RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1875. Referee report on Thomas Powell, 'Notes on the nature and productions of several atolls of the Tokelan, Ellice, and Gilbert groups, South Pacific'. LINSOC-SP.16. Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Text prepared by John van Wyhe. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here. Reproduced courtesy of the American Philosophical Society and William Huxley Darwin. With thanks to Liz Mcgow of The Linnean Society of London.

Thomas Powell's paper 'Notes on the nature and productions of several atolls of the Tokelan, Ellice, and Gilbert groups, South Pacific' was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 15 April 1875. It was not published or abstracted.


June 23 1875

I cannot recommend Mr Powell's paper to be printed in extenso. It contains very little new matter; & as the author speaks in two places as if consolidated coral-rock had flowed like lava, it is impossible to trust his geological knowledge. He gives no precise information, which if given would have been of value, on the heights of the several islands

His view of the origin of Atolls is the same as that formerly held by Sir C. Lyell, namely that they are built on sub-marine craters. Nevertheless, as he seems to have found, more frequently than any other observer, volcanic products within the Coral Archipelagos, it would be adviseable to give a brief abstract of the paper. I would call attention to his observations (p. 13) on F┼źnafuti, which though vague, seem the most valuable in the paper.

A new plan moreover, of this island is given on the authority of Captain Turpie. The author speaks of a swamp as existing here, covered with scoriae, & bounded on one side by an embankment of great stones; but he does not state that the fragments are too compact to have been driven by the currents of the sea. The author gives lists of the plants found on the several islands; but these seem to me hardly precise enough to be worth publishing; some botanist however ought to glance at the lists & decide on this head.

Charles Darwin

To the Council of the Linnean Society.

This document has been accessed 157 times

Return to homepage

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

File last updated 2 November, 2023