skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. H. Miller   22 [November 1839]

12 Upper Gower St

Friday 22d

Dear Miller

Pray read this note through, before you execrate me as a most troublesome fellow.

A friend of mine Lieut. Sulivan R.N. has lately surveyed the Falkland Islands.—1 He was there from Octob. 16th to March 12th. during these months a register of thermometer & barometer, (with remarks on winds & rain) was carefully kept, at midnight, 8 A.M., noon, and 8 P.M.— Lieut Sulivan is a careful observer, & accustomed to magnetical & astronomical observations. The Baro-meter was made by Newman2 & compared with that of Royal Soc.— Just after and before the obserations at the Falkland Isld. it was compared with a good one, which was on board the Admirals Ship at Rio de Janeiro, and the difference was found the same. Moreover in the interval this Barometer was compared with that of the Royal Soc. through the means of a French Mountain Barometer taken out by Mr Pentland3 for his Bolivian observations.— The Thermometer I neglected to inquire about, but it was made for the voyage, & was placed with great care so as to exclude radiation. I have urged Sulivan to publish these meteorological obserations,—as in many points they appear to me to possess great interest.— The situation of the Falkland Islands, is capital in lying so far South,—and there are many phenomena,—low descent of snow line,—extension of Tropical Fauna, (as I have shown in my Journal) which are very interesting in the S. Hemisphere.— Humboldts remarks on Capt. Kings barometrical observations in Tierra del Fuego4 show, I suppose, the interest of any fresh obserations in the same parallel of latitude.

The upshot of this is, should you like to publish anywhere you choose & reduce these observations.— Sulivan will be delighted if you will do so,—& otherwise, I fear they will be lost, for he says he does not understand enough of Metereology to undertake them.—

If you do not think them worth your while,5 —will you send me a few notes, stating what kind of means would be the most advantageous & I will try & stimulate him to work them out.— If you are willing,— pray send a list of queries about the manner of obseration which Sulivan shall answer fully.—

I hope & trust they will be thought worthy of your time.— Capt. Kings obserations at Port Famine in the heart of Tierra del Fuego, & some old Spanish thermometrical ones at the Falkland Isd—are, I believe, the only ones on record from so far South.— I presume it will be easy to find some means of forwarding Sulivan’s Journal to you at Cambridge.—

Excuse my troubling for the sake of science | & Believe me | Ever yours | Chas. Darwin

Sulivan would be willing to aid you, (should you so chose) in reducing the observations, but the great distance between Falmouth, & Cambridge, I should fear would throw much difficulty in the way of this—


Bartholomew James Sulivan commanded H.M.S. Arrow on a surveying expedition to the Falklands in 1838–9.
John Frederick Newman had constructed the Royal Society’s standard barometer (Goodison 1969, p. 313).
Joseph Barclay Pentland. In 1826–7 he and Woodbine Parish carried out an extensive survey of the Bolivian Andes.
King 1832. The paper includes barometric and temperature readings made at Port Famine from January to August 1828 (pp. 171–4).
Miller thought both Sulivan’s observations at the Falklands and FitzRoy’s observations at Cape Horn were unreliable because of the variable error in the instruments used (see Glaisher 1852, p. 279).


Glaisher, James. 1852. Lecture IX: Philosophical instruments and processes, as represented in the Great Exhibition. Lectures on the results of the exhibition delivered before the society of arts, manufacturers, and commerce etc. London.

Goodison, Nicholas. 1969. English barometers 1680–1860: a history of domestic barometers and their makers. London: Cassell.

King, Philip Parker. 1832. Some observations upon the geography of the southern extremity of South America, Tierra del Fuego, and the Strait of Magalhaens. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 1: 155–75.


Asks if WHM would be interested in the meteorological observations of the Falkland Islands made by B. J. Sulivan on a recent survey. Such observations are rare and appear to CD to have many points of interest.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Hallowes Miller
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 546,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2