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Darwin Correspondence Project

From M. L. Baxter   28 September 1876


September 28 1876

Charles Darwin F.R.S etc, etc.,

Dear Sir:

I hope you have received “Medical Statistics of the Provost-Marshal-General’s Bureau” sent to you through Trübner & Co. of London by my brother Col. J. H. Baxter.1 The work will, I think, be of some interest to you and, if you think the matter worth any thought, I wish you would give me your opinion on a subject discussed therein, namely, the correlation of disease and statures. By reference to p VI vol. I you may see that I had a small share in the preparation of the work—that of making the “charts” and “maps” and writing so much of the letter-press as relates to them.2 The charts are made up wholly from the Tables of Vol. II but they bring together certain facts which form interesting groups.

Assuming that you are in possession of the work I beg you to turn to Charts I and II (Vol I) and to the comments thereon at pp. 73–75; also to charts VIII and IX with comments at pp. 77–79. Such reference will, I think, explain what I want to as your opinion.3 You will perceive that, in the comments, no dicided opinion is expressed; and for the very good reason that I did not consider myself competent to treat the subject as it ought to be treated. Of course what I wrote was carefully revised by Col. B. and altered as he pleased.

While I was studying the matter I advanced the theory that there was a relation between certain diseases and stature and I even wrote a letter, in Col. Baxter’s name, which I proposed to send to you two years ago with “advance sheets” of the work but Col. B. did not choose to forward it and the matter dropped. But the whole work being now in your hands I venture to address you in my own name asking pardon if I have overstepped the bounds of decorum.

I, in common with thousands in America who eagerly read everything from your pen, can not but feel a little acquainted with you but of course you do not know me. Therefore I wish to state that I feel a certain superiority over the majority of my fellow men in that I am entirely emancipated from the blinding views of teleology and also that I think I understand natural and sexual selection—not, of course, in all past effects, but their immediate application to every day observations. I may also state that I have called the attention of our Professor Morse (Edward S.,) whose address at Buffalo the other day I hope you have seen,4 to the same question and he writes me that he is too busy just at present to study the matter but will do so in about four weeks   He facetiously remarks that “It seems a pity that the religious beliefs could not have been tabulated. What a curious correlation might be established between, for example, a ‘hard-shelled-Baptist’ and dyspepsia—”

Before this reaches you you will know how we have received Professor Huxley and I can promise you even a more cordial reception.5 That we may, not very far in the future, have an opportunity is the sincere wish of | Very respectfully yours | M. L. Baxter M D

Address | 2208 Fourteenth Street N.W. | Washington D.C. | United States.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Galton | Keep & look to’ pencil
1.5 By ... them. 1.8] scored pencil
2.1 I beg ... opinion 2.4] double scored pencil
3.5 overstepped ... decorum.] pencil cross in margin
4.7 Professor ... S.,)] pencil cross in margin
5.1 Before ... future 5.3] double scored pencil


CD’s copy of the two-volume work, produced under the direction of Jedediah Hyde Baxter (Baxter comp. 1875), is in the Darwin Library–Down. Trübner & Co. were booksellers who specialised in foreign publications.
See Baxter comp. 1875, 1: vi–vii (M. L. Baxter is mentioned on p. vii).
Charts I and II gave the incidence of chronic rheumatism and syphilis in relation to complexion, age, height, marital status, and country of origin; charts VIII and IX gave the incidence of diseases of the eye and ear relative to the same factors. The text suggested that a link might exist between height and the incidence of the aforementioned diseases (Baxter comp. 1875, 1: 73–5; 77–9).
Edward Sylvester Morse had given the vice-presidential address, ‘What American zoologists have done for evolution’, to the natural history section at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Buffalo, New York, in August 1876 (Morse 1876). CD’s annotated offprint of the address is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
For Thomas Henry Huxley’s lecture tour of the United States from 5 August to 23 September 1876, see Jensen 1988.


Morse, Edward Sylvester. 1876. Address to section B. [What American zoologists have done for evolution.] Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 25 (1876): 137–76.


Sends J. H. Baxter, Statistics, medical and anthropological [2 vols. (1875)]; asks CD’s opinion on correlation of stature with certain types of diseases.

Letter details

Letter no.
Myron Leslie Baxter
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 97
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10622,” accessed on 19 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24