skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Galton   15 March 1870

42 Rutland Gate SW

March 15 70

My dear Darwin

Very many thanks for the information & books when I have got up the subject I will write again & will in the mean time, take all care of the books.1

I shall hope in a week from now to give you some news & by Saturday week definite facts about the rabbits. One litters or has littered today & all looks well with her. two others towards the end of the week, viz: Wedy. & Saturday.2

I grieve to say that my most hopeful one was confined prematurely by 3 days having made no nest & all we knew of the matter was finding blood about the cage & the head of one of the litter.

She was transfused from yellow & the buck also from yellow.— Well the head was certainly much lighter than the head of another abortion I had seen. & was certainly irregularly colored. being especially darker about the muzzle, but I did not & do not care to build anything about such vague facts. & have not even kept the head.

As soon as ever I know anything I will write instantly & first to you. For my part, I am quite sick with expectant hope & doubt.

Ever very sincerely | F. Galton


No letter from CD to Galton from this period has been found, but CD had been in London from 5 to 12 March (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Galton was attempting to test CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis by transfusing the blood of one variety of rabbit into another and observing the colour of the offspring. See Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Francis Galton, 11 December 1869, and Galton 1871. According to CD’s hypothesis, each cell in an organism produced particles (gemmules) that were capable of generating new cells; the gemmules circulated throughout the organism until required, and then congregated in the right place in order to reproduce or in some cases reconstruct parts. Galton evidently assumed that all gemmules circulated in the blood, and that transfusion of blood would therefore result in the transferring of hereditary information from the donor to the recipient. For accounts of the experiments, see Pearson 1914–30, 2: 156–66, and Bulmer 2003, pp. 116–18.


Bulmer, Michael. 2003. Francis Galton: pioneer of heredity and biometry. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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

Galton, Francis. 1871. Experiments in pangenesis, by breeding from rabbits of a pure variety, into whose circulation blood taken from other varieties had previously been largely transfused. [Read 30 March 1871.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 19 (1870–1): 393–410.

Pearson, Karl. 1914–30. The life, letters and labours of Francis Galton. 3 vols. in 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Interim report on the experiments with rabbits [to test Pangenesis].

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Galton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Rutland Gate, 42
Source of text
DAR 105: 5–6
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7133,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18