Foundations | Charles Darwin, 1809-1882

Letter and Photo: the American Philosophical Society

Will you be so very kind as to look at the enclosed title and give me your opinion," wrote Charles to friend and fellow scientist Sir Charles Lyell in March 1859 about his now famous book. Arguing that external conditions could hardly be responsible for variation, Darwin wrote in his preface: "In the case of the misseltoe [sic], which draws its nourishment from certain trees, which has seeds that must be transported by certain birds, and which has flowers with separate sexes absolutely requiring the agency of certain insects to bring pollen from one flower to the other, it is ... preposterous to account for the structure of this parasite, with its relations to several distinct organic beings, by the effects of external conditions, or of habit, or of the volition of the plant itself."

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