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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Ogle   6 March [1868]1

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

March 6th

Dear Sir

I thank you most sincerely for your letter which is very interesting to me. I wish I had known of these views of Hippocrates, before I had published, for they seem almost identical with mine—merely a change of terms—& an application of them to classes of facts necessarily unknown to this old philosopher.2 The whole case is a good illustration of how rarely anything is new.— The notion of pangenesis has been a wonderful relief to my mind, (as it has to some few others) for during long years I could not conceive any possible explanation of inheritance, development &c &c, or understand in the least in what reproduction by seeds & buds consisted.

Hippocrates has taken the wind out of my sails, but I care very little about being forestalled. I advance the view merely as a provisional hypothesis, but with the secret expectation that sooner or later some such view will have to be admitted. I find that Mr. Herbert Spencer intended something altogether different.—3

You will have probably observed that I have made use of that capital twin-case.—4

With my very sincere thanks for your great kindness, I remain | Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin

I do not expect that Reviewers will be so learned as you; otherwise no doubt I shall be accused of wilfully stealing Pangenesis from Hippocrates,—for this is the spirit some reviewers delight to show.—


The year is established by the reference to Variation (see below, n. 2).
Ogle’s letter to CD, in which he evidently pointed out the similarity of CD’s theory of heredity, pangenesis, to that of the Greek physician Hippocrates, has not been found. For CD’s hypothesis of pangenesis, see Variation 2: 357–404. Variation was published on 30 January 1868 (Freeman 1977). For a discussion of the theories of heredity of Hippocrates and CD, see Dictionary of the history of ideas 2: 622–4.
CD had received information from Ogle on a case of twins with the same minor deformities (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to William Ogle, 29 March [1867]). CD discussed the case in Variation 2: 253.


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

Dictionary of the history of ideas: Dictionary of the history of ideas: studies of selected pivotal ideas. Editor-in-chief, Philip P. Wiener. 5 vols. New York: Scribner. 1973–4.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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


Wishes he had known of the views of Hippocrates, which are almost identical to his Pangenesis hypothesis. CD advances it as provisional, but secretly expects some such view will have to be admitted.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Ogle
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6 Down letterhead
MR 6 68
Source of text
DAR 261.5: 2 (EH: 88205900)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5987,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

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