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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hugh Browne   30 May 1868


30 May 1868


I am reading with much interest your instances of inherited peculiarities of the eye and in return I offer what I think is perhaps worth notice—1

My father (Mr Browne2 Coroner Nottingham) had till upwards of 50 the best sight I ever knew. He has seven children all of whom have remarkably good sight. The oddity is that he & his four sons including myself are color blind to the extent of inability to distinguish some shades of red from some shades of green.— We sons I think are worse than our father.— For instance my brother Walter (dentist) had a patient in his room who was struck with some red patches on a wall 50 yards or so off and among the green leaves of a wall tree.— They were clusters of red berries of a japonica but to Walter the whole appearance of the tree was green.

I try to distinguish by reasoning & it was this plan whose failure pointed out my defect very conspicuously for the first time.— At school was a dutch clock with a field painted on it.— I had some reason to mention its color & thinking that no one would be fool enough to paint it anything but green I called it green to the amusement of my companions to whom it was clearly a bright red.—

Walter, Michael & I are all good rifle shots & we all four quite excel in everything requiring correctness of sight not depending on color—

Strangely enough our sisters (three) have equally good sight as to form without the defect as to color.—

My youngest brother Arthur is not a good rifle shot only because he has never fired a rifle I believe, but if he join the Robin Hoods I have no doubt of his success.3

Yours obly | Hugh Browne | Solicitor

Charles Darwin Esq FRS | care of John Murray Esq | Albemarle Street

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Colour Blindness limited to male sex


CD discussed inherited peculiarities of the eye in Variation 2: 8–10; see also ibid., pp. 72–3.
Michael Browne.
The younger Michael Browne, Arthur Browne, and their three sisters have not been further identified. Browne refers to the Robin Hood Rifles, a volunteer rifle corps founded in Nottingham in 1859 (The Times, 18 July 1859, p. 12).


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


Is reading CD’s instances of inherited peculiarities of eye [Variation 2: 8–10]. Gives cases of colour-blindness of males in his family.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hugh Browne
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 329
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6216,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

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