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The letters between James Lamont and Charles Darwin on Arctic fauna

  • C. Leah Devlin (a1)

In the summers of 1858 and 1859, the Scot Sir James Lamont of Knockdow embarked on two cruises to Svalbard (referred to by Lamont as Spitzbergen [sic]) to hunt, make geographical surveys, and collect geological and biological specimens. Lamont's return from these voyages coincided with the publication of the joint Charles Darwin-Alfred Russel Wallace paper, ‘On the tendency of species to form varieties; on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection’ by the Linnean Society in August 1858 and, a year later, the publication of Darwin's On the origin of species (Darwin 1958). Profoundly influenced by Darwin's ideas, Lamont initiated a correspondence with the naturalist, relating examples of what he considered to be natural selection, observed during his hunting expeditions. In his Svalbard travelogue, Seasons with the sea-horses (1861), Lamont expounded specifically upon walrus and polar bear evolution, ideas inspired by sporadic yet encouraging letters from the renowned naturalist.

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C. Darwin 1882. The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. 2nd Edn. London: William Clowes and Sons.

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Polar Record
  • ISSN: 0032-2474
  • EISSN: 1475-3057
  • URL: /core/journals/polar-record
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