skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. H. Flower   18 February 1872


18th. day of Feb 1872

My dear Mr. Darwin

I ran down here yesterday for a little change from too much dissecting work that I have been going through for my course of lectures just begun, and fortunately your kind present of the new edition just came as I was starting so I brought it with me, and have read some of the new parts especially chapter VII with great interest.1 I have certainly some of my difficulties removed by it. Your comparison of the duck’s bills and the whalebone is very striking.2 I must try and get more information about the horny tubercles and on the palate of the Hyperoodon3 Eschricht has verified the original observation of Baussard on the subject, but a new and detailed description is a desideratum.4

This edition of the work is particularly welcome to me, as I do not possess either of the last two. If it is not presumptuous I should like to make a suggestion but perhaps it is one that you have considered and decided against; but it is that foot notes giving the reference to the work of the authors cited would be a great help. When I find a mention of Bronn or of Broca5 saying so and so, I want to know where and when they said it, and to know the context and general bearings of their remarks, and so I fancy would many others. If this would be much trouble, perhaps you could get Dallas6 or some one to do it for you in another edition—or as I said before, perhaps you have good reasons against it— so please do not trouble to answer this remark—

I return to town this evening

Believe me | yours very truly | W. H. Flower


Flower’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Origin 6th ed. (see Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix IV). Chapter 7 was ‘Miscellaneous objections to the theory of natural selection’. Flower’s six lectures, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in February and March 1872, were on the comparative anatomy of mammalian digestive organs. The lectures were published in the Medical Times and Gazette (1872): 215–19, 291–4, 335–7, 392–4, 451–3, 507–9, 561–4, 621–2, 678–80.
See Origin 6th ed., pp. 183–5 (see also letter from Roland Trimen, 13 April 1872, n. 4).
Flower had proposed that ziphioid whales (beaked whales of the family Ziphiidae) could be naturally arranged on the basis of the formation of their skull and teeth (Flower 1871a). Flower also discussed Hyperoodon in his article ‘On the ziphioid whales’, which appeared in Nature, 7 December 1871 (Flower 1871b).
Daniel Frederik Eschricht described small tooth-like projections in the upper jaw and palate of Hyperoodon rostratus, confirming an observation by Monsieur Baussard, who has not been further identified (Eschricht 1845 and Baussard 1789).


Baussard, Monsieur. 1789. Mémoire sur deux Cétacées échoués vers Honfleur, le 19 septembre 1788. Observations sur la physique, sur l’histoire naturelle et sur les arts 34: 201–6.

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

Eschricht, Daniel Frederik. 1845. Undersögelser over Hvalyrene. 4. Om Næbhvalen. Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs naturvidenskabelige og mathematiske Afhandlinger 11: 321–78.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Thanks for new [6th] edition of Origin, which he read with great interest. Would welcome an edition with references to works cited.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Henry Flower
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 140
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8219,” accessed on 8 December 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20