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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Turner   14 December [1866]1

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

Dec. 14th

My dear Sir

Your kindness when I met you at the Royal Socy. makes me think that you would grant me the favour of a little information, if in your power.2 I am preparing a book on “Domestic Animals,” & as there has been so much discussion on the bearing of such views as I hold, on Man, I have some thoughts of adding a chapter on this subject.—3

The point on which I want information is in regard to any part which may be fairly called rudimentary in comparison with the same part in the Quadrumana or any other mammal.—4 Now the os coccyx is rudimentary as a tail, & I am anxious to hear about its muscles. Mr Flower5 found for me in some work that its one muscle (with striæ) was supposed only to bring this bone back to its proper position after parturition. This seems to me hardly credible. He said he had never particularly examined this part, & when I mentioned your name, he said you were the most likely man to give me information. Are there any traces of other muscles? it seems strange if there are none. Do you know how the muscles are in this part in the Anthropoid Apes? The muscles of the ear in man may, I suppose, in most cases be considered as rudimentary; & so they seem to be in the Anthropoids; at least I am assured in Zoolog. Gardens,6 they do not erect their ears. I gather that there are a good many muscles in various parts of body which are in this same state; could you specify any of the best cases.— The mammæ in man are rudimentary. Are there any other glands or other organs, which you can think of.— I know I have no right whatever to ask all these questions & can only say that I shd be grateful for any information.

If you tell me anything about the os coccyx or other structures, I hope that you will permit me to quote the statement on your authority, as that would add so greatly to its value.—7 Pray excuse me for troubling you & do not hurry yourself in the least in answering me.

Pray believe me | My dear sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I do not know whether you would care to possess a copy, but I told my Publisher to send you a copy of the new Edit. of the “Origin” last month.—8


The year is established by the references to the Royal Society of London and to the presentation copy of Origin (see nn. 2 and 8, below).
CD had attended a reception at the Royal Society on 28 April 1866 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)), where he met Turner. Turner then sent CD some of his publications (see letter to William Turner, 5 June [1866] and n. 2).
The reference is to Variation, which was published in 1868. Although CD began collecting material for a chapter on humans, he soon decided that the subject needed a separate volume and eventually the material was used in Descent (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1867]).
CD discussed rudimentary organs in animals and plants in Variation 2: 315–18, 397–8. He extended his discussion, including rudimentary organs in humans, in Descent 1: 17–31.
William Henry Flower.
The reference is to the Zoological Gardens of the Zoological Society of London in Regent’s Park, London.
Turner’s response to CD’s queries has not been found. CD included information from Turner on the muscles of the coccyx in Descent 1: 29–30.
CD refers to the fourth edition of Origin, which was published in November 1866 (Publishers’ Circular, 1 November 1866, p. 666). Turner’s name appears on the presentation list for the book (see Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix IV).


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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thinks of adding chapter on man to Variation. Asks about muscles connected to os coccyx in man and existence of other rudimentary organs in man.

Sends copy of Origin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner
Sent from
Source of text
Edinburgh University Library, Centre for Research Collections (DC. 2. 96/5 folio 1)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5306,” accessed on 27 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14