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Darwin Correspondence Project

To B. T. Lowne   3 June 1873


June 3—1873

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged for the present of your book, which I have read with uncommon interest.1 It strikes me as a remarkable work, & I hope it may get as wide a circulation as it deserves, for it will assuredly do much good.

The first, & philosophical portion has struck me much. You are a bold man to speak in favour of pangenesis, and some of your observations on this subject seem to me excellent: notwithstanding the many sneers to which it has been subjected, I have faith that some such doctrine will finally prevail.2 We differ on some points, as might have been expected. I cannot, for instance digest Paget’s and your view about excretion.3 On some other points on which we differ, I am quite ready to admit that I am probably wrong; & everything which you say well deserves consideration.

You please me greatly by the manner in which you have discussed some of my remarks, as these, as far as I know, have attracted the attention of no one else. I heartily hope that your book may be in every way successful & I remain with sincere thanks | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


CD’s annotated copy of Lowne’s Philosophy of evolution (Lowne 1873) is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 510–11).
Lowne discussed CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis (see Variation 2: 357–404) in relation to other recent work on generation; he concluded that pangenesis was ‘extremely probable’ because of its ability to explain many phenomena of reproduction, though it was as yet ‘incapable of proof’ (Lowne 1873, p. 60).
Lowne outlined a theory that had first been presented by James Paget regarding the growth and modification of bodily organs through nutrition and excretion (Lowne 1873, pp. 67–76). Paget had described how many of the materials that were expelled from the blood as waste were retained by the body and used to make other parts, such as bones, hair, and horns; so that each organ of the body, while it nourished itself, was ‘in the character of an excretion towards all the rest’ (J. Paget 1853, 1: 33). Lowne extended Paget’s view to plants, proposing a general ‘law of correlated nutrition’ that regulated development so as to ensure ‘the survival of the race’ (Lowne 1873, p. 76). CD’s heavily annotated copy of J. Paget 1853 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 658–61) and contains a sheet of notes headed ‘Pangenesis’.


Lowne, Benjamin Thompson. 1873. The philosophy of evolution. London: John Van Voorst.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Paget, James. 1853. Lectures on surgical pathology delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Comments on BTL’s book [The philosophy of evolution (1873)].

"You are a bold man to speak in favour of pangenesis."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Benjamin Thompson Lowne
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 57
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8934,” accessed on 25 February 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21