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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Pole   3 July 1868

Athenæum Club | SW

3 July 1868.


I notice in several parts of your work on the Variation of Animals &c you speak of instances of Colour Blindness in women.1

I wrote a paper on this subject in the Phil. Trans (1860 I think)2 and had read all I could find at that time, & conferred with everybody who had gone into it carefully—and my impression was that, no case had been authenticated of a woman being really colour blind—

Possibly cases may have since been found: Could you oblige me by giving me a reference to any good & trustworthy records of any such cases?3

I must apologise for asking you this, as a perfect stranger; but it is in the desire to clear up a curious point in science,

Very sinly yours | Wm. Pole | F.R.S.

Chas Darwin Esqr | MA FRS



See Variation 2: 72–3.
Pole refers to his paper on colour blindness in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (Pole 1859). There is a copy of the volume containing this paper in the Darwin Library–CUL, but the pages of this paper are not cut.
CD’s reply to this letter has not been found; he did not alter the passage in question in the second edition of Variation (Variation 2: 48–9).


Pole, William. 1859. On colour-blindness. [Read 7 April 1859.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 149: 323–39.

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


In Variation CD mentions colour-blindness in women. WP does not believe there are any proven cases.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Pole
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Athenaeum Club
Source of text
DAR 174: 56
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6266,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

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