RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 'Dr Munro Anatomy'. [Edinburgh University lecture notes]. (1825) CUL-DAR5.A12 Transcribed by John van Wyhe. (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2009. RN1

NOTE: These lecture notes, only a portion of which seem to survive, were taken during Darwin's two years of medical study at the University of Edinburgh. In his Autobiography Darwin recalled: "Dr. Munro made his lectures on human anatomy as dull, as he was himself, and the subject disgusted me. It has proved one of the greatest evils in my life that I was not urged to practice dissection, for I should soon have got over my disgust; and the practice would have been invaluable for all my future work.", p. 47. At the end of the last sheet here Darwin wrote: "This is all general & useless Anatomy.— " See Ashworth, J.H. 1935. Charles Darwin as a student in Edinburgh, 1825-1827. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 55: 97-113, pls. 1-2.

There are further notes on Monro's anatomy in CUL-DAR5.13-A23

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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.


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Dec 2nd

Madder2 colours the Bones.—




White in Negros & Dropsical patients.—



The bones of birds hollow.—



Dr Munro Anatomy1

With respect to the Bones there is a curious fact, namely, that if a course of madder be given, the bones after some time become coloured; this seems to arise from an affinity between the colouring principle & the phosphate of Lime which so largely enters into their composition; but if the coloured bones be kept in Spirits & exposed to the light, they partially lose their die.

What is the cause of this?

The common colour of the bones is a dirty yellow, but in Negros & Dropsical people they are much whiter; in Young people they are dirtier, owing to the more numerous Blood Vessels, ; than in old & stronger, owing to a greater proportion of Cartilaginous substance.— A membrane, of the name of Periosteum covers the bones in which [has] the blood Vessels so that if the Periosteum be scraped of the bone dies.— & in the centre the Marrow, lies, the use of which is not rightly understood. Birds have no marrow, so that their bones are hollow & connected with the Wind pipe, but which means their Specific Gravity is much lessened.— May not it then be possible for Birds to rarify this air & thus to lessen still more their spec. Gravity?—?

1 Alexander Monro [III] (1773-1859), anatomist and Professor of Anatomy, Edinburgh.

1 A red vegetable dye.

[12 verso]

The skin [has] various uses such as excretion absorption & sensation, it is divided into to the [scarf] or cuticle & the corpus or rete1 mucosum it is to this part of the skin that we owe our colour; but at the same time the cause of the dark colour in Negros &c is involved in obscurity. The nails & hair may be considered as an extension of the cuticle since they of with it; the nails consist of hardened albumen in laminae.— —




This is all general & useless Anatomy.—

Munro Anat

[Continued in CUL-DAR5.13-A23]

1 John Bell and Charles Bell. 1829. The anatomy and physiology of the human body. 7th ed., vol. 3, p. 211: "The rete or corpus mucosum, or Reticulum Malpighi, lies between the cuticle and surface of the true skin." p. 211.

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

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