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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Tegetmeier   8 [June 1858]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Sir

I am confined to sofa, so will you excuse my writing with pencil.— That is capital idea of fixing piece of wax & I will also try it; for I shd be so glad to get cylindrical excavation to measure carefully with micrometer.

I certainly shd be very glad to have the Box with beginning of cells, & I could return it you if you require such commenced cells.— I had been thinking of asking you to send me one of your Hives & let me know price (for I gave away your paper)2 & I cd repay you by P. order.— Would not the very Box with commenced cells do?— I do not care for its not being new— I enclose address— I must try & buy a swarm—

I do not know what L. B. has been at.—3

I am partly a disciple of Waterhouse, but not wholly.4 Perhaps I may see more yet to change my opinions. I hope you will publish on subject. I shall not for about 2 years, so I cd profit by any remarks of yours—5 A Bee’s cell with one side alone flat or angular wd be the most valuable datum for my mathematical notions.6

Very many thanks about the owl; sometime I shd be very glad of specimen.—7

With very many thanks | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin

I fear you will hardly read this.

P.S. | I have got some excavated hemispherical bases in artificial wax—hurrah! I thank you cordially for this capital suggestion.8


Dated by the relationship to the letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 5 June [1858] and 22 June [1858].
Probably a reference to Lord Brougham. Henry Peter Brougham had discussed the instincts of social insects and the cell-making habits of bees at great length in Brougham 1839. CD owned a copy of the work (Darwin Library–CUL) and recorded having read it in 1840 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 7a). He discussed Brougham 1839 in Natural selection, pp. 468 n. 2 and 513 n. 1. In May 1858, Brougham had read a paper at the Académie des sciences in Paris (Brougham 1858) in which he again stated his belief that the cell-making instincts of bees illustrated the marvellous operation of God’s design in nature. See also letter to W. H. Miller, [15 April 1858], and letter from E. A. Darwin, [19 June 1858].
In Origin, p. 225, CD stated: ‘I was led to investigate this subject by Mr. Waterhouse, who has shown that the form of the cell stands in close relation to the presence of adjoining cells; and the following view may, perhaps, be considered only as a modification of his theory.’ For CD’s ‘modification’ of George Robert Waterhouse’s theory, see letter to W. H. Miller, [15 April 1858], and Origin, pp. 225–8.
Tegetmeier delivered a paper on the construction of bees’ cells at the 1858 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Tegetmeier 1858b). A report of the paper was printed in the Athenæum, 16 October 1858, p. 492. CD’s copy of the report is in DAR 48 (ser. 2): 47.
In DAR 48 (ser. 2): 62, there is a note headed ‘Bees Cells (?)’ which reads in part: If I cd get Tegetmeiers 3 cells to see size of cylinder compared with Hexagon. & length of the one intermedial *wall is [above del ‘was’] (& so with Hornets cell of Mr W.) longer, than ordinary side of hexagon: it ought to be so.— ‘Mr W.’ refers to Waterhouse.
An account of this experiment, performed at Tegetmeier’s suggestion, is given in Origin, p. 228. Notes on his experiments, which involved giving bees variously shaped pieces of coloured wax and observing the stages in cell construction, are in DAR 48 (ser. 2): 23–31.


Brougham, Henry Peter. 1839. Dissertations on subjects of science connected with natural theology: being the concluding volumes of the new edition of Paley’s work. 2 vols. London: C. Knight.

Brougham, Henry Peter. 1858. Recherches analytiques et expérimentales sur les alvéoles des abeilles. Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences 46: 1024–9.

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

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Discusses bees’ cells. Wants hive and swarm; would be glad to have WBT’s box with commenced cells. "I am partly a disciple of Waterhouse, but not wholly."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2281,” accessed on 28 November 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7