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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Buckland to the Geological Society of London   9 March 1838

Report on Mr Darwyns Paper on the formation of Mould.

I consider the above paper & note appended to it, to be sound in all its views, excepting that which refers the origin of Chalk, to the digestive powers of animals that had fed on corallines

I should strongly recommend its publication in the Transactions as establishing a new & important theory to explain Phenomena of universal occurrence on the surface of the Earth—in fact a new Geological Power— Altho nearly the whole paper has been printed in the abstract of Proceedings I think the subject of sufficient importance to be printed in the Transactions, with a lithograph of the drawing annexed to it—1

I wd recommend that the Author be advised to withdraw the passage relating to the origin of Chalk—as introducing very disputable matter into a paper that is otherwise unexceptionable, & which if established, would be well deserving to form the Subject of a separate Communication2

Wm Buckland

March 9. 1838

I wd advise the author to be requested to add a Section of the 2 very decisive Cases mentioned in his appendix— they might all vy. well be contained in one quarto plate


CD had concluded the version of the paper that was read to the Society on 1 November 1837 with the statement that ‘a large portion of the chalk of Europe was produced from coral, by the digestive action of marine animals, in the same manner as mould has been prepared by the earth-worm on disintegrated rock’ (Collected papers 1: 53). Buckland’s suggestion was adopted. It did not, however, prevent CD from leaving his theory unchanged in Journal and remarks (p. 553). Lyell also incorporated it in his Elements (C. Lyell 1838, p. 321). The second edition of the Journal of researches (1845), however, reads: ‘this mud, which when wet strikingly resembled pounded chalk, was found by Professor [C. G.] Ehrenberg to be partly composed of siliceous-shielded infusoria’ (p. 465).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

‘Formation of mould’: On the formation of mould. [Read 1 November 1837.] Transactions of the Geological Society of London 2d ser. 5 (1840): 505–9. [Shorter publications, pp. 124–7.]

Journal and remarks: Journal and remarks. 1832–1836. By Charles Darwin. Vol. 3 of Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle’s circumnavigation of the globe. London: Henry Colburn. 1839. [Separately published as Journal of researches.]

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Lyell, Charles. 1838. Elements of geology. London: John Murray.


Recommends CD’s paper on "Formation of mould" [Collected papers 1: 49–53; read 1 Nov 1837] be printed in Transactions. Praises it as establishing a new "geological power".

Letter details

Letter no.
William Buckland
Geological Society of London
Sent from
Source of text
Geological Society of London (GSL/COM/P/4/2/47)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 404,” accessed on 31 January 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2