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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   21 April 1875

Council of Education | Kensington Museum

April 21. 1875

My dear Darwin

The day before yesterday I met Playfair at the Club and he told me that he had heard from Miss Elliot that I was getting up what she called a “Vivisector’s Bill”—& that Lord Cardwell was very anxious to talk with some of us about the matter—1

So you see that there is no secret about our proceedings. I gave him a general idea of what was doing, and he quite confirmed what Lubbock2 said about the improbability of any action being taken in Parliament this session

Playfair said he should like very much to know what we proposed doing—and I should think that it would be a good thing to take him into consultation

On my return I found that Pflüger had sent me his memoir, with a note such as he sent to you—3

I read it last night and I am inclined to think that it is a very important piece of work

He shows that frogs absolutely deprived of Oxygen give off Carbonic acid for 25 hours—& gives very strong reasons for believing that the evolution of Carbonic acid by living matter in general is the result of a process of internal re-arrangement of the molecules of the living matter—& not of direct oxidation4

His speculations about the origin of living matter are the best I have seen yet—so far as I understand them   But he plunges into the depths of the higher chemistry in which I am by no means at home— Only this I can see that the paper is worth careful study

Ever | Yours faithy | T H Huxley

CD annotations

3.2 it would] ‘be a good thing to take him into consultation. | T. Huxley.’ ink


Huxley refers to Lyon Playfair, Margaret Elliot, Edward Cardwell, and the Athenaeum Club. CD had been working with Huxley and others to draft a vivisection bill (see letter to J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 15 and 19 April [1875]). Playfair, the MP for Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities, was known for his advocacy of scientific interests (ODNB). Cardwell was a vice-president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
John Lubbock.
Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm Pflüger had sent CD and Huxley a copy of his paper on physiological combustion (Pflüger 1875); see letter from E. F. W. Pflüger, 14 April 1875.
See Pflüger 1875, pp. 325–6.


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.

Pflüger, Eduard Friedrich Wilhelm. 1875. Beiträge zur Lehre von der Respiration I. Über die physiologische Verbrennung in den lebendigen Organismen. Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere 10: 251–367.


Lord Cardwell thinks it unlikely that Parliament will take any action on a vivisection bill this session. Playfair should be consulted.

E. F. W. Pflüger’s important memoir on how carbonic acid is produced by living matter and his speculation about origin of living matter [see 9931].

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Council on Education, Kensington Museum
Source of text
DAR 166: 339
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9942,” accessed on 11 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23