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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. R. Lankester   17 April [1871]1

Nurnberger Strasse 37. | Leipzig.

April 17th.

My dear Sir,

I have got my friend Dr Nitsche to get his ear photographed—2 We spent some time with the photographer and secured, I think—the most favourable illumination, position &c.3 He was very glad of the opportunity of making himself in some way of service to you and will, I believe today forward you proofs from the photographs— The right ear has the inflected point developed—but the left ear has not got it at all—4 It looks like an ordinary ear in the photograph—rather more than it does in reality— For it has a very pointed outline (b)


and this portion a of the helix is very broad— He has also some photographs of the ear of a foetal ourang outang belonging to Profr. Leuckart’s Museum here—which he will forward to you—5 My friend Mr Moseley of Oxford noticed in one of three Chimpanzees in the gardens at Hamburg a projecting point on the inflected margin of the helix similar to that to which you draw attention in man—6 In the other two Chimpanzees this appeared to be absent. The same friend has examined some Chrysalids of moths in consequence of your remarks as to the period of development of secondary sexual characters—7 He has made drawings of the pupæ of the Emperor moth and of the oak egger8—in both of which the male imago has an enormously larger development of the antennæ than the female imago— The pupæ of the two sexes of the Emperor moth shew scarcely any difference in the size of the case enclosing the antenna—so that in the female a small antenna is enclosed in a large case—whilst the male’s antenna fits closely to its large case. In the oak-egger the same fact is even better exhibited—for there is no difference between the male and female antennæ of the pupæ—though the enclosed imaginal antennæ differ greatly in size—that of the male being much the larger. He will send his sketches to Nature for publication—9 The German translation of the Descent of Man is just out—10

Believe me, dear Sir, | Very sincerely yours | E. Ray Lankester.

P.S. I am exceedingly glad that so great an interest is taken by the general public as evidenced by the sale of your book—in the questions discussed.11 The science-affairs of the Athenæum are now in very bad hands and are made entirely subsidiary to the notions of what will maintain its circulation—necessarily a Philistine one.12 It is amusing to see how some newspapers e.g. the Illustrated News & I think the Times—presume to discuss and pronounce on scientific problems & doctrines offhand—13

CD annotations

1.11 three … absent. 1.15] scored pencil
1.17 He has … just out— 1.26] scored pencil
3.1 P.S.... offhand— 3.6] crossed pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Hinrich Nitsche, 18 April 1871.
Lankester refers to Hinrich Nitsche (see letter to E. R. Lankester, 22 March [1871]).
The photographer has not been identified.
See letter from Hinrich Nitsche, 18 April 1871 and enclosures 1 and 2. CD discussed projecting points in the upper portion of some human ears in Descent 1: 22.
Lankester refers to Rudolf Leuckart and the zoological collection of the University of Leipzig (see letter from Hinrich Nitsche, 18 April 1871 and enclosure 3). CD published a woodcut based on the picture of the foetal orang in Descent 2d ed., p. 17.
Lankester refers to Henry Nottidge Moseley and the Zoological Garden of Hamburg. CD cited Lankester for this observation in Descent 2d ed., p. 15.
CD discussed the development of secondary sexual characteristics of moths in Descent 2: 403–5.
The emperor moth is Saturnia pavonia; the oak egger is Lasiocampa quercus.
Moseley’s sketches were not published in Nature.
Lankester refers to the first volume of Carus trans. 1871 (see also letter from Eduard Koch, 14 April 1871).
The first 2500 copies of Descent had sold out within a week of the book’s release; John Murray had 2000 more copies printed in March and a further 2000 in April (see letters from John Murray, 23 February [1871], 27 February [1871], 9 March [1871], and 10 May 1871).
Descent was given a negative review in the Athenæum on 4 March 1871 ([Leifchild] 1871).
The Illustrated London News published a summary of CD’s writings, culminating in Descent, on 11 March 1871, pp. 243–4. The Times published their review of Descent on 7 April 1871, p. 3, and 8 April 1871, p. 5.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Descent 2d ed.: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1874.

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

[Leifchild, John R.] 1871. Review of Descent. Athenæum 4 March 1871, pp. 275–7.


Has had Hinrich Nitsche’s pointed ear photographed. Nitsche also has photographed the ear of a foetal orang. [See Descent 1: 21–3.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Edwin Ray Lankester
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 87: 39–40
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7693,” accessed on 20 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19