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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Galton   30 December [1872]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Dec 30th

My dear Galton

A young Mr. Balfour, a friend of my sons, is staying here.2 He is very clever & full of zeal for Nat. Hist.— He has been transplanting bits of skins between brown & white Rats, in relation to Pangenesis!3 He wants to try for several successive generations the same experiment with Rabbits.4 Hence he wants to know which colours breed truest. I have, of course, recommended Silver-greys.— What other colour breeds true? Can you tell me? I think white or albinoes had better be avoided. Do any grey breeds, of nearly the colour of the wild kind, breed true? Will you be so very kind as to let me hear.

I much enjoyed my short glimpse of you in London.5

Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Francis Maitland Balfour’s visit (see n. 2, below).
Balfour was a student of natural sciences at Cambridge, where Francis Darwin had also studied. According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Balfour arrived on 27 December 1872.
Galton had performed similar experiments with rats but had given up this line of research (see letter from Francis Galton, 1 February 1872 and n. 3).
Galton had done experiments in which he transfused blood between different coloured rabbits in order to test CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis (see letter from Francis Galton, 1 February 1872 and n. 4).
CD visited London from 17 to 22 or 23 December 1872 (‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


F. M. Balfour wants to experiment on Pangenesis. Asks FG to recommend coloured rabbits that breed true.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Galton
Sent from
Source of text
UCL Library Services, Special Collections (GALTON/1/1/9/5/7/13)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8697,” accessed on 12 April 2024,

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