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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Thierry Preyer   [before 21 March 1869]1

Charles Darwin

His father’s father Dr. Erasmus Darwin, author of


His mother’s father Josiah Wedgwood2

His father, born when? Dr. Robert Darwin,3 Physician,

where? died when? died 1848 at Shrewsbury.

Brothers and sisters of Four sisters and one brother

Mr. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin born where? At Shrewsbury

" " " when? Feb. 12. 1809.

(day, month & year)

Education at home, where?

how long?—

At school At Shrewsbury School

where? how long? for 7 years.

Influence of parents

" " tutors

" " circumstances

Holidays spent where? at home? At home

Health, vigour Good health

University. Which Universities? Edinburgh 1825 for two years,

Studies begin when? Lectures heard. thence to Cambridge where he took

his degree in 1831.

Names of University (at

Cambridge, Edinburgh &c) Professors

of influence The Revd. Professor Henslow;4

the Professor of Botany had great

influence in deciding my taste

for natural science.

Favourite university studies His education only really began

when he went on board the Beagle.

University studies end when?

Examinations; B.A when? where? 1831 at Cambridge

M.A. " " I forget date (1837?)5

The Voyage round the World,

Dec. 27. 1831–Oct. 2. 1836 Published 18396

How he came to be naturalist Captain Fitzroy7 offered to give

of the expedition up part of his cabin to any

naturalist who would accompany

H.M.S. Beagle in her surveying

voyage and circum-navigation.

Mr. D. volunteered his services

without salary, but on condition

that he8

Wollaston Medal was awarded

me by the Geological Soc.y.

of London.

(b) F.L.S. when?

(c) F. Geol. S. when? M.A.—F.G.S.—F.L.S.—

F.R.S.E.—Acadd, Reg. Sci. Berol.

et Holm.—

Soc. Reg. Sci. Upsal.—

Acad. Cœs. Nat. Cur. Dresd.—

Soc. Sci. Nesc.— et

Acad. Nat. Sci. Philad. Soc.


Also St. Petersburgh, Edinburgh

and Dublin and I believe

some others, but I have no list.9

Additional biographical notes From my earliest youth I was

fond of collecting all sorts of

specimens and observing habits

of wild animals. I was an

ardent sportsman and this

made me very idle. At Edinburgh

though I had the opportunity

I neglected from foolish disgust

to study anatomy, and I have

regretted this all my life. I

observed at Edinburgh the

lower marine animals. At

Cambridge I collected Coleoptera

energetically and dabbled a

little in Geology; but I studied

no subject scientifically; only for

amusement. I never worked till I

joined the Beagle and then I worked

with all my heart.


At Edinburgh Dr. Grant,10

now Professor at the London

University, led me to collect

and observe the lower marine



The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. T. Preyer, 21 March 1869, and by Preyer’s statement that the questionnaire was completed by CD early in 1869 when he was 60 (Preyer 1896, p. 148). A German translation of this letter is reproduced in Preyer 1896, pp. 143–6. Preyer’s sketch of CD’s life was published in Ausland, 2 April 1870.
Josiah Wedgwood I.
Robert Waring Darwin.
John Stevens Henslow.
CD did receive his MA in 1837 (Alum. Cantab.).
The reference is to Journal of researches.
Robert FitzRoy. For more on the circumstances leading to FitzRoy’s request for a companion on the Beagle voyage, see Browne 1995, pp. 145–9.
The text breaks off at this point in the copy, but probably continued, ‘retain complete freedom in the disposition of his collections’.
For a complete list of CD’s society memberships, see Freeman 1978, pp. 107–10.
Robert Edmond Grant.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin. Voyaging. Volume I of a biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Preyer, William Thierry. 1896. Darwin. Sein leben und wirken. Berlin: E. Hofmann.


Replies to inquiries about his life and career.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Thierry (William) Preyer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 262–5
Physical description
4pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6540,” accessed on 16 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17