RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1881. Mr. Darwin on Vivisection. The Times (22 April): 11.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, text prepared and edited by John van Wyhe 2003-8, textual corrections by Sue Asscher 3.2007. RN4

NOTE: See record in the Freeman Bibliographical Database, enter its Identifier here.

[page] 11



Sir,—I do not wish to discuss the views expressed by Miss Cobbe1 in the letter which appeared in The Times of the 19th inst.; but as she asserts that I have "misinformed" my correspondent in Sweden2 in saying that "the investigation of the matter by a Royal Commission proved that the accusations made against our English physiologists were false," I will merely ask leave to refer to some other sentences from the Report of the Commission.3

(1) The sentence—"It is not to be doubted that inhumanity may be found in persons of very high position as physiologists," which Miss Cobbe quotes from page 17 of the report, and which, in her opinion, "can necessarily concern English physiologists alone and not foreigners," is immediately followed by the words "We have seen that it was so in Majendie."4 Majendie was a French physiologist who became notorious some half-century ago for his cruel experiments on living animals.

(2) The Commissioners, after speaking of the "general sentiment of humanity" prevailing in this country, say (p. 10):—

"This principle is accepted generally by the very highly educated men whose lives are devoted either to scientific investigation and education or to the mitigation or the removal of the sufferings of their fellow-creatures; though differences of degree in regard to its practical application will be easily discernible by those who study the evidence as it has been laid before us."

Again, according to the Commissioners (p. 10):—

"The secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, when asked whether the general tendency of the scientific world in this country is at variance with humanity, says he believes it to be very different, indeed, from that of foreign physiologists; and while giving it as the opinion of the society that experiments are performed which are in their nature beyond any legitimate province of science, and that the pain which they inflict is pain which it is not justifiable to inflict even for the scientific object in view, he readily acknowledges that he does not know a single case of wanton cruelty, and that in general the English physiologists have used anæsthetics where they think they can do so with safety to the experiment."

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


April 21.

1 Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904), journalist, social reformer and antivivisectionist.

2 Frithiof Holmgren, see Darwin 1881. Cobbe's letter appeared in The Times on 19 April. She replied to this letter in The Times on 23 April. Darwin's letter was reprinted in LL 3: 207-208.

3 See Darwin 1876.

4 François Magendie (1783-1855) French physiologist and pioneer in experimental physiology.

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