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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hubert Airy   9 December 1871

Flamsted House | Greenwich S.E.

1871. Dec. 9

My dear Sir

〈    〉 your letter 〈    〉 April 5th (if it 〈    〉 ago as to〈    〉) gave me spirit 〈    〉 writing to you again, by asking me to observe whe〈ther〉 the platysma myoides contracts

(1) during extreme terror, or

(2) during a shivering fit.1

The nearest approach to extreme terror that I have felt since then, has been caused by the sight of a 〈pages damaged

be present) I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliver a capital speech, the greater part of which 〈I〉 should describe, to any one but yourself, as a Darwinian manifesto—2 There were no reporters in the room, and I cannot be 〈sure〉 of his exact words, but he 〈several words missing〉 to the hopefulness 〈2 or 3 words missing〉 he looked forward to 〈the〉 time when the general 〈    〉 recognition of the truth 〈    〉 great doctrine of evolution 〈    〉 lead to the general de〈velop〉ment of a spirit of uni〈versal〉 charity towards all things 〈    〉 on the earth. 〈On〉 the other hand, at a 〈meet〉ing of a Literary Society at a 〈    〉 town in the north, one 〈  〉nth, I heard a paper 〈pages damaged

but I take advantage of the occasion to ask if you know of any paper or treatise dealing with the facts of leaf arrangement by your theory— 〈    〉 scrutable marvels of 〈    〉 (!) are the pleasure-grounds 〈    〉 〈evo〉lutionists, and they revel 〈to their hear〉ts’ content in their 〈  〉ries of arithmetic 〈several words missing〉 they carry far 〈    〉 limits found in nature, 〈    〉 mystery of 〈    〉 angle, between one-half 〈and〉 one-third of 360o, which has no representative at all in nature. But I am presuaded that all the facts are to be explained by reference 〈    〉 to the geometrical necessities 〈of m〉utual accommodation in the bud.3


CD had asked Airy to observe whether the platysma muscle contracted during extreme terror or a shivering fit (letter to Hubert Airy, 5 April [1871]).
The chancellor of the Exchequer was Robert Lowe.
For CD’s interest in phyllotaxy, see the letter to Chauncey Wright, 13 and 14 July [1871] and n. 7. Airy’s views on phyllotaxy were later published in a paper communicated by CD to the Linnean Society (Airy 1873); he argued that complex leaf arrangements had developed primarily to make the most economical use of space in the bud.


Airy, Hubert. 1873. On leaf-arrangement. Abstract. Communicated by Charles Darwin. [Read 27 February 1873.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 21 (1872–3): 176–9.


Reply to CD’s letter of 5 Apr 1871 [7659], in which he asked HA for further details on when and how platysma myoides contracts.

Replies to CD’s questions about sources on leaf arrangement.

Gives news of speech and paper about CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hubert Airy
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 159: 13
Physical description
10pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8101,” accessed on 20 February 2020,

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