, Supplement, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 2 February [1864]), but he did not return all of them until March 1867, evidently retaining some so that they could be drawn as illustrations for Variation (see letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 January [1867], and 5 March [1867] (Calendar nos. 5347 and 5431), and Variation 1: 265). The Gordon Hotel, 3 Piazzas, Covent Garden (Post Office London directory 1865) was probably a collection address.
On 1 December 1862, the council of the Royal Society of London resolved to grant Tegetmeier £10 for ‘experiments on the cross-breeding of pigeons’ (Royal Society, Council minutes, 1 December 1862). CD’s interest in Tegetmeier’s work resulted from his shifting views on the causes of cross and hybrid sterility, which prompted him to seek further experimental evidence, especially with regard to animals (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 [December 1862], and Appendix VI, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 19 February [1863]). Between 1863 and 1865, Tegetmeier carried out a series of crosses between pigeon varieties to test the fertility of their offspring (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 29 June – 7 July 1863; this volume, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, [before 21 December 1864]; and Correspondence vol. 13, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 March 1865).
There is no record in the Royal Society archives of Tegetmeier’s report. CD reported on Tegetmeier’s results, and on his own pigeon crosses, in Variation 1: 192; see also Origin, pp. 26–9.
CD had suggested that Tegetmeier cross two different breeds of fowl, ‘a Spanish Cock & a couple of white Silk hens’, to see if the offspring were sterile (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 27 [December 1862]). CD had made the crosses in 1859 and 1860 but was not confident of the results (see CD’s Experimental notebook (DAR 157a), pp. 41–2, 49–50, and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 19 February [1863] and n. 2). Tegetmeier reported on his experiments in his letter of 29 June – 7 July 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11), and in the letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, [before 21 December 1864] (this volume); see also Correspondence vol. 13, letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 13 March 1865. Tegetmeier mentioned his results in Tegetmeier 1867, p. 224. There is an unbound, annotated copy of Tegetmeier 1867, published in ten parts during 1866 and 1867, in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 800–3); part 10, published in October 1866, includes Tegetmeier’s account of breeding the silk hens and is annotated and indexed by CD. CD reported both his and Tegetmeier’s results in Variation 1: 239–43 and 249; see also Variation 2: 40, 67.


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

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

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Tegetmeier, William Bernhard. 1867. The poultry book: comprising the breeding and management of profitable and ornamental poultry, their qualities and characteristics; to which is added ‘The standard of excellence in exhibition birds’, authorized by the Poultry Club. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons.

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


Would like his fowl skulls back.

Breeding experiments seem to show mongrels are just as fertile as pure breeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Muswell Hill
Source of text
DAR 178: 61
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4761,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

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