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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Thierry Preyer   [before 21 March 1869]1

Charles Darwin
His father’s father Dr Erasmus Darwin, author of Zoonomia
His mother’s father Josiah Wedgwood2
His father, born when? where? died when? Dr. Robert Darwin,3 Physician, died 1848 at Shrewsbury.
Brothers and sisters of Mr Charles Darwin Four sisters and one brother
Charles Darwin born where? At Shrewsbury
" " " when? (day, month & year) Feb. 12. 1809.
Education at home, where?
how long?—
At school At Shrewsbury School
where? how long? for 7 years.
Influence of parents
" " tutors
" " circumstances
Holidays spent where? at home? At home
Health, vigour Good health
University. Which Universities? Studies begin when? Lectures heard. Edinburgh 1825 for two years,  thence to Cambridge where he took his degree in 1831.
Names of University (at Cambridge, Edinburgh &c) Professors of influence The Revd. Professor Henslow;4 the Professor of Botany had great influence in deciding my taste for natural science.
Favourite university studies His education only really began when he went on board the Beagle.
University studies end when?
Examinations; B.A when? where? 1831 at Cambridge
M.A. " " I forget date (1837?)5
The Voyage round the World, Dec. 27. 1831–Oct. 2. 1836 Published 18396
How he came to be naturalist of the expedition Captain Fitzroy7 offered to give up part of his cabin to any naturalist who would accompany H.M.S. Beagle in her surveying voyage and circum-navigation. Mr. D. volunteered his services without salary, but on condition that he8 Wollaston Medal was awarded me by the Geological Soc.y. of London.
(b) F.L.S. when?
(c) F. Geol. S. when? M.A.—F.G.S.—F.L.S.—F.R.S.E.—Acadd,
Reg. Sci. Berol. et Holm.—Soc. Reg.
Sci. Upsal.—Acad. Cœs. Nat. Cur.
Dresd.—Soc. Sci. Nesc.— et Acad.
Nat. Sci. Philad. Soc. Honor.—Also St.
Petersburgh, Edinburgh and Dublin and I
believe some others, but I have no list.9
Additional biographical notes From my earliest youth I was fond of collecting
all sorts of specimens and observing
habits of wild animals. I was an ardent
sportsman and this made me very idle. At
Edinburgh though I had the opportunity
I neglected from foolish disgust to study
anatomy, and I have regretted this all my
life. I observed at Edinburgh the lower
marine animals. At Cambridge I collected
Coleoptera energetically and dabbled a little
in Geology; but I studied no subject scientifically;
only for amusement. I never
worked till I joined the Beagle and then I
worked with all my heart.
At Edinburgh Dr. Grant,10now Professor
at the London University, led me to collect
and observe the lower marine animals.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. T. Preyer, 21 March 1869, and by Preyer’s statement that the questionnaire was completed by CD early in 1869 when he was 60 (Preyer 1896, p. 148). A German translation of this letter is reproduced in Preyer 1896, pp. 143–6. Preyer’s sketch of CD’s life was published in Ausland, 2 April 1870.
Robert Waring Darwin.
CD did receive his MA in 1837 (Alum. Cantab.).
The reference is to Journal of researches.
Robert FitzRoy. For more on the circumstances leading to FitzRoy’s request for a companion on the Beagle voyage, see Browne 1995, pp. 145–9.
The text breaks off at this point in the copy, but probably continued, ‘retain complete freedom in the disposition of his collections’.
For a complete list of CD’s society memberships, see Freeman 1978, pp. 107–10.


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.

Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin. Voyaging. Volume I of a biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Preyer, William Thierry. 1896. Darwin. Sein leben und wirken. Berlin: E. Hofmann.


Replies to inquiries about his life and career.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Thierry (William) Preyer
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 262–5
Physical description
C 4pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6540,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17