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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Busk   12 March [1871]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

March 12th

My dear Busk

I thank you cordially. It has been really most kind in you to take so much trouble to explain to me my error.2 It is a dreadful, inexcusable blunder, & dearly bought experience shows me how often I blunder. With respect to part of my blunder, viz in confounding the two foramina, Rolleston wrote about a fortnight ago to me pointing it out, so that I have corrected this in the latter 2000 copies, but I could not even notice it in the Errata in the first & larger lot of copies.3

I thought the supra-condyloid foramen was present in the anthropomorpous apes, & I have found the cause of my error. Mivart says it “is only present in the Anthropoidea, in Cebus &c &c, & in almost all the Lemuroidea”.— Now I forgot the sense in which he uses Anthropoidea, & translated it in my own mind as the apes nearest allied to man.4 In this case it would, I think, have been a fair inference that the foramen had been occasionally retained or had reappeared by reversion in man. I do not see that this in any way depends on the functional importance of the foramen on natural selection, anymore that the occasional reappearance, for instance, of leg-stripes in the ass.

With respect to the other foramen, which Huxley thought I might call the inter-condyloid,5 & to which you allude in your paper Mivart speaks of it as present in Troglodytes & Simia & sometimes in Hylobates, & man & some other monkeys.6

So that it appears that the remarks made in my book are fairly applicable in this case. About the Supra-condyloid foramen, I must either strike out the whole passage in any future Edition or qualify it very strongly as the foramen seems very doubtfully related to the structure of Man’s progenitors.7

Towards the close of this coming week the new Reprint or new Edit (I do not know which it is be called) will be out, containing a few corrections. Do you possess my book & do you care to have a copy of the Reprint—8 It would give me pleasure to send you one.—

Accept my cordial & sincere thanks | Yours very truly | Ch. Darwin

If you care to have a copy send me a card.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from George Busk, 10 March 1871.
See letter from George Rolleston, 22 February 1871 and n. 3. The correction appeared in the second printing of Descent.
St George Jackson Mivart’s suborder Anthropoidea included the families Hominidae, Simidae, Cebidae, and Hapalidae. In the second printing of Descent 1: 28, CD added a footnote referring to Mivart 1867a, p. 310, where the quoted sentence appears.
CD did use Thomas Henry Huxley’s terminology in the second printing.
See Mivart 1867a, p. 310. For Mivart, the genus name Troglodytes referred to the chimpanzee (now Pan troglodytes). Simia included most other apes. Hylobates is the genus of gibbons.
CD altered the section further in Descent 2d ed., p. 21.
Busk’s name does not appear on CD’s presentation list for Descent.


Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Discusses his blunder in "confounding the two foramina" [in the skull] of apes [in Descent].

Discusses views of George Rolleston, St George Mivart, and Huxley on the occurrence of the foramina.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Busk
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.387)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7574,” accessed on 8 June 2023,

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