Letter from Charles Darwin

1 January 1866

Letter from Charles Darwin


  • Intro

    Published in 1859 after years of research, consideration, and refinement, On the Origin of Species presented Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) extraordinary explanations of how life on earth works: evolution and natural selection. Its impact is still being felt and debated today.


    Others had been working with similar ideas - notably another English naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, with whom Darwin enthusiastically collaborated. This letter from Darwin to Wallace from 1866 was found by chance in a pile of letters in the British Library. In it, Darwin discusses 'non-blending of certain varieties' of pea - observations about heredity that ultimately led to today's thriving and astounding field of genetics.


    Shelfmark: Add. MS 46434, ff. 64 - 65.

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  • Transcript

    Letter from Charles Darwin

    Original text:


    Down, Bromley, S.E. 



    My dear Wallace,

    After I had dispatched my last note, the simple explanation which you give had occurred to me, & seems satisfactory.

    I do not think you understand what I mean by the non-blending of certain varieties. It does not refer to fertility. An instance will explain; I crossed the Painted Lady & Purple sweet-peas, which are very differently coloured vars [varieties], & got, even out of the same pod, both varieties perfect but none intermediate. Something of this kind, I should think, must occur at first with your butterflies & the 3 forms of Lythrum; tho these cases are in appearance so wonderful, I do not know that they are really more so than every female in the world producing distinct male & female offspring.

    I am heartily glad that you mean to go on preparing your journal.

    Believe me yours very sincerely,


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