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Darwin Correspondence Project

From S. B. J. Skertchly   4 March 1878

Brandon | Suff.

Mar. 4. 1878.

My dear Sir.

I cannot readily express how grateful I am for your kindly expressions of interest in my work.1 Nothing could have encouraged and stimulated me more than your letter has done, and I shall treasure it as a sheet-anchor of comfort, when, as will happen now and then, I feel downhearted at harsh unsympathetic criticism.

The Survey will publish the account of my researches into the age and divisions of the “palæolithic period”,2 and I now feel certain that all will come right, and that speedily, for I have been showing some fresh sections to a hostile colleague, who has completely given in, saying “The dullest beginner could not fail to be convinced”. The sections are as under:—




I am very sorry to hear you are in such feeble health, but trust ere this you are quite well again.

If quite convenient to you I should like “The Origin of Species”, because it initiated me not only into evolution, but into true methods of scientific thought.3

It may perhaps interest you to know that I have had many opportunities of examining the coral reefs of the African shore of the Red Sea, and found the conclusions you had expressed fully borne out by an examination of the entire coast from Suez to south of Bab-el-mandeb.4

Please do not trouble to answer this letter. I fear I have already given you too much worry, but am sure you will forgive me knowing how highly I value the slightest token of your approbation.

With all good wishes for your speedy restoration to health, | Believe me, My dear Sir | Yours ever faithfully | Sydney B. J. Skertchly.

Charles Darwin, Esqr. F.R.S.


Skertchly worked for the Geological Survey of Great Britain (Aust. dict. biog.). His research on Palaeolithic flints was published as a memoir of the Geological Survey (Skertchly 1879; for his conclusions on the age and divisions of the Palaeolithic period, see pp. 65–9).
Skertchly had worked as assistant geologist to the Turkish viceroy of Egypt (Aust. dict. biog.). The city of Suez lies at the northernmost end of the Red Sea; the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb is at the southernmost end. For CD’s discussion of reefs in the Red Sea and on the east coast of Africa, see Coral reefs 2d ed., pp. 76–8, 180–2, 245–55.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Coral reefs 2d ed.: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. By Charles Darwin. Revised edition. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1874.

Skertchly, Sydney Barber Josiah. 1879. On the manufacture of gun-flints, the methods of excavating for flint, the age of palæolithic man, and the connexion between Neolithic art and the gun-flint trade. London: H. M. Stationery office.


Thanks CD for his expression of interest in SBJS’s work. His researches on the age and divisions of the Palaeolithic period will be published soon by the Geological Survey [On the manufacture of gun-flints, the methods of excavating for flint, the age of Palaeolithic man, etc. (1879)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Sydney Barber Josiah Skertchly
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 177
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11395,” accessed on 23 September 2021,