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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. C. Ramsay   19 October 1871

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Oct 19. 1871

My dear Mr Ramsay

Many thanks for the papers.1 I read them with great interest in the Journal; & was glad to find confirmed by good evidence what I had long imagined, viz the persistence of our continents where they now stand.2 I wish that you cd prove the truth of yr view about the red deposits; but I see that many dispute it.3

I thought over the many regions which I have casually inspected & cannot remember any formation like our New & Old Red sandstones; & this makes me think that there must be something very peculiar in their origin.4

With all good wishes, pray believe me | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


CD refers to Ramsay 1871a and 1871b; see letter from A. C. Ramsay, 18 October 1871 and n. 1.
CD had believed since the 1840s that the present geographical positions of the continents and oceans had remained relatively constant over geological history. This issue was of particular interest to CD because other naturalists, notably Edward Forbes, had raised the possibility that the distribution of animals and plants across the Pacific could be explained by a former continent between the Americas and Asia. CD had discussed this issue many times in his correspondence, particularly with Joseph Dalton Hooker and Charles Lyell. See, for example, Correspondence vol. 6, letter to Charles Lyell, 16 [June 1856], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 17–18 [June 1856].
Ramsay argued in the two papers he had sent to CD that deposits that derived their red colour from iron were unlikely to have been formed in the open ocean: ‘it seems impossible that an oxide of iron could be deposited from solution in an open sea in sufficient quantity to colour sediments red’ (Ramsay 1871a, p. 191).
CD had examined the New Red Sandstone near his father’s house in Shropshire as a young man, while the purpose of his 1831 geological field trip with Adam Sedgwick had been to examine purported deposits of Old Red Sandstone in North Wales. See Roberts 2001.


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

Roberts, Michael. 2001. Just before the Beagle: Charles Darwin’s geological fieldwork in Wales, summer 1831. Endeavour 25: 33–7.


Thanks ACR for papers.

Glad present situation of our continents has been confirmed.

Wishes ACR would prove his view of origin of Red Sandstones, which many dispute.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.9: 9 (EH 88205982)
Physical description
LS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8019,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

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