RECORD: Leconte, J. L. 1882. [Obituary of Darwin]. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 20: 234-5.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 5.2022. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. Darwin was an honorary member of the society since 1870.

[page] 234

The death of Charles Robert Darwin; April 20, aged 73, was announced by Dr. Le Conte.

[page] 235

Dr. LeConte said:

In rising to announce the death of Charles Robert Darwin, which occurred on the nineteenth day of April, last, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, I have no intention to give a biographical sketch of his life, or his contributions to science. This labor of love will be performed fully by some of his compatriots, who have had the benefit of the sweet and instructive personal intercourse with him which has failed to be part of our earthly enjoyment. But what I do wish to manifest, as far as the feeble power of my language will permit, is the deep grief which we feel, at the loss of one, who has by his work and his writings, become a dear companion, and a guide in our scientific thought.

For, to no man more than to Darwin, does the present age owe as much, for the gradual reception of the modern method of close observation over the scholastic or a priori formulae, which, up to a brief period, affected all biological investigations. To him, above all men, we owe the recurrence to the old Aryan doctrine of evolution (though in those ancient times promulgated under the guise of inspiration) as preferable, by reasonable demonstration, to the Shemitic views, which have prevailed to within a few years, and are still acceptable to a large number of well-minded but unthinking men. The doctrine of evolution, in its elementary form, means nothing more than that everything that exists has been derived from something that pre-existed; that the former is related to the latter as effect is to cause. And it is most pleasing evidence of the acceptability of this doctrine, that it is now heard from many pulpits in the land, as a strong illustration of the instructions which are thence given.

Therefore, while lamenting the death of Darwin, at a ripe old age, and losing the benefit of his vast store of learning, which could not much longer remain with us, we are grateful that we have lived in a generation in which he was a conspicuous example of the humble and holy men of heart, which other scientific men should endeavor—albeit, with much less capacity — to imitate.

And, finally, we offer to the bereaved family our most heartfelt sympathy in their affliction, and our trust that the well-chosen ancestral alliances will enable the descendants to worthily succeed in attaining the honor and usefulness which characterized our deceased colleague.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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