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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Dawkins   1 December 1875

The Owens College, | Manchester,

1 Dec. 1875

My dear Sir,

When I was out last summer in Sydney I met Mr. Clarke the old hero, who has survived most of his European scientific friends, and found out that the wish of his heart was F.R.S. He seems to me to be well deserving of that recognition, and as I heard that you knew of his work, and had also a personal knowledge of him I have sent his proposal paper to you thinking that you might like to sign it.1 Murchison, Sedgwick, Phillips, Lyell, alas! are dead, with all of whom Mr. Clarke had an intimate friendship and who would have given him their cordial support.2

If he be elected the Colony will take it as a compliment: for out there the few scientific men believe that “out of sight is out of mind.”

Wishing that you are quite well in spite of the East wind,3 | I am | My dear Sir | Yours truly | W. Boyd Dawkins

Charles Darwin Esq F.R.S.


William Branwhite Clarke, a clergyman and geologist in Sydney, had surveyed the mineral resources of New South Wales, and discovered evidence of gold there in 1841, although the discovery was only made public later. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London on 1 June 1876 (Record of the Royal Society of London). CD had commented on a paper of Clarke’s in 1840 (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to Geological Society of London, 22 January 1840), and received information from him in the 1860s (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from W. B. Clarke, [August 1861], and Correspondence vol. 10, letter from W. B. Clarke, 16 January 1862).
Roderick Impey Murchison, Adam Sedgwick, John Phillips, and Charles Lyell. The relationship between Murchison and Clarke was not as cordial as Dawkins states; Clarke’s recognised claim as the scientific predictor of gold in Australia had brought him into conflict with Murchison, who claimed priority for his own prediction in 1844 that gold would be found in Australian rocks from the Silurian period (ODNB s.v. Clarke, William Branwhite).
In Britain, the east wind, coming from northern continental Europe, is cold and raw, giving rise to the proverb, ‘When the wind is in the east, ’tis neither good for man nor beast’ (Speake ed. 2008, p. 347).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.


Asks CD to sign papers for Royal Society candidacy of W. B. Clarke.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Boyd Dawkins
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Owens College, Manchester
Source of text
DAR 162: 131
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10285,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

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