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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. G. Semper   21 January [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan. 2[1]

My dear Sir

Some years ago I read an Essay by you controverting my views on Coral Formations.2 I believe that I made an abstract at the time, but have mislaid it, & consequently I cannot remember its title or anything about it.— I am now preparing a new Edit. of my Book on Coral Reefs,3 & am bound, as an honest man, to say that you dispute my views— Will you, therefore, be so very kind as to give me the title and date of your essay […] And, if it would not be asking too great a favour, can you tell me what was your chief objection to my views, which have been accepted by several persons who have studied coral reefs.


The year and date are established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from C. G. Semper, 25 January 1874.
In a report on a trip to the Pelew islands (now Palau; Semper 1863, pp. 565–6), Semper had argued against CD’s view, expressed in the conclusion of Coral reefs, p. 147, that barrier reefs and atolls were the result of subsidence while fringing (coastal) reefs were the result of upheaval.
See letter to Smith, Elder & Co, 8 January 1874.


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

Semper, Carl. 1863. Reisebericht. Briefliche Mittheilung an A. Kölliker. Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Zoologie 13: 558–69.


Asks for information about the title and date of Semper’s essay disputing CD’s theory of coral reefs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Carl Gottfried Semper
Sent from
Source of text
Christie’s (dealers) (8 June 2005)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9252G,” accessed on 15 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22