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Charles Darwin's Manuscript of Pangenesis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009


Darwin only published one account of his provisional hypothesis of pangenesis, and that is to be found in chapter xxvii of his book The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, the first edition of which is dated 1868. The absence of any earlier account in Darwin's works has led some to assume that he had recourse to this hypothesis only a short time before the published date of the book containing it, and on the basis of this assumption they have asserted that he produced it as a part of his defence of the theory of evolution against the criticisms made of it by the physicists Sir William Thomson, afterwards Lord Kelvin, and Fleeming Jenkin. But to make such an assertion is to ignore the fact that Darwin had already sent his manuscript of pangenesis to Huxley in the year 1865, two years before Fleeming Jenkin's article appeared and three years before Lord Kelvin openly attacked the evolutionary theory. The discovery of this manuscript of pangenesis has, therefore, some importance, for it should reveal Darwin's conception of pangenesis in 1865.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 1963

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