RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1889. [Letter to Richard Owen, 1848]. In Journal of the New York Microscopical Society v: 80-81.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 6.2021. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here. This letter was reprinted the same year in the Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society and later (with omissions) in More Letters, 1: 59-61 and is published in Correspondence vol. 4, p. 125.

[page] 80

The letter is as follows;—the date being supplied from the post-marks which it bears.


Sunday (March 26, 1848).

"My Dear Owen,

I do not know whether your MS. instructions are sent in; but even if they are not sent in; but even if they are not sent in, I daresay what I am going to write will be absolutely superfluous, but I have derived such infinitely great advantage from my new simple microscope, in comparison with the one which I used on board the Beagle, and which was recommended to me by R. Brown, that I cannot forego the mere chance of advantage of urging this on you. The leading point of difference consists simply in having the stage for saucers very large and fixed. Mine will hold a saucer three inches in inside diameter. I have never seen such a microscope as mine, though Chevalier's (from whose plan many points of mine are taken), of Paris, approaches it pretty closely. I fully appreciate the utter ABSURDITY of my giving you advice about means of dissecting; but I have appreciated myself the enormous disadvantage of having worked with a bad instrument, though thought a few years since the best. Please to observe that without you call especial attention to this point, those ignorant of Natural History will be sure to get one of the fiddling instruments sold in shops. If you thought fit, I would point out the differences, which, from my experience, make a useful microscope for the kind of dissection of the invertebrates which a person would be likely to attempt on board a vessel. But pray again believe that I feel the absurdity of this letter, and I write merely from the chance of yourself, possessing great skill and having worked with good instruments, [not being] possibly fully aware what an astonishing difference the kind of microscope makes for those who have not been trained in skill for dissection under water.

"When next I come to town (I was prevented last time by illness) I must call on you, and report, for my own satisfaction, a really (I think) curious point I have made out in my beloved Barnacles. You cannot tell how much I enjoyed my talk with you here.

Ever, my dear Owen,
Yours sincerely,


[page] 81

"P.S.—If I do not hear, I shall understand that my letter is superfluous. Smith and Beck were so pleased with the simple microscope they made for me, that they have made another as a model : If you are consulted by any young naturalists, do recommend them to look at this : I really feel quite a personal gratitude to this form of microscope, and quite a hatred to my old one.



Royal College of Surgeons

Lincoln Inn Fields



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