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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Albert Günther   10 May 1872

British Museum



Dear Mr. Darwin

By the death of Mr. George Robert Gray, the post of Assistant-keeper in the Zoological Department has become vacant. This post is that of an “officer” of the establishment, next above the rank which I hold at present. Although I am entitled to claim promotion to this rank, I am prevented from doing so at once, until I have ascertained some rule of official etiquette, there being a senior in the same class of Assistants to which I belong (Mr. Fred. Smith).1 I shall obtain this information at the beginning of next week.

Of late, it has been the custom of candidates for this rank in the Museum, to obtain testimonials from 2 or 3 men not connected with the Museum, & to add them to the recommendation of one’s own superior chief; testimonials speaking to the candidate’s qualifications as a man of science and gentleman; and eventually, I would ask you and Sharpey for such a testimonial.2

Now my object in sending you this preliminary note, is to secure your to me invaluable assistance, if you think yourself justified in giving it to me; and also in informing you of the state of things, if you should hear, as, doubtless, you will, of the exertions of ornithologists to make Mr. Salvin the successor of the late Mr. Gray.3

My promotion would be one to a higher rank, & would not interfere with the appointment of a well qualified Ornithologist to an Assistantship in the Zoological Department. That is to say, I should claim that I should hold the same relative position to the newly elected ornithologist, which Mr. G. Gray occupied to myself.

I trust you will pardon my presumtion in making you the confidant of my individual anxieties

Yours very truly | A Günther


Frederick Smith was an entomologist in the zoology department of the British Museum (Entomologist 12 (1879): 89–92).
William Sharpey was professor of anatomy and physiology at University College, London (ODNB).
Osbert Salvin was a founder member of the British Ornithologists’ Union and editor of its journal, the Ibis; he did not have a position at the British Museum.


ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Wants CD’s support for his application for post of Assistant Keeper in Zoological Department of British Museum.

Death of G. R. Gray.

Letter details

Letter no.
Albrecht Carl Ludwig Gotthilf (Albert) Günther
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
British Museum
Source of text
DAR 165: 247
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8315,” accessed on 20 September 2020,

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