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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Henry Huxley   4 July [1866]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

July 4.

My dear Huxley

Hooker tells me of an expedition going to survey the St of Magellan.2 Admiral Sulivan several years ago discovered an astonishingly rich accumulation of fossil bones not far from the Straits3 & he will tell the Captain of the vessel & the Naturalist exactly where they cd be found.4 During many years it has seemed to me extremely desirable that these shd be collected; & here is an excellent opportunity. Hooker has suggested a memorial to the Lords of the Admiralty to be signed by a few leading Geologists & Paleontologists.5 Please read the enclosed, & observe that I do not know in the least the proper form of a Memorial & therefore the enclosed may be corrected to any extent & shall be re-copied, or shall go as it stands.6 Now please consider whether you will sign this, & shew it to Sir Roderick Murchison & ask him whether he will head the list;7 perhaps he wd shew it to Professor Owen & ask him if he wd like to sign; for I do not want to have any communication with Owen.8 If in addition, the Pres. of Geolog. Soc. & Ramsay wd sign,9 that I shd think wd be ample, & the Memorial might be sent in at once, for there is no time to lose. If it will do as it stands & all goes smooth, will you forward it to the Admiralty & let me have a line to hear the result, as I must inform Sulivan. I may just add that some the fossils here referred to are allied to Toxodon.10

My dear Huxley | ever yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 July 1866.
CD had been told of the expedition to the Straits of Magellan in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 February 1866. See also letter from B. J. Sulivan, 27 June 1866, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 June [1866].
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 27 June 1866 and n. 7. Sulivan was a rear admiral (DNB).
Richard Charles Mayne was captain of HMS Nassau, and Robert Oliver Cunningham was ship’s naturalist (see letter from B. J. Sulivan, 27 June 1866 and nn. 6 and 7).
The memorial has not been found: a draft of it, dated [2–4 July 1866], is reproduced in this volume.
Roderick Impey Murchison was director-general of the Geological Survey of Great Britain (DNB).
Richard Owen had established a new mammalian order on the basis of some of the fossils found by Sulivan in Patagonia (see Owen 1853). On CD’s deteriorating relationship with Owen, especially following Owen’s critical review of Origin ([Owen] 1860), see, for example, Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Asa Gray, 25 April [1860], and Autobiography, pp. 104–5.
The president of the Geological Society of London was William John Hamilton; Andrew Crombie Ramsay was a vice-president (List of the Geological Society of London, DNB).
Toxodon is a genus of rhinoceros-like notoungulates; it was described by Owen (Owen 1838 and Fossil Mammalia, pp. 16–35), based on specimens collected in Patagonia by CD (see Correspondence vols. 1 and 2, and South America, pp. 180–1). Owen had also described the affinities between Toxodon and the fossils found by Sulivan, which he identified as belonging to a new genus, Nesodon (Owen 1853, pp. 298–99, 309).


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

Fossil Mammalia: Pt 1 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle … during the years 1831 to 1836. By Richard Owen. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1839–43.

List of the Geological Society of London. London: [Geological Society of London]. 1864–1934.

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.

Owen, Richard. 1853a. Description of some species of the extinct genus Nesodon, with remarks on the primary group (Toxodontia) of hoofed quadrupeds, to which that genus is referable. [Read 13 January 1853.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 143: 291–310.

[Owen, Richard.] 1860b. [Review of Origin & other works.] Edinburgh Review 111: 487–532.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third 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. 1846.


Sends a draft of memorial to Admiralty [to be signed by geologists and palaeontologists] requesting that an expedition to survey Strait of Magellan collect fossils discovered by Admiral B. J. Sulivan [see 5142].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 231)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5144,” accessed on 4 June 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14