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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Galton   9 January 1871

42 Rutland Gate SW

Jan 9/71

My dear Darwin

I had not the least doubt but that I could have sent you before now, definite results about my rabbits but I cannot;—you must have patience with me & wait yet longer.1 The cold has killed one litter to which I had looked forward & I have had a series of other mishaps not worth specifying, the result of which is that I have only one silver grey litter to go by—viz: that of which I told you, which included a yellow one, slaty grey on the belly, with some white on his tail. I should have thought this a great success but it may be pronounced a ‘yellow smut’. Another result is that I have built a good serviceable little house for the rabbits in my own back yard & have all the best of them under my own eye, now.2

The litter that died from the cold, looked very hopefully marked—but I think one cannot trust to, apparently, pied markings in very young silver greys.— I will write again as soon as I have definite results. & when the little yellow fellow is somewhat older, he is now 6 weeks, I will get opinions about him.

Very sincerely yours | Francis Galton

If you can easily lay your hands upon Gould’s anthropol: N. America I shd be grateful for it.3


Galton was testing CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis by transfusing the blood of one variety of rabbit into another and observing the colour of future offspring. See Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Francis Galton, 11 December 1869, and Galton 1871. According to CD’s hypothesis, each cell in an organism produces particles (gemmules) that are capable of generating new cells; the gemmules circulate throughout the organism until aggregated either by the reproductive organs or for the reconstruction of parts (Variation 2: 357–404). Galton evidently assumed that all gemmules circulated in the blood, and that transfusion of blood would therefore transfer hereditary information from the donor to the recipient. For accounts of the experiments, see also Pearson 1914–30, 2: 156–66, and Bulmer 2003, pp. 116–18.
Galton had been conducting his experiments at the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London (see Galton 1871, and Correspondence vol. 18, letter from Francis Galton, 31 March 1870 and nn. 5 and 6).
There is an annotated copy of B. A. Gould 1869 (Investigations in the military and anthropological statistics of American soldiers) in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 336–7).


Bulmer, Michael. 2003. Francis Galton: pioneer of heredity and biometry. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Galton, Francis. 1871. Experiments in pangenesis, by breeding from rabbits of a pure variety, into whose circulation blood taken from other varieties had previously been largely transfused. [Read 30 March 1871.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 19 (1870–1): 393–410.

Gould, Benjamin Apthorp. 1869. Investigations in the military and anthropological statistics of American soldiers. New York: Hurd & Houghton.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Pearson, Karl. 1914–30. The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton. 3 vols. in 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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


Definite results have been delayed, but he is optimistic.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Galton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Rutland Gate, 42
Source of text
DAR 105: A23–4
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7432,” accessed on 19 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19