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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Galton   4 November [1875]1

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

Nov. 4th

My dear Galton

I have just returned from London where I was forced to go yesterday for Vivisection Commission.—2

I have read your interesting note & am delighted that you stick up for germs. I can hardly form any opinion until I read your paper in extenso.3 I have modified parts of the Chapt. on Pangenesis which is now printing & have allowed that the gemmules may, or probably do, multiply in the reproductive organs.4 I write now as I fancy that you have not read B. Sèquards last paper, in which he gives 17 or 13 (I forget which) instances of deficient toes on the same foot, in the offspring of parents, which had gnawed off their own gangrenous toes owing to the sciatic nerve having been divided.—5

You speak “almost of the necessity of double parentage in all complex organisations;” I suppose you have thought well on the many cases of parthenogenesis in Lepidoptera & Hymenoptera; & surely these are complex enough.—6

I am very glad indeed of your work, though I cannot yet follow all your reasoning.

In Haste | Most sincerely yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Francis Galton, 3 November 1875.
CD had been requested to appear before the Royal Commission on vivisection (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 30 October 1875). He gave testimony on 3 November 1875 (Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection, pp. 233–4).
Galton had summarised his forthcoming paper on heredity (Galton 1875b) in his letter of 3 November 1875.
CD’s revised chapter on pangenesis was published in Variation 2d ed. 2: 349–99; on the multiplication of gemmules in reproductive organs, see p. 379. On the printing of Variation 2d ed., see the letter from R. F. Cooke, 22 October 1875; the book was not published until the second half of February 1876 (Publishers’ circular, 1 March 1876, p. 168).
See letter from Francis Galton, 3 November 1875 and n. 3. The case of missing toes was reported by Charles Édouard Brown-Séquard in Brown-Séquard 1875. CD cited this paper in Variation 2d ed. 1: 468–70 as providing conclusive evidence that the effects of operations on, or injuries to, the parent were sometimes inherited.
Parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction, is common in the Hymenoptera, the order that includes wasps, bees, and ants; it is more rare in the Lepidoptera, the order that includes butterflies and moths.


Brown-Séquard, Charles Édouard. 1875. On the hereditary transmission of the effects of certain injuries to the nervous system. Lancet, 2 January 1875, pp. 6–7.

Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection: Report of the Royal Commission on the practice of subjecting live animals to experiments for scientific purposes; with minutes of evidence and appendix; 1876 (C.1397, C.1397-1) XLI.277, 689. House of Commons Parliamentary Papers.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.


In London yesterday for Vivisection Commission.

Is revising his chapter on Pangenesis [in Variation, 2d ed.] to allow that gemmules probably multiply in the reproductive organs.

Notes examples of inheritance of acquired characteristics cited by Brown-Séquard.

Doubts that double parentage is necessary for complex organisations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Galton
Sent from
Source of text
UCL Library Services, Special Collections (GALTON/1/1/9/5/7/18)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10241,” accessed on 18 June 2021,

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