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Darwin in letters, 1862: A multiplicity of experiments


1862 was a particularly productive year for Darwin. This was not only the case in his published output (two botanical papers and a book on the pollination mechanisms of orchids), but more particularly in the extent and breadth of the botanical experiments…

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  • … continued: Darwin’s own works expanded on it, Thomas Henry Huxley gave lectures about it, and Henry …
  • … & Nicotiana being partially sterile together. He failed. Huxley replied ( letter from T. H. …
  • … The issue arose again when, through November and December, Huxley delivered a series of lectures to …
  • … he is no common man This correspondence with Huxley made Darwin keener than ever to …
  • … views on transmutation in a paper on the aye-aye. However, Huxley described the event, detailing how …

Henrietta Huxley


A colourful and insightful exchange occurred in 1865 in a light-hearted conversation between Darwin and Henrietta Huxley, the wife of Darwin’s friend and colleague, Thomas Henry Huxley.  Like her husband, Henrietta was a close friend and great champion of…

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  • … Here, Henrietta makes reference to an 1860 debate between T. H. Huxley and the Bishop of Oxford in …
  • … Though reports of the confrontation between the Bishop and Huxley were mixed at the time, the …
  • … suggests that, while it evidently still loomed large in Huxley and Darwin’s imagination, it was at …

Darwin in letters, 1874: A turbulent year


The year 1874 was one of consolidation, reflection, and turmoil for Darwin. He spent the early months working on second editions of Coral reefs and Descent of man; the rest of the year was mostly devoted to further research on insectivorous plants. A…

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  • by observation during prolonged intervals’ ( letter to D. T. Gardner, [ c . 27 August 1874] ). …
  • researcher Frederick William Henry Myers, and Thomas Henry Huxley, who sent a long report to Darwin
  • Mr Williams wasa cheat and an imposter’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 27 January 1874 ). Darwin
  • that he was thus free to perform his antics’ ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 29 January [1874] ). This
  • alloweda spirit séanceat his home ( letter from T. G. Appleton, 2 April 1874 ). Back
  • sweetly all the horrid bother of correction’ ( letter to H. E. Litchfield, 21 [March 1874] ). The
  • and disease in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii; letters from T. N. Staley, 12 February 1874 and
  • additions to  Descent  was an eight-page note written by Huxley with the aim of ending a dispute
  • ape and human brains, he asked for a clarifying note from Huxley (Desmond and Moore 2004, pp. xxxv
  • anatomists; and never mind where it goes’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 16 April 1874 ). The
  • conciseness & clearness of your thought’ ( letter from G. H. Darwin, 20 April 1874 ). …
  • the spread of various mental and physical disorders (G. H. Darwin 1873b). In July 1874, an anonymous
  • over thescurrilous libelon his son ( letter to G. H. Darwin, [27 July 1874] ).  George, …
  • accusation of [a] lying scoundrel’ ( letter to G. H. Darwin, 1 August [1874] ). He drafted a brief
  • with Murray on the outcome ( enclosure to letter from G. H. Darwin, 6 [August] 1874 ): …
  • published views. In December, he sought advice from Huxley and Hooker, sending them a draft
  • review ( see letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1874 ). Huxley stepped in, shunning Mivart at an
  • of Hookers and Huxleys representations ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 22 December [1874] ). Huxley
  • the offender & give him the cold shoulder’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 23 December 1874 ). He

Darwin in letters, 1863: Quarrels at home, honours abroad


At the start of 1863, Charles Darwin was actively working on the manuscript of The variation of animals and plants under domestication, anticipating with excitement the construction of a hothouse to accommodate his increasingly varied botanical experiments…

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  • Charles Lyell, the respected geologist, and Thomas Henry Huxley, the zoologist and anatomist. Lyell
  • a letter to J. D. Hooker of 24[–5] February [1863] . When Huxleys book described the detailed
  • views of human dignity and intelligence, exclaiming to Huxley: ‘I declare I never in my life read
  • circles following the publication of Lyells and Huxleys books. Three years earlier Darwin
  • earlier in the century. Lyells  Antiquity of man  and Huxleys  Evidence as to mans place in
  • would sway many towards a new way of thinking, while Huxleys book would scare them off ( see
  • Antiquity of man  of the ongoing debate between Owen, Huxley, and others concerning the comparative
  • is’, Hooker wrote to Darwin, ‘I suppose it is virtually Huxleys writing, & that L. will find
  • on this subject seems to get rarer & rarer’ ( letter to H. W. Bates, 18 April [1863] ), …
  • for the Natural History Review  ( see letter to H. W. Bates, 12 January [1863] ). Darwin added
  • … [9 May 1863] ). The others listed were himself, Hooker, Huxley, Alfred Russel Wallace, and John
  • to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863] , and memorandum from G. H. Darwin, [before 11 May 1863]) . …
  • Another criticism that continued to exercise Darwin was Huxleys assertion, first made in his 1860
  • were either unable to cross or else formed sterile hybrids. Huxley made this point again in his six
  • at the end of 1862, and published as a book in early 1863 (T. H. Huxley 1863a). Though Darwin was
  • natural sterility of species, when crossed’ ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 10 [January 1863] ). He
  • mans place in nature  was published in February 1863, Huxley again argued that natural selection
  • species could be produced by selective breeding. Huxleys criticism provided additional
  • both self-pollination and cross-pollination ( letter to P. H. Gosse, 2 June [1863] ). The
  • and Lyells  Antiquity of man  ( see letter from T. H. Huxley, 25 February 1863 , and letter

Scientific Practice


Specialism|Experiment|Microscopes|Collecting|Theory Letter writing is often seen as a part of scientific communication, rather than as integral to knowledge making. This section shows how correspondence could help to shape the practice of science, from…

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  • contacts. His life-long friendship with Thomas Henry Huxley, for example, began with detailed
  • … & night.” Letter 1480Darwin, C. R. to Huxley, T. H., 23 Apr [1853] …
  • He hopes Agassiz was sounder on embryological stages than Huxley thinks. Letter 1592 — …
  • Letter 4895Darwin, C. R. to Müller, J. F. T., 20 Sept [1865] Darwin thanks Müller for
  • seems probable. Letter 5173Müller, J. F. T. to Darwin, C. R., 2 Aug 1866 Müller
  • be dichogamous. Letter 5429Müller, J. F. T. to Darwin, C. R., 4 Mar 1867 Müller
  • other species. Letter 5480Müller, J. F. T. to Darwin, C. R., 1 Apr 1867 Müller
  • Letter 5551Darwin, C. R. to Müller, J. F. T., 26 May [1867] Darwin thanks Müller for
  • … , and asks for references to cirripede descriptions by T. A. Conrad. …

Darwin in letters, 1860: Answering critics


On 7 January 1860, John Murray published the second edition of Darwin’s Origin of species, printing off another 3000 copies to satisfy the demands of an audience that surprised both the publisher and the author. It wasn't long, however, before ‘the…

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  • some of those whose support he most wanted: Thomas Henry Huxley, William Benjamin Carpenter, and
  • would have beenutterly  smashed’ ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 3 July [1860] ). (A chronological
  • yet understand the concept of natural selection. Even Huxley, an avowed supporter, proved a
  • inter se ,’ Darwins theory would remain unproven (T. H. Huxley 1860a). Darwin had long
  • animal groups could give rise to new species, Darwin found Huxleys lecture irritating and
  • the geographical distribution of species ( see letter from T. H. Huxley, 6 August 1860 ). But Baer
  • earlier sessions, including the Thursday meeting at which Huxley and Owenhad a furious battle over
  • … ‘for half an hour’, ridiculing Darwinbadly & Huxley savagely’. Huxley rose in response and
  • tried to answer the Bishop in such an assembly,’ he told Huxley; nonetheless he believed thatthis
  • his theory. ‘I can pretty plainly see’, he commented to Huxley on 2 December, ‘that if my view is



It was crucial to Darwin’s theories of species change that naturally occurring variations could be inherited.  But at the time when he wrote Origin, he had no explanation for how inheritance worked – it was just obvious that it did.  Darwin’s attempt to…

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  • for comment. They were not enthusiastic. Thomas Henry Huxley was worried that its speculative nature
  • anticipation of our modern Theoriesand that stupid ass, Huxley, prevented his publishing them” . . …
  • papers will I fear, make widely opposite remarks.' ( to T. H. Huxley, [17 July 1865] ). He
  • he has read it twice & is not sure that he understands it. HSpencer says the view is quite
  • he shall wait, before he expresses his opinion. . . Old Sir HHolland says he has read it twice

St George Jackson Mivart


In the second half of 1874, Darwin’s peace was disturbed by an anonymous article in the Quarterly Review suggesting that his son George was opposed to the institution of marriage and in favour of ‘unrestrained licentiousness’. Darwin suspected, correctly,…

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  • to liberty of marriagein the Contemporary Review (G. H. Darwin 1873b). In this article, George
  • in the next issue of the Quarterly ( letter from G. H. Darwin, 29 July 1874 ). Darwin hastily
  • Murray would be likely to wish to circulate ( letter to G. H. Darwin, 1 August [1874] ). Darwin
  • he might be thought to endorse them ( letter from G. H. Darwin, 5 August 1874 ). He sent a second
  • the form of an apology without actually apologising. Huxley intervenes In December, …
  • on George ( letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1874 ). Huxley met Mivart at an evening meeting, …
  • Dec 20th 1874. Private & Confidential Dear Huxley. I thank you for your
  • Science, Technology and Medicine Archives)   Huxley did not share this letter with
  • devoid of all the instincts of a gentleman’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 23 December 1874 ). …
  • was necessary to break off friendly relations between them. Huxley was consciously taking on the
  • Deities do battle with the infernal powers.’ What Hooker, Huxley, and Darwin were proposing was that
  • was not willing to reply. However, for men in Hookers, Huxleys, and Darwins social position, it
  • and the abuse of power. (Hooker was president and Huxley secretary of the Royal Society of London.) …
  • Dec. 24th 1874. Private & Confidential Dear Huxley, I thank you for your
  • remaining | Yours very faithfully | St Geo Mivart T. H. Huxley Esq Sec R.S. &c &c
  • 1875, Mivart had still not made any further move, and Huxley had persuaded Hooker that it would be
  • Royal Society, to act against Mivart, an ordinary fellow. Huxley himself was a secretary of the

Darwin in letters, 1872: Job done?


'My career’, Darwin wrote towards the end of 1872, 'is so nearly closed. . .  What little more I can do, shall be chiefly new work’, and the tenor of his correspondence throughout the year is one of wistful reminiscence, coupled with a keen eye…

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  • enclosed a copy of an article replying to Thomas Henry Huxleys scathing review of  Genesis of
  • the theories of natural and sexual selection to bees (HMüller 1872), and with his reply Darwin
  • for myself it is dreadful doing nothing’ ( letter to THHuxley, 22 October [1872] ). He was far
  • by her husband, Richard Buckley Litchfield ( letter to HELitchfield, 13 May 1872 ). Delivery
  • … 'I know that I am half-killed myself’ ( letter to HELitchfield, 25 July 1872 ). A
  • Charlton Bastians recent book on the origin of life (HCBastian 1872; Wallace 1872d) left him
  • muscles when attending women in labour ( letter from JTRothrock, 25 November 1872 ); others
  • … ). Plants that move and eat `Now, pray dont run off on some other track till you have
  • 23 December 1872, CD note ), and he exclaimed to Thomas Huxley that he would like a society formed, …

Darwin in letters, 1871: An emptying nest


The year 1871 was an extremely busy and productive one for Darwin, with the publication in February of his long-awaited book on human evolution, Descent of man. The other main preoccupation of the year was the preparation of his manuscript on expression.…

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  • her liking, ‘to keep in memory of the book’ ( letter to H. E. Darwin, 20 March 1871 ). …
  • letter from W. B. Dawkins, 23 February 1871 ). Thomas Henry Huxley marvelled that Darwin had been
  • th . ancestor lived between tide-marks!’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 20 February 1871 ). Asa Gray
  • Mivart. An expert on primates and a former protegé of Huxleys, Mivart had written several articles
  • Agassiz, Abraham Dee Bartlett, Albert Günther, George Busk, T. H. Huxley, Osbert Salvin, and William
  • … , published the following year. Darwin was also pleased that Huxley took up the defence in an
  • and misquoting of both Darwin and Catholic theology (T. H. Huxley 1871). Huxley judged Mivart to be
  • … ‘accursed Popery and fear for his soul’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley and H. A. Huxley, 20 September
  • who wasas good as twice refined gold’ ( letter to H. E. Litchfield, 4 September [1871] ). …
  • up to the last with quinine & sherry’ ( letter from H. E. Litchfield to Charles and Emma Darwin
  • from Napoleon de la Fleurière, 8 April [1871] ); while Huxley looked forward two thousand years, …
  • themselves with the reflection thatTruth doesnt die’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 28 September

Darwin in letters, 1869: Forward on all fronts


At the start of 1869, Darwin was hard at work making changes and additions for a fifth edition of  Origin. He may have resented the interruption to his work on sexual selection and human evolution, but he spent forty-six days on the task. Much of the…

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  • would no doubt do if we had proper data to go by, but dont think we have got that yet’ ( letter
  • to see Thomsons work challenged by both Thomas Henry Huxley and WallaceHe confided to Huxley, ‘I
  • been less deferential towards [Thomson]’ ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 19 March [1869] ). …
  • and fossil discoveries in Patagonia and Wales ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 7 May 1869 , letter
  • part at Darwins most outspoken British supporter, Thomas Huxley, whose addressThe physical basis
  • … “punctum saliensof the whole meeting was decidedly Huxleys answer to D r  M c Cann. He
  • man’ ( letter from J. D. Hooker7 September 1869 ). Huxley playfully groused that as usual
  • greater fools of themselves than they did’ ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 28 September 1869 ). …
  • into whichI do not care to follow him’ ( letter from T. H. Farrer, 9 October 1869 ). Farrer
  • Freedom and Will and High Design—’ (letter from T. H. Farrer, 13 October 1869). …
  • to set foot on summit of a mountain.—’ ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 9 July [1869] ).  Earlier

The "wicked book": Origin at 157


Origin is 157 years old.  (Probably) the most famous book in science was published on 24 November 1859.  To celebrate we have uploaded hundreds of new images of letters, bringing the total number you can look at here to over 9000 representing more than…

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  • … to Darwin’s.  Others, like Hugh Falconer , couldn't wait to buy 'the wicked book' …

Darwin in letters, 1865: Delays and disappointments


The year was marked by three deaths of personal significance to Darwin: Hugh Falconer, a friend and supporter; Robert FitzRoy, captain of the Beagle; and William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and father of Darwin’s friend…

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  • intended for publication in Variation , to Thomas Henry Huxley for evaluation, and persuaded his
  • the improvement to Joness diet ( see letter to T. H. Huxley, 4 October [1865] ). It was not until
  • of species; for if he is correct, we certainly have what Huxley calls new physiological species
  • health had been particularly bad, Darwin sent Thomas Henry Huxley a fair copy of a manuscript in
  • hypothesis of pangenesis’, as it later became, to Huxleys judgment with some trepidation. ‘It is a
  • can hang on it a good many groups of facts.’ ( Letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 May [1865] .) The
  • to Darwin of this hypothesis is obvious from his letter to Huxley, despite his apparent modesty, and
  • was to all appearances his usual method of working. He asked Huxley not for detailed criticism, but
  • from Darwins letter to him of 12 July [1865] . Huxley had evidently pointed out some similarity
  • just & I will try to persuade myself not to publish.’ Huxley swiftly qualified what Darwin had
  • anticipation of our modern Theoriesand that stupid ass, Huxley, prevented his publishing them”… I
  • of the only clue at present accessibleand dont give the Philistines more chances of blaspheming
  • humans (see  Correspondence  vol. 10, letter from J. H. Balfour, 14 January 1862 ). According
  • work of reconciliation seems in the end to have been done by Huxley. In fact, Darwins immediate
  • a trying year. In January he had influenza ( letter from F. H. Hooker, [27 January 1865] ); before
  • on the affair, to her mother, ends, ‘I wish people werent so foolish’;. In November, Darwin and

Darwin in letters, 1875: Pulling strings


‘I am getting sick of insectivorous plants’, Darwin confessed in January 1875. He had worked on the subject intermittently since 1859, and had been steadily engaged on a book manuscript for nine months; January also saw the conclusion of a bitter dispute…

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  • … codes of conduct and communication in scientific society. Huxley chose journalism, depicting the …
  • … Instead of supporting her, he worked closely with Huxley and John Burdon Sanderson to draft an …
  • … appoint a Royal Commission to advise on future legislation. Huxley served on the commission, which …
  • … , p. 183). Darwin learned of Klein’s testimony from Huxley on 30 October 1875 : ‘I declare to you …
  • … at what you say about Klein,’ Darwin replied to Huxley on 1 November . ‘I am very glad he is a …
  • … career, having studied under George Rolleston at Oxford and Huxley at South Kensington, with …

The Lyell–Lubbock dispute


In May 1865 a dispute arose between John Lubbock and Charles Lyell when Lubbock, in his book Prehistoric times, accused Lyell of plagiarism. The dispute caused great dismay among many of their mutual scientific friends, some of whom took immediate action…

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  • human race.  In 1861, Lubbock joined Thomas Henry Huxley, Busk, and several other supporters
  • in correspondence with Joseph Dalton Hooker, Asa Gray, and Huxley but he never spoke out publicly
  • is by me. Evidently, he then showed the note to Huxley and asked for his opinion on the
  • C. Lyell 1863c that were almost identical. He did not, as Huxley had suggested, send Lyell the text
  • involvement is the fact that, although he corresponded with Huxley in June and July and had seen
  • resolve the dispute. Lubbock continued to seek advice from Huxley, Hooker, and other X-club friends
  • in person with Darwin. Lyell wrote to Darwin, Hooker, and Huxley and also showed the correspondence
  • his preface 27 Hooker also encouraged Lyell to follow Huxleys advice, and told Huxley, …
  • one deal with Lubbock’. 28 Lyell quickly agreed to Huxleys proposal, although he decided to
  • agreed to delete his own note. In his last letter to Huxley dealing with the affair, he revealed
  • that the published version of the note had been toned down. Huxley told Hooker: ‘It was as much as I
  • Hooker, vol. 14, doc. 1834). 15. Letter from T. H. Huxley, 7 March 1865, in BL MSS ADD

What did Darwin believe?


What did Darwin really believe about God? the Christian revelation? the implications of his theory of evolution for religious faith? These questions were asked again and again in the years following the publication of Origin of species (1859). They are…

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  • ongoing discussion and mutual concern for many years. Huxley, Wallace, and Haeckel The
  • be asserted by one of Darwins leading proponents, Thomas Huxley. We can see Huxley pleading his
  • … … the first fashionable view. Letter from T. H. Huxley to H. A. Heathorn, October 1847. …
  • Kingsley, who had written to him following the death of Huxleys first son, Noel, aged 5. Kingsley
  • many years. ‘The most sacred act of a mans life,’ Huxley wrote, ‘is to say and to feel, “I believe
  • and follow the facts without rest or regard for risk.’ Huxley compared this tothe Christian
  • so honest and fair the candid expression of his doubts.” Huxley urged that Darwins readers adopt
  • by unjustified belief.” In support of his claim, Huxley referred to the many passages in
  • calling attention to the difficulties of his theory. Indeed, Huxleys own style of debate, often
  • scientific and social controversy, allowing others like Huxley, Wallace, and Haeckel to battle on
  • no good, only causes pain. I feel sure that our good friend Huxley, though he has much influence, w
  • of Charles Darwin  (London: Collins). Barrett, Paul H. et al ed. 1987Charles Darwins
  • German zoologist. Heathorn, Henrietta. Married Thomas Huxley in 1855. Huxley, Thomas

All Darwin's letters from 1873 go online for the anniversary of Origin


To celebrate the 158th anniversary of the publication of Origin of species on 24 November, the full transcripts and footnotes of over 500 letters from and to Charles Darwin in 1873 are now available online. Read about Darwin's life in 1873 through his…

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  • to an honoured & much loved brother.  ( Letter to THHuxley, 23 April 1873 ) …

Darwin's in letters, 1873: Animal or vegetable?


Having laboured for nearly five years on human evolution, sexual selection, and the expression of emotions, Darwin was able to devote 1873 almost exclusively to his beloved plants. He resumed work on the digestive powers of sundews and Venus fly traps, and…

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  • roles in creating a private memorial fund for Thomas Henry Huxley, and in efforts to alleviate the
  • flower would become modified & correlated” ( letter to T. H. Farrer, 14 August 1873 ). …
  • throat like a bulldog” ( letter from L. M. Forster to H. E. Litchfield, 20 February 1873 ). The
  • could be transmitted to its offspring ( letter from J. T. Moggridge, 1 February 1873 ). …
  • a large sum in his own name. Together with Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin drafted an appeal to
  • it would offend his father ( enclosure to letter from T. H. Huxley, 3 December 1873 ).  In
  • conversation with Emma Darwin, and Darwin began to sound out Huxleys friends on the matter. The
  • from J. D. Hooker, [7 April 1873] ). A group of Huxleys close friends, including Hooker, …
  • happiness to us to the last day of our lives” ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 23 April 1873 ). Huxley
  • been without energy & without hope” ( letter from T. H. Huxley, 24 April 1873 ). He accepted
  • to starve sweat & purge it away” ( letter from G. H. Darwin, [1 October 1873] ). He also

List of correspondents


Below is a list of Darwin's correspondents with the number of letters for each one. Click on a name to see the letters Darwin exchanged with that correspondent.    "A child of God" (1) Abberley,…

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Darwin in letters, 1861: Gaining allies


The year 1861 marked an important change in the direction of Darwin’s work. He had weathered the storm that followed the publication of Origin, and felt cautiously optimistic about the ultimate acceptance of his ideas. The letters from this year provide an…

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  • where Nature manufactures her new species’ ( letter from H. W. Bates, 28 March [1861] ). …
  • enemies from which the other set is free’ ( letter from H. W. Bates, 30 September 1861 ). As Peter
  • valuable contribution to Nat. History.—’ ( letter to H. W. Bates, 4 April [1861] ). He also
  • andMonkeys,—our poor cousins.—’ ( letter to H. W. Bates, 3 December [1861] ). Darwin volunteered
  • obtaininglarge distributionfor the work ( letter to H. W. Bates, 25 September [1861] ). …
  • with the controversy between Richard Owen and Thomas Henry Huxley concerning the anatomical
  • that their brain structures were strikingly dissimilar. Huxley pointed out, publicly and acerbicly
  • vol. 9, Appendix VIII).) For his part, Darwin enjoyed Huxleys sparring with Owen, though
  • he had nursed a growing animosity toward the man; as he told Huxley at the beginning of the year, he
  • Owen wouldnever be friends again’ ( letter to T. H. Huxley, 3 January [1861] ). Friends
  • expertise. His old and established friendsHooker, Gray, Huxley, and Lyellcontinued to support his
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