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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lyon Playfair   15 May [1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

May. 15th

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for having sent me a copy of the Bill on Vivisection as introduced by you.—2 By undertaking this work, you have in my opinion done a great service in the cause of humanity & Science. I have had no recent communication with any physiologist, but I fear that the clause about registering every experiment, done without anæsthetics, though in itself a good step, may be a source of much trouble & difficulty, especially from the impossibility of explaining to the unscientific the probable advantage of any particular experiments.3

Pray believe me, my dear Sir | yours faithfully and obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Lyon Playfair, 21 May 1875.
Playfair introduced the bill for the regulation of vivisection in the House of Commons on 12 May 1875 (Hansard parliamentary debates 3d ser. vol. 224 (1875), col. 542). The copy of the bill received by CD is in DAR 139.17: 23; it was ordered to be printed by the House of Commons on 12 May 1875.
CD refers to section three, clause five: ‘That a register of all experiments made without the use of anaesthetics shall be duly kept, and be returned in such form and at such times as one of Her Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State may direct’. On the controversy over anaesthetics, see Appendix VI.


Hansard parliamentary debates:


Discusses Vivisection Bill.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair of St Andrews
Sent from
Source of text
Bonhams (dealers) (10 November 2009); DAR 147: 245
Physical description
ALS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9980,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23