January 25, 2009

Letters from Charles Darwin

February 12, 2009 is the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth. My wife is making an exhibit in his honor for the Natural History Museum in Lund Sweden. She found some letters that he had sent in the library and I helped her read and transcribe them. His handwriting is neat but hurried, he wrote with a quill and he used some abbreviations, like 'cd' for 'could' and 'wd' for 'would'.

Here are the letters:

Down Bromley

Kent Aug 19 1868

My dear Hooker,

I dare say you could find some naturalist who could obtain for me from Professor Nillson a little piece of information. It is whether with the Reindeer in which both Sexes are horned, are the horns first developed (or are they developed in a greater degree) at an earlier or later age, or at nearly the same period of life as with all other deer, in which the males alone have horns? The comparison would be fairest with species of nearly the same size and inhabiting the same climate.

If Prof. Nillson does not know, would it be possible to interest him enough to obtain for me in his own country this piece of information about which I am very curious.

Believe me,
Yours very sincerely
Charles Darwin

Kent. S. C.

Oct 31st

Dear and Honored Sir,

I am very much obliged for your great kindness in sending me the reference about the Reindeer through Dr. Hooker. When next in London I will consult the work, and should be grateful for any further information from you. You will easily perceive that what I wish to ascertain is whether there is any relation whatever between the period of development of a character and its transmission to one sex alone or to both sexes.

I have much pleasure in enclosing my photograph, and if it would not cause you too much trouble I should very much like to possess one of you, as I have a collection of the photographs of eminent naturalists.

With the most sincere respect
I remain yours sincerely and obliged
Charles Darwin


At January 29, 2009 1:25 AM , Blogger fresca said...

This is a very slight coincidence indeed, but this gives me a chance to tell my reindeer story!
Last week my house neighbors had a friend from the Faroe Islands staying, and I went to dinner to meet him. During my relentless Fresca questioning, I managed to glean that he--Jonah--had eaten puffins! At first I thought he was pulling my leg, but he ran and got a booklet on his homeland, which mentioned the fact that puffins are edible.
"Do they taste like chicken?" I asked.
"No," Jonah said. "They are dark meat...they taste more like reindeer."
You can imagine how much that illuminated my understanding.
Happy Darwin Day, early.

At January 31, 2009 11:57 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Cool! I believe they also eat a lot of puffin eggs, and have a lot of very strange ways of preserving them.


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