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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Robert Chambers   30 April [1861]1

Down, Bromley, Kent

Ap. 30.

My Dear Sir,

I must send you a line to thank you for your “Ice & Water” which I am sure will interest me much;2 though I believe we split a little about solid glacier ice and icebergs.—3 Thanks, also, for extract out of newspaper about Rooks & Crows;— I wish I dared trust it.4

I see in cutting pages half-an-hour ago, that you fulminate against the scepticism of scientific men.—5 You would not fulminate quite so much, if you had had so many wild-goose chases after facts stated by men not trained to scientific accuracy. I often vow to myself that I will utterly disregard every statement made by any one who has not shown the world he can observe accurately. I wish I had space to tell you a curious history, which I was fool enough to investigate on almost universal testimony of Beans growing this year upside down.—6 I firmly believe that accuracy is a most difficult quality to acquire.— I did not, however, intend to say all this.—

I very thoroughly enjoyed my half-hours talk at your pleasant house.—7 I have been corresponding with Mr Davidson on the Genealogy of Brachiopods; & he will some day, I believe, discuss subject as we wish.8 He has seen Salters table of species grouped like a tree.9 Mr D. is not at all a full believer in great changes of species which will make his work all the more valuable.—

I have also written to Mr Jamieson urging him to take up Glen Roy.10

My dear Sir | Yours very Sincerely | C. Darwin


Dated by the reference to Chambers’s paper ‘Ice and water’ (see n. 2, below).
Chambers 1861. The work is one of a series of five papers on various topics that were included in Chambers’s Edinburgh papers (1861). CD’s presentation copy of the paper is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
In an earlier work (Chambers 1853), Chambers upheld evidence for the effects of large-scale glaciation in Europe and dismissed indications of the action of icebergs, a view that CD favoured. For CD’s caustic comments on this paper, see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to Charles Lyell, 7 June [1853].
The extract has not been found.
Questioning why the scientific community had dismissed earlier evidence for the antiquity of man, Chambers suggested that this was owing to ‘the unsatisfiable scepticism about facts reported by others’ motivated by scientists’ fears about their reputations (Chambers 1861, pp. 40–1).
See Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 27 April 1861, p. 390.
During his recent stay in London, CD had visited Chambers at his home in St John’s Wood (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [April 1861]).
John William Salter. See letter to Thomas Davidson, 26 April 1861 and n. 3.
CD’s letter to Thomas Francis Jamieson has not been found, but see the letter from T. F. Jamieson, 3 September 1861, and letter to T. F. Jamieson, 6 September 1861. In his paper on the parallel roads of Glen Roy (Jamieson 1863), Jamieson acknowledged CD’s support: ‘He furnished me with some useful maps and memoirs bearing upon the problem, and likewise indicated several points worthy of particular attention.’ CD and Chambers had also published on Glen Roy (see Correspondence vol. 4). See Rudwick 1974 and Correspondence vol. 9, Appendix IX.


Chambers, Robert. 1853a. On glacial phenomena in Scotland and parts of England. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 54 (1852–3): 229–81.

Chambers, Robert. 1861. Edinburgh papers [pt 3]. Ice and water: a review of the superficial formation. London and Edinburgh.

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

Jamieson, Thomas Francis. 1863. On the parallel roads of Glen Roy, and their place in the history of the glacial period. [Read 21 January 1863.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 19: 235–59.

Rudwick, Martin John Spencer. 1974. Darwin and Glen Roy: a ‘great failure’ in scientific method? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 5 (1974–5): 97–185.


Thanks RC for "Ice and water" [in RC’s Edinburgh papers (1861)].

Comments on problem of scientific accuracy.

Discusses views of Thomas Davidson on the genealogy of brachiopods.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Chambers
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 258
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3130,” accessed on 28 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9