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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Crichton-Browne   17 April [1873]1


April 17,

My dear Sir

You are always most kind. The photographs are very curious and show great power of acting; but still I think that I should have known that the expressions were acted, if I had not read your letter first. If you will not think me unreasonable I should like to see the remaining ones.2 Prof. Ferrier’s researches sound most wonderful and interesting. There is nothing like impudence in the world, and I hope that you will add to your kindness by sending me a copy of his paper when published.3 I shall be very curious to learn whether he believes that he excites an idea and that this leads to the movements, or that he acts directly on the motor nerves.4

With many thanks | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from James Crichton-Browne, 16 April 1873.
See letter from James Crichton-Browne, 16 April 1873 and n. 2. No copy of David Ferrier’s paper has been found in the Darwin Archive.
It was generally accepted that a stimulus provoked an idea that led to movement, a theory that rejected the notion of cerebral localisation. Ferrier’s experiments were designed to show that a stimulus could provoke movement directly. For more on the history of theories of brain function and Ferrier’s experiments showing cerebral localisation, see R. M. Young 1968.


Young, Robert M. 1968. The functions of the brain: Gall to Ferrier (1808–1886). Isis 59: 250–68.


Photographs sent by JC-B show great power of acting.

David Ferrier’s researches sound wonderful. Does he believe that he excites an idea and this leads to the movement, or that he acts directly on the motor nerves?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Crichton-Browne
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 344
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8865,” accessed on 31 July 2021,

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