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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   [before 25 April 1871]1

Relative colour of beard and Hair of scalp

When a student I was often “chaffed” as having dyed my beard which was much darker than my hair— It was said that only Elliotson and Tegetmeier dyed so that it could not be observed.—2 but I never was given to personal adornments

I send you samples and you will see that although the snows of winter are beginning to fall the beard hair is still much darker than the scalp hair which has certainly become much darker since I was a young man3

CD annotations

Left margin of letter: ‘Specimen sent— Beard certainly darker—’ pencil
End of letter: ‘W. B Tegetemier | 2d case’4 pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 April [1871].
John Elliotson, for whom Tegetmeier acted as clinical clerk when he was a student at University College Hospital, London, had dark hair and complexion and was suspected of pursuing novelty and publicity; he was noted for abandoning knee-breeches and stockings, and wearing a beard, contrary to the usual practice of physicians at the time (ODNB). CD discussed the colour of hair and beards in Descent 2: 319.
The hair samples have not been found.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


WBT’s beard exceptional in that it is darker than his hair [see Descent 2: 319].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 89: 197
Physical description
AL 1p inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7712,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19