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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hugh Falconer   3 November 186[4]1

3 Novr. 186⁠⟨⁠4⁠⟩⁠ | 912 p.m.


My dear Darwin

My most hearty congratulations to yourself, Mrs Darwin & all to whom you are dear at Down. The Council R.S have awarded to you the Copley Medal, and never was it better bestowed.2 Council just up.

Your friends—including myself did not fail to stand up for “the Origin of Specs”—as establishing a strong claim.3

Don’t charge me with inconsistency—or fancy for a moment that I am a ⁠⟨⁠conv⁠⟩⁠ert!4 I think the work has rare—very rare merits—voila tout!

With kind regards to Mrs. Darwin

Yours Ever affecly | H. Falconer

Majority of 12: rest combd had 65

P.S. I returned last night from Spain via France.6 On Monday I was at Dijon where—while in the Museum—M. Brullé Professor of Zoology,7 asked me what was my frank opinion of Charles Darwins Doctrine? He told me in despair, that he could not get his pupils to listen to any thing from him except à la Darwin! The poor man, could not comprehend it—and was still unconvinced—but that all young Frenchmen would hear or believe nothing else.8

H. F.


The year is established by the reference to the Copley Medal (see n. 2, below).
Falconer was a member of the Council of the Royal Society of London, which voted on 3 November 1864 to award the Copley Medal to CD (Royal Society, Council minutes).
Darwin’s friends on the Council included Falconer, George Busk, and Joseph Dalton Hooker (Royal Society, Council minutes, 3 November 1864). Busk had nominated CD for the medal; Falconer had seconded the nomination (ibid., 23 June 1864). In his letter to William Sharpey of 25 October 1864, Falconer included Origin among the grounds on which CD deserved the medal. When the award of the medal was announced at the 30 November meeting of the Royal Society, however, Edward Sabine’s presidential address said that Origin was not among the publications considered as grounds for the award (see Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix IV). See letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1864, letter from T. H. Huxley to J. D. Hooker, 3 December 1864, and Appendix IV for the ensuing controversy over Sabine’s remarks.
In his 1863 article on fossil elephants, Falconer had argued that the palaeontological record showed a greater persistence of characters over long periods of time than was consistent with CD’s theory of natural selection (see Falconer 1863, pp. 77–81). Falconer concluded the discussion, however, by praising CD’s ‘admirable researches and earnest writings’, which had ‘given an impulse to the philosophical investigation of the most backward and obscure branch of the Biological Sciences’ (ibid., p. 80). See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863].
Twenty council members were present at the 3 November meeting; one member, Philip Henry Stanhope, was absent (Royal Society, Council minutes). Only the formal resolution to make the award to CD and the result of the balloting were recorded. For a list of the council members voting, see the letter from Charles Lyell, 4 November 1864, n. 3.
Falconer and Busk had travelled to Spain in September to investigate fossils in the caves at Gibraltar (see letter from Hugh Falconer to William Sharpey, 25 October 1864 and n. 2, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 26[–8] October 1864 and n. 23).
The reference is to Gaspard Auguste Brullé, professor of entomology and comparative anatomy at Dijon University (DBF). CD had read Brullé’s essay on embryological homologies (Brullé 1844) in 1846 or 1847, when he was beginning his work on barnacles (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix II, and Correspondence vol. 6, letter to T. H. Huxley, 5 July [1857], and letter from T. H. Huxley, 7 July 1857).
On the reception of CD’s work in France, see Stebbins 1974, Corsi and Weindling 1985, Tort 1996, and J. Harvey 1997a.


Brullé, Gaspard Auguste. 1844. Recherches sur les transformations des appendices dans les articulés. Annales des Sciences Naturelles. Zoologie 3d ser. 2: 271–374.

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

DBF: Dictionnaire de biographie Française. Under the direction of J. Balteau et al. 21 vols. and 4 fascicules of vol. 22 (A–Leyris d’Esponchès) to date. Paris: Librairie Letouzey & Ané. 1933–.

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.

Tort, Patrick. 1996. Dictionnaire du Darwinisme et de l’evolution. 3 vols. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.


Council of the Royal Society have awarded CD the Copley Medal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hugh Falconer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 19
Physical description
ALS 3pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4652,” accessed on 5 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12