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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. S. Burdon Sanderson   23 May [1875]1

49, Queen Anne Street. | W.

May 23

Dear Mr Darwin,

I have no doubt that Mr. Playfair, pressed upon by men whose avowed object is the suppression of science, has gone too far in the direction of compromise.2 I am delighted therefore to think that compromise is at an end.3

It is certainly a great shame that for the sake of a popular clamour supported by no facts, it should be necessary to consent to an enactment which would make it penal to teach science in the only way that it can be taught effectually.4 It is really too great a sacrifice to make. I hope that the full enquiry which will now take place will result in the securing of the interests both of scientific teaching & scientific research. May I suggest that it would be well to send to Playfair a copy of Huxleys letter on the subject.5 I have written as clearly as I can & have sent him Mr Litchfields letter6

Very truly yours | JB Sanderson


The year is established by the reference to the vivisection bill (see n. 2, below).
On 12 May 1875, Lyon Playfair presented to the House of Commons a bill for the regulation of vivisection that had been drawn up by CD, Thomas Henry Huxley, and Burdon Sanderson. On the changes to the bill, see the letter from T. H. Huxley, 19 May 1875. Another bill on vivisection had been presented to the House of Lords by John Henniker-Major (Lord Hartismere) a few days earlier (see letter from J. S. Burdon Sanderson, [8 May 1875] and nn. 2 and 3).
Burdon Sanderson alludes to the decision by Parliament to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the practice of animal experimentation before considering the regulation of vivisection (see letter from Lyon Playfair, 21 May 1875 and n. 3).
The draft of the bill had stated that vivisection was necessary for the purpose of pedagogic demonstration; the altered bill allowed vivisection only for the purpose of new scientific discovery (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 19 May 1875 and n. 2).
Richard Buckley Litchfield had drafted the bill based on the views of CD, Huxley, and Burdon Sanderson (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 April [1875]); Litchfield’s letter has not been found.


Believes Lyon Playfair has been led to compromise too far on bill about animal experimentation as a result of pressure from men wishing to suppress science. A full enquiry is to take place. [See 9987.] Suggests that CD send Playfair Huxley’s letter on the subject.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9989A,” accessed on 11 July 2020,

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