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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Albert Günther   14 May 1872




My dear Sir

I have been so busy this morning, that I was obliged to defer my letter to you till I came home. The morning’s business commenced with Mr. Smith informing me, that being 66 years of age, he would not become a candidate.1 This act of Mr. Smith’s is all the more creditable, as it is entirely spontaneous. When I told Owen of it, he took off his cap in admiration of this act of unselfishness.2

On the other hand, I heard that Salvin was actually applying for the Assistant-keepership, and not for the charge of the ornitholog. collection only. I certainly did not think that he would attempt to deprive men of their reward for many years hard service; he might have been justified, if he had special qualifications for this post, which we old servants do not possess.3 But having known Mr. Salvin for many years, I could not say that his general zoological knowledge is superior to that of Mr. Smith or my own.

Dr. Gray asked me, then, this morning formally, to make my application to the Trustees.4 I shall have the cordial cooperation of Owen & Gray, & therefore, I am not afraid of the issue, if I can get those Testimonials I mentioned to you before.5 The Trustees will be informed of the work I have done in the Museum, by the official reports of my superiors; and those testimonials (which are always required in filling up an officer’s post) are required to show to the Trustees, that I am not merely a Specialist (which would disqualify me for the post), but that the merit which may be in my special work, is the consequence of a good general zoological education and knowledge. This is probably better known abroad, where I published a handbook of Zoology,6 & other papers on various subjects. Beside yourself & Sharpey, I intend to write to Kölliker, Troschel, van Beneden, Steenstrup and Reinhardt.7 I think your Testimonial will give the Trustees what they require.8

Tapaya is a synonym of Phrynosoma, and douglasii and cornutum are two species of the same genus.9 The proper spelling is

Phrynosoma (or Tapaya) douglasii

Phrynosoma cornutum

I will write again when my case enters into a new stage

Yours very sincerely | A Günther


See letter from Albert Günther, 10 May 1872. Günther refers to Frederick Smith.
Richard Owen was superintendent of the natural history departments of the British Museum, where Günther was applying for promotion to the post of assistant keeper in the zoological department.
Osbert Salvin was an ornithologist and entomologist, and did not have a position at the British Museum.
John Edward Gray was keeper of the zoological collections at the British Museum.
Günther refers to his Handbuch der medicinischen Zoologie (Günther 1858).
William Sharpey, Rudolf Albert von Kölliker, Franz Hermann Troschel, Edouard van Beneden, Japetus Steenstrup, and Johannes Theodor Reinhardt.


AG’s application for an appointment to Assistant Keeper at the British Museum.

Letter details

Letter no.
Albrecht Carl Ludwig Gotthilf (Albert) Günther
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 249
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8329,” accessed on 24 September 2020,

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