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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. B. Dawkins   3 February 1873

Down, Beckenham, Kent.

February 3, 1873.

My dear Sir,

I have great pleasure in expressing my opinion that you are very well fitted to fill the Woodwardian Chair in Cambridge, now vacant by the death of its former venerated occupier.1 You have paid close attention to the geological history of the more recent periods, and I think every one will admit that these present an extraordinary amount of difficulty; so that your success in this line of research offers an excellent test of your ability.2 It will also, I think, be admitted that the study of the more recent periods is not only very difficult, but of the highest importance. Therefore I earnestly hope that you may be successful in your application, and if so, I do not doubt that you will be the means of encouraging the study of geology in the University.

Believe me, my dear Sir, | Yours sincerely, | Ch. Darwin.

To W. Boyd Dawkins, Esq., F.R.S.


The previous Woodwardian Professor of geology at the University of Cambridge was Adam Sedgwick, who had held the chair from 1818 until his death in January 1873. The post went to Thomas McKenny Hughes (ODNB). No letter from Dawkins soliciting a reference has been found. This letter has been transcribed from a printed pamphlet of testimonials for Dawkins.
Dawkins had a particular interest in human prehistory and had published on British mammals of the period.


ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


A letter of recommendation for W. B. Dawkins in his application for the Woodwardian professorship of geology in the university of Cambridge.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Boyd Dawkins
Sent from
Source of text
Cambridge University Archives (GEOL 9/*1 2b)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8757F,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21