skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   [3 June 1867]1

Tr: Coll.


Dear Papa,

I have asked a good classic about some word for Pangenesis,—he seems to thing Atomogenesis wd be all right, from the classical point of view—& wd mean the genesis of ultimate particles, litterally of particles wh: cannot be subdivided.2 I found a word [G[kuttaros]G] wh: wd make Cyttarogenesis, the word meaning the cell of a plant—but then altho’ used by a good author it is rare as might be expected, & of course wd not convey any meaning to anyone who was not a good classic.3 This man said he wd see if he cd find any more words but I have not asked him since. I do’nt think you cd get any common word for tissue or cells.

I shd say from the little notion I have about pangenesis that atomo-g. wd represent it better, unless you have particular objection to your cells or gemmules being called atoms i.e indivisible particles.— If I hear more I will write again.—

We have had some most goloptious weather since Mama &c were here—4 Yesterday I loafed about all day. I am getting in rather a fright about the May exam wh: begins next Friday, as it is the first one in which we shall have had really hard papers & if I don’t do well in it I suppose I sha’nt in the Tripos. There was a concert in the town hall on Friday & Frank5 played in a duet with a piano; he had practised a good deal & I really thought played it very well— I was surprised to hear how loud the flute was when I was right at the further end of a very large hall.

Swettenham’s eye got nearly alright at one time but he foolishly uncovered it too soon & it has relapsed again, tho’ not so bad as before.—6 I shall only be at home for two days before I go to Paris & one of them I shall have to go to London to see the dentist, more’s the bore.—7 I wish there was a little longer time betw: the end of this term & July, when I shall have to come back here.—

Yrs G H Darwin


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to G. H. Darwin, 27 May [1867], and by the reference to Emma’s visit to George in Cambridge (see n. 4, below). In 1867, 3 June was the first Monday after 27 May.
CD had asked George for an alternative term to pangenesis (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 27 May [1867]).
[G[kuttaros]] is used by Aristotle in his Historia animalium to mean the cell of a honey-comb (Liddell and Scott comps. 1996).
Emma Darwin visited Cambridge from 22 to 25 May 1867 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). It is not known who accompanied her. Goloptious: a slang or humorous term meaning ‘delightful’, first appearing in print (as ‘galoptious’) in 1856 (OED s.v. ‘goluptious’).
Francis Darwin, like George, was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge (Alum. Cantab.).
The reference is probably to Richard Paul Agar Swettenham, an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge (Alum. Cantab.).
George visited the Exposition universelle in Paris; his entrance ticket, valid for the week until 24 June 1867, is in DAR 219.12: 12.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Has asked a classics scholar about a word for Pangenesis. He suggests "atomogenesis".

Is getting in rather a fright about the coming exams.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 2
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5561,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15