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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Farr   21 May 1868

General Register Office | Somerset House

1868 May 21

C. Darwin Esq FRS &c &c

My dear Sir

We sent you a few days ago the Registrar General’s Report in which you will find a table showing the proportion of male & Female Births—in each county of England (p XII). This Table was inserted in consequence of your note.1

I have been reading your great work with much interest—& was struck particularly with the parts to which you refer.2

You will like to know that at our last statistical congress in Florence (1867)—in the 1st. section—on the census—this proposition—which I had the pleasure of supporting—was carried.3

5. “Il est recommandé d’introduire une colome (compte.-redu. du congrés interna. 1868. p 470) pour indiquer le degré de consanguinité entre le père et la mère d’une famille quelconque”.4 (in the Census Schedule)

In Florence they have begun to act on the proposition; & I observe that in their first monthly return of marriages—none are recorded as having taken place between cousins. I will send you any information I get.

I have always attached great importance to the question; and I need not say that your recommendation will give it importance in the eyes of other people who have been hithertoo indifferent.

I read the passage from your note—to a man connected with the flourishing obstetric Society & suggested it as a subject well worthy of research by that Society.5

The Royal Society6 might well devote a portion of its funds to inquiries of this kind: we want for instance a series of observations on the weight, height, strength of males & females at different ages—& in different parts of the Kingdom &c &c.

I am my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | W. Farr


The report has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL; CD’s note to Farr has also not been found. A table showing the number and proportion of male and female births in the counties of England, 1859–68, was published in the Thirty-first annual report of the registrar-general of births, deaths, and marriages in England (Abstracts of 1868), p. xii (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1870). This was the first time this information had been tabulated in the annual report. See also letters from William Farr, 17 February 1868 and 27 February 1868.
Farr refers to Variation. No letter from CD to Farr discussing Variation has been found.
The International Statistical Congress took place in Florence from 28 September to 6 October 1867 (The Times, 30 September 1867, p. 7, 7 October 1867, p. 7).
Farr refers to Compte rendu des travaux de la VIe session du Congrès international de statistique réuni à Florence les 29, 30 septembre, 1, 2, 3, 4 et 5 octobre 1867 (Florence: Barbèra, 1868). The French translates as: ‘The introduction of a column is recommended to indicate the degree of consanguinity between the father and mother of any family.’
The Obstetrical Society of London was founded in 1858 (Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London 1 (1859)). The man to whom Farr read CD’s note has not been identified.


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


Has sent the Registrar General’s Report which shows proportion of male to female births in every county.

Consanguineous marriages.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Farr
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
General Register Office
Source of text
DAR 164: 31
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6197,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16