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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 April [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

April 8th

My dear Hooker

I have been particularly glad to get your splendid eloge of Lindley.2 His name had been lately passing through my head & I had hoped that Miers would have proposed him for the Royal medal.3 But I most entirely agree that the Copley is more appropriate; & I daresay he would not have valued the Royal.—4 From skimming through many Botanical works & from often consulting the Vegetable Kingdom,5 (I had ignorant as I am), formed the highest opinion of his claims as a Botanist.

If Sharpey will stick up strong for him, we shd. have some chance;6 but the Natural Sciences are but feebly represented in the Council.7 Sir P. Egerton, I daresay, would be strong for him.—8 You know Bell is out.—9 Now my only doubt is, & I hope that you will consider this, is, that the Natural Sciences being weak on Council, & (I fancy) the most powerful man on council, Col. S.10 being strong against Lindley, whether we shd. have any chance of succeeding, it would be so easy to name some eminent man, whose name would be well known to all the Physicists. Would Lindley hear of, & dislike being proposed for Copley & not succeeding?11 Would it not be better on this view to propose him for Royal? Do think of this.— Moreover if Lindley is not proposed for Royal, I fear both Royal medals would go Physcicists; for I, for one, shd. not like to propose another zoologist, though Hancock wd. be a very good man.12 & I fancy there would be feeling against medals to two Botanists.—13 But for whatever Lindley is proposed, I will do my best.— We will talk this over here.—14

Your’s ever | C. Darwin

P.S. | Has Falconer appeared in world yet;15 if so & you know his address, I wish you would let me have it.— If I do not hear I shall understand you do not know.—

I have written the following in answer to Mrs Hooker’s note to my wife.—

Our carriage & a Fly shall be ready at 12o. 15’ at Croydon on the 22d.: I am vexed to see that you must go to Vauxhall & wait so long there; I had fancied as a matter of course that you could have stopped at Wimbledon, Croydon is same distance as Sydenham St. from us. viz 912 or 10 miles.—

It is very good of your coming for really it is an awful task.16 A Railway is actually making to Beckenham, which will save 2 miles.17

Do bring some work with you so as not to cut your visit very short.—

Mr & Mrs. Huxley come on Saturday 26th & return on 28th.—


Dated by the reference to Hooker’s forthcoming visit to Down House (see n. 16, below).
Hooker had apparently written to CD in support of John Lindley as a candidate for the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London. CD was vice-president and a member of the council of the society.
John Miers, engineer and botanist, was also a member of the Royal Society council in 1856. In 1855, he had seconded Thomas Bell’s nomination of Lindley for a Royal Medal. The medal, however, had been awarded to John Obadiah Westwood.
The Copley Medal was considered to be ‘the highest scientific distinction’ that the Royal Society had to bestow. The two Royal Medals awarded each year were, on the other hand, given for what were deemed to be ‘the two most important contributions to … Natural Knowledge’ published within the preceding ten years (Royal Society of London 1940, pp. 112, 116–17).
William Sharpey was one of the secretaries of the Royal Society.
The naturalists on the council in 1856 were, apart from CD, John Miers (see n. 3, above), William Benjamin Carpenter, and Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton. There were also two medical members of council: Neil Arnott and Benjamin Collins Brodie. The full list is given in Athenæum, 1 December 1855, p. 1403.
See n. 7, above.
Thomas Bell, secretary of the Royal Society from 1848 to 1853, had been a member of council in 1854 and 1855.
Edward Sabine, as treasurer of the Royal Society, was ‘Senior Vice-President de facto although not de jure’ (Hall 1984, p. 132).
Lindley had twice been an unsuccessful candidate for a Royal Medal. As well as being nominated by Miers in 1855 (see n. 3, above), he had been proposed by Hooker in 1853 (Correspondence vol. 5, letter from J. D. Hooker, [4 November 1853]), and letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 November [1853]).
CD had first discussed the possibility of a Royal Medal for Albany Hancock in Correspondence vol. 5, letter to T. H. Huxley, 31 March [1855]. Hancock was awarded the Royal Medal in 1858.
Since 1853, one of the two Royal Medals awarded annually went to an author of a work in the physical sciences and the other to an author in the biological sciences. There was, moreover, an attempt within the latter category, to alternate between zoology and botany. CD apparently felt that the council would be reluctant to award both the Copley Medal and one of the Royal Medals to botanists in the same year. In the end, both the Copley and a Royal Medal were awarded to zoologists (see n. 14, below).
Lindley was not proposed for either medal. Rather, Carpenter proposed, and CD seconded, the nomination of Henri Milne-Edwards for the Copley Medal, which he received in November 1856. CD successfully nominated, seconded by Sabine, John Richardson, a zoologist, for the Royal Medal (see letter to Edward Sabine, 23 April [1856]). Lindley received a Royal Medal in 1857 (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 2 June 1857 and 5 June [1857], and Royal Society council minutes).
Hugh Falconer had retired from the Indian civil service in the spring of 1855. Upon arriving in England, he immediately began work on his study of the vertebrate fossils from the Siwalik Hills, for which he visited ‘almost every museum in Western Europe’ (DNB).
Hooker and his wife visited Down from 22 to 28 April 1856 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
The Mid-Kent Railway was completed in 1858. The Beckenham junction was completed on 1 January 1857 (see letter to W. D. Fox, 8 February [1857]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Hall, Marie Boas. 1984. All scientists now: the Royal Society in the nineteenth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lindley, John. 1846b. The vegetable kingdom. London: the author.


Mustering support at Royal Society Council for John Lindley’s Copley Medal. CD thinks Albany Hancock deserves a Royal Medal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 160
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1851,” accessed on 20 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6