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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Galton   25 April 1871

42 Rutland Gate

April 25 71

My dear Darwin

I am grieved beyond measure, to learn that I have misrepresented your doctrine,— and the only consolation I can feel is that your letter to ‘Nature’ may place the doctrine in a clearer light and attract more attention to it.1 I write hurriedly, as time is important, to save the mornings post, in order to point out two passages which, I hope, in your letter to Nature, you will explain at length, so as to remove the false impression of Pangenesis under which I & probably others labour. In “Domestication Animals &c” p 374 “… throw of minute granules or atoms, which circulate freely throughout the system …”2 & p. 379 “… the gemmules .... . must be thoroughly diffused; nor does this seem improbable considering … the steady circulation of fluids throughout the body.”3

(Is there not also, a passage in which the words “circulating fluid” are used?— I cannot hurriedly lay my hand on it, but believe it to exist)4

Believe me—necessary in great haste—very | sincerely yours | Francis Galton


On 30 March 1871, Galton gave a paper before the Royal Society of London, in which he discussed experiments on transfusing rabbits’ blood in an attempt to demonstrate pangenesis, on the understanding that according to CD gemmules travelled through the blood (Galton 1871; see letter from Francis Galton, 9 January 1871, n. 1). CD published a letter in Nature, 27 April 1871, pp. 502–3, in order to clarify his position on gemmules (see letter to Nature, [before 27 April 1871]). No letter to Galton concerning Galton 1871 or CD’s letter to Nature has been found.
Galton quotes Variation 2: 374: ‘throw off minute granules or atoms, which circulate freely throughout the system’. The emphasis is Galton’s.
Variation 2: 379. CD discusses this passage in his letter to Nature, [before 27 April 1871].
There is no other passage containing the phrase ‘circulation of fluids’ or ‘circulating fluid’ in Variation.


Galton, Francis. 1871. Experiments in pangenesis, by breeding from rabbits of a pure variety, into whose circulation blood taken from other varieties had previously been largely transfused. [Read 30 March 1871.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 19 (1870–1): 393–410.

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


Upset to learn he has misrepresented CD’s doctrine on Pangenesis [in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 19 (1871): 393–410]. Hopes that CD’s letter to Nature [3 (1871): 502–3; Collected papers 2: 165–7] will clarify the doctrine and attract attention to it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Galton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Rutland Gate, 42
Source of text
DAR 105: 28–29
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7717,” accessed on 27 January 2022,

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