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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Ogle   13 April [1871]

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Ap 13th.

My dear Dr. Ogle

I must tell you a little fact about the platysma. I made one of my sons try to shudder, & the platysma didnt act at all. The next morning he was standing quite undressed with his hand accidentally on the lower part of the throat & he shivered from cold. He then suddenly felt the platysma contract, & he said it felt just as if his hand was on another person’s body.

Mr. J. Wood, who has attended so closely to the muscular system, has written to me (making I believe the 5th. communication) about my blunder in calling the platysma involuntary; & he incidentally says he has seen it contracting during vomiting & screaming, & under rage & disgust; also during a shudder.1 I have begged him to observe whether it acts under extreme fear. In answer, he says he does not believe it does then act but will observe.2

Thus by your & his kind aid I think I shall get a pretty full history of the action of this abominable muscle.3

yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


CD refers to John Wood, and his letter of 11 April 1871. For other communications on the platysma myoides, see the letter to P. B. Mason, 24 March [1871], the letter from Hubert Airy, 3 April 1871, and the letter from John Wood, 6 April 1871. CD called motion of the platysma purely involuntary in Descent 1: 19 (first and second printings).
CD’s letter to Wood has not been found, but Wood replied in his letter of 11 April 1871.
For CD’s correspondence with Ogle about the platysma myoides, see Correspondence vol. 18, letters to William Ogle, 9 November 1870, 17 November [1870], and 17 December [1870], and letter from William Ogle, [10–17 November 1870], and this volume, letter to William Ogle, 25 March [1871].


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Reports further observations on contraction of platysma. Has been assisted by J. Wood. [See Expression, pp. 302, 303.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Ogle
Sent from
AP 13 71
Source of text
DAR 261.5: 11 (EH 88205909)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7679,” accessed on 31 March 2020,

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