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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Hugh Edwin Strickland   17 February [1842]

12 Upper Gower St

Feb. 17th

My dear Strickland

I am sorry I had not the pleasure of seeing you the other day, but I had been unwell the whole week.— I have read carefully your laws & suggestions1 & have been able to make only one or two unimportant notes.—2 As far as my judgment goes, the laws appear very well digested & clearly written.—

I am sorry Mr Gray3 does not approve of the scheme, as he is from his position influential:— I have sent the paper to Ogilby.—4 Are you acquainted with Waterhouse of the Zoolog. Soc.—5 I have a high opinion of his talents & would suggest to you, to let him read over your paper.—

Wishing you much success in the very desirable end, you have proposed. Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin.


CD refers to a printed draft of a committee report to the British Association on the subject of zoological nomenclature eventually published as Strickland et al. 1842. The committee, including both Strickland and CD, had been formally established by the Council of the British Association on 11 February (Strickland et al. 1842, pp. 105–6). The report generally rejected the practice of would-be reformers and insisted on the rule of priority. It was widely accepted as a standard by zoologists in most countries until the 1890s (Stresemann 1975, pp. 264–7).
CD has made comments on the draft. Against the sentence: ‘By emanating from a body [the British Association for the Advancement of Science] which has not improperly been termed the Parliament of Science … ’, CD has written ‘[illeg] will not foreigners demur.—’. Against the passage: ‘A name may be changed which, from implying a false proposition, is liable to propagate error’, CD has written ‘This appears to me left far too open—all comparatives & many superlatives, as minor, maximus may be changed, when a smaller or larger species is discovered: False geographical names, appear to me almost the only ones which should be changed. C Darwin’. Following this is written, ‘I quite agree with Darwin. L. Jenyns’.
Presumably John Edward Gray. Though not a member of the committee, Gray exercised great influence through his position as keeper of the zoological department of the British Museum.
William Ogilby, a committee member.
George Robert Waterhouse was later added to the committee along with several other zoologists.


Stresemann, Erwin. 1975. Ornithology: from Aristotle to the present. Translated by Hans J. and Cathleen Epstein. Edited by G. William Cottrell. With foreword and epilogue by Ernst Mayr. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press.


CD approves of HES’s "laws" [of nomenclature]. Regrets that [J. E.?] Gray does not approve of the scheme. CD has sent the paper to William Ogilby and suggests that HES send it to G. R. Waterhouse, of whom he has a high opinion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Hugh Edwin Strickland
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Museum of Zoology Archives, University of Cambridge (Strickland Papers)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 619,” accessed on 17 April 2021,

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