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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [23 September 1873]1

British Association, | Bradford


Dear Darwin

Thanks for Nortons address2   I wanted it to introduce a friend who I think Nortons would like to know.

I am distressed to hear of your continued badness.3

I shall be delighted to go to Down by usual train on Saturday week— Earlier if you like.4

Mimosa albida I will see to on my return— meanwhile I hope for seeds of more sensitive kind.5

Tyndalls answer has surprized & disappointed me greatly & much vexed all his friends here   He quotes at the end a passage in a letter from me in which deplored such correspondence & blamed “Nature” for inserting them! my letter was addressed to him under the idea that he was on the continent & was intended to sooth any irritation that might lead to a counter-explosion—& miserably I have failed.6 It required great tact in announcing his Election as Pres. Elect yesterday— & prevented my seconding it as was prepared to do, with a special allusion to Tyndall’s appreciation of his predecessors labor— Of course this became impossible—& the proposal by Henry Smith & seconding (by Spottiswode) were pronounced by all to be unusually [tame] & heartless— yet both I am sure did their very best. H. Smith dilated on his popularity—7 There was a counter propostion by the Mayor of Cork, for Dr Andrews to be President, on purely local grounds—8 but it fell to the ground, unsupported by any one but a Belfast Man, who like the Mayor was wholly unscientific— The Cork Scientifics repudiated the attempt with some indignation— but I am not sure but that Tyndall will throw up the Presidency—9 Spottiswode & I concocted a letter to him at once, telling him the facts.

This is a very poor meeting indeed. Williamsons address was very poor & badly put together I think.10 Dr. Williamsons lecture on Coal fossils was popular, well done & very suitable to non scientifics— but void of any philsophical treatment & wrong in points of Botanical detail11

Clark Maxwells lecture on Molecules last night was simply dull dry & singularly unintellagable as delivered— without a point or significance to the outside world.12

Ferriers brain work was intensely interesting but I think that he proves far too much.13

Burdon Sandersons paper was capital— it is a grand discovery14 Allman’s address was splendidly done15

We are very jolly here— in a quiet lodging, (Strachey, Dyer, Lawson)   We go tomorrow to Sir J. K. Shuttleworth near Kirby Lonsdale till Saturday—then back to Kew—16 I have just heard that Huxley is back “quite well”17 & that Sharpy18 has had an apoplectic attack but is better— Strachey says that Georges paper comes off today.19

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker


The date is established from the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 September [1873], and from Hooker’s reference to the date of James Clerk Maxwell’s discourse at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Bradford (see n. 12, below). In 1873, the first Tuesday after 19 September was 23 September.
Hooker refers to Charles Eliot Norton (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 September [1873] and n. 2).
CD was still recovering from a severe illness that had started with a partial loss of memory and bad ‘sinking fits’ on 26 August (see Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Hooker visited CD on Sunday 5 October (letter from Elizabeth Darwin to Horace Darwin, [7 October 1873] (DAR 258: 561)).
CD had asked Hooker for a plant of Mimosa albida (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 September [1873]); Mimosa sensitiva was not cultivated at Kew but Hooker had asked for it to be sent from Brazil (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1873).
John Tyndall had published an intemperate letter in Nature, 18 September 1873, p. 399, in response to Peter Guthrie Tait’s complaint about Tyndall’s having accused James David Forbes of plagiarism (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 September 1873 and n. 4). Tyndall did not mention Hooker by name when quoting from his letter; he referred to his correspondent only as an ‘illustrious person’.
At each British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting the president for the following year was elected. Tyndall was proposed and seconded by Henry John Stephen Smith and William Spottiswoode.
Hooker was mistaken; it was not the mayor of Cork but the mayor of Belfast, James Alexander Henderson, who had proposed Thomas Andrews, professor of chemistry at Queen’s College, Belfast, as president. See The Times, 23 September 1873, p. 5, and 27 September 1873, p. 12.
Tyndall did serve as president of the 1874 meeting held in Belfast.
Alexander William Williamson was the president of the Bradford British Association meeting; he had replaced James Prescott Joule, who had resigned the post two months previously due to ill health (Report of the 43rd Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873), p. lxx). Williamson’s address considered the advance of chemistry as a science, the habits of mind engendered by its study, and the need for effective science education (ibid., pp. lxx–xci). The address was also printed in The Times, 18 September 1873, p. 5.
William Crawford Williamson had given a discourse on coal and coal plants (see Report of the 43rd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873), p. lxix).
James Clerk Maxwell had given a discourse on molecules on the evening of 22 September (see Report of the 43rd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873), p. lxix).
David Ferrier had given a paper, ‘The localization of function in the brain’ (see Report of the 43rd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873): Transactions of the sections, pp. 126–7).
John Scott Burdon Sanderson presented two papers at the meeting; Hooker probably refers to ‘On the electrical phenomena which accompany the contractions of the leaf of Dionæa muscipula’ (Burdon Sanderson 1873a; see letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 September [1873] and n. 5).
George James Allman gave an address in his capacity as president of the biology section (see Report of the 43rd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873), Transactions of the sections, pp. 94–104).
Hooker refers to Richard Strachey, William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, and Henry Lawson. James Kay-Shuttleworth had built Barbon Manor, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, as a retreat from his larger house and estate at Gawthorpe in Lancashire (see Selleck 1994, pp. 351–2).
Thomas Henry Huxley had taken a summer tour on the Continent (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 391–7) in order to recover his health. The holiday was paid for by donations from his friends (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 23 April 1873).
William Sharpey.
Strachey referred to George Howard Darwin’s presentation ‘On a portable globe, and on some maps of the world’ (see Report of the 43rd meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1873), Transactions of the sections, p. 167).


Selleck, R. J. W. 1994. James Kay-Shuttleworth: journey of an outsider. Ilford, Essex, and Portland, Oreg.: Woburn Press.


Thanks for C. E. Norton’s address.

Tyndall’s answer [Nature 8 (1873): 399] has surprised and disappointed him;

great trouble in announcing Tyndall’s election as President Elect [of BAAS] yesterday. Tyndall may throw up the Presidency. Spottiswoode and JDH have concocted a letter telling him the facts.

A very poor dull meeting. Comments on papers by W. C. Williamson, Clerk Maxwell, David Ferrier, Burdon Sanderson [Rep. BAAS 43: lxx–xci, 23–32,126–7, 131–3].

Has heard Huxley is back quite well.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
BAAS, Bradford
Source of text
DAR 103: 173–4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9063,” accessed on 25 February 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21