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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Peter Martin Duncan   13 April [1868?]1

Down. | Bromley.| Kent. S.E.

Ap 13—

My dear Sir

Sir C. Lyell tells me that you were pleased at receiving some specimens from the Keeling Islands.2 Accordingly I have looked out all the corals which I can find, & I will send them on Thursday mg. to the Geolog. Soc.3

They are not numerous, & I certainly once had more, but I cannot now find them. Such as they are, they may be worth your acceptance, as the habitat & station of each is correctly given in a paper inclosed in the box.4 One specimen in a large, white pill-box is the only one not collected by myself. I think you will understand the catalogue altho’ the numbers are not consecutive.

I suppose you do not care about the soft parts of corals. I have a few notes regarding some of those sent, but I believe that they are so imperfect that they are worth absolutely nothing

Pray believe me my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is conjectured from the reference to specimens of coral from the Keeling Islands (see n. 2, below).
In a letter to Charles Lyell, dated 9 April 1868 (Edinburgh University Library, Gen. 110/1137), Duncan discussed his interest in working on collections at the Geological Society of London that included the Keeling Islands coral specimens. No letter from Lyell to CD on this subject has been found.
CD had visited the Keeling Islands in 1836 while on HMS Beagle (see Journal of researches 2d ed., pp. 452–72). A carrier service between Down and London was operated every Thursday by George Snow (Post Office directory for the six home counties 1866).
Duncan referred at least twice in print to CD’s collections. In Duncan 1869, Duncan referred to some deep-sea corals from Cape Verde that CD had given him. Duncan later described as a new species a coral, Placopsammia darwini (a synonym of Tubastraea coccinea, the orange cup coral), that had been collected by CD in the Galápagos Islands during the Beagle voyage (Duncan 1876).


Duncan, Peter Martin. 1869. The physical geography of Western Europe during the Mesozoic and Cainozoic periods elucidated by their coral faunas. [Read 24 November 1869.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 26 (1870): 51–70.

Duncan, Peter Martin. 1876. Notices of some deep-sea and littoral corals from the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, Indian, New-Zealand, Persian Gulf, and Japanese &c. Seas. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1876): 428–42.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.


Promises to send coral specimens.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Peter Martin Duncan
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.272)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13802,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16