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Darwin Correspondence Project


Vivisection: Darwin's testimony to the Royal Commission

Wednesday, 3rd November 1875.

Mr. Charles Darwin called in and examined.

4661. (Chairman.) We are very sensible of your kindness in coming at some sacrifice to yourself to express your opinions to the Commission. We attribute it to the great interest which we know you take in the subject referred to us, both on the score of science and also on the score of humanity?

— Yes, I have felt a great interest in it.

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Vivisection: first sketch of the bill

Strictly Confidential

Mem: This print is only a first sketch. It is being now recast with a new & more simple form – but the substance of the proposed measure may be equally well seen in this draft.

R.B.L. | 2

586 Darwin and vivisection


Sketch of Bill, No. 1

Arrangement of sections.


Section 1. —Authority to make experiments may be granted by Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Home Department.

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Vivisection: BAAS committee report

Report British Assoc. Edinburgh 1871 p. 144

I No experiment which can be performed under the influence of an anasthetic ought to be done without it.

II No painful experiment is justifiable for the mere purpose of illustrating a law or fact already demonstrated; in other words, experimentation without the employment of anasthetics is not a fitting exhibition for teaching purposes.

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Vivisection: draft petition

The Petition of

Humbly Sheweth

That your petitioners are persons engaged in the study of the Biological Sciences [‘& their application to medicine’ del].

That the art of preventing & curing disease is based upon a knowledge of the nature & causes of disease: and that the increase of such knowledge is the only means by which that art can be brought to perfection.

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Frances Power Cobbe
Frances Power Cobbe, Fom: Life of Frances Power Cobbe by Herself, Published: 1894
Wellcome Library, London

Darwin and vivisection

Darwin played an important role in the controversy over vivisection that broke out in late 1874. Public debate was sparked when the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals brought an unsuccessful prosecution against a French physiologist who had performed vivisection on dogs.

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