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Robert Wight (1796–1872), Dr. Freke and the "Origin of Species"

Nature volume 154, pages 566569 (04 November 1944) | Download Citation



AN interesting sidelight on the Darwinian controversies of the early 1860's is afforded by some fragments of contemporary correspondence which have recently come to my notice and which are worth placing on record as much for their subject as for their intrinsic merit of style. The documents accompanied some volumes of Robert Wight's Indian botanical works—the "Illustrations of Indian Botany" and autographed copies of the "Spicilegium Neilgherrense" and vol. 6 of the "Icones Plantarum . . ."—generously loaned to the library of this Institute by his great-grandson, Mr. H. C. Cosens, who is a Ceylon tea planter. They consist of four draft letters in Wight's handwriting addressed to Dr. Freke, of Dublin, on the subject of two pamphlets by the latter author which are also preserved with the letters. Freke is largely concerned with establishing the priority of his own views over others which he attributes to Darwin; Wight, in his letters, has some trenchant observations of his own to make as to the relative merits of the conclusions reached by these two authors. I have no means at present of finding out whether the final version of the letter was ever sent or, if sent, whether it is still in existence; nor have I the opportunity of following up many of the points of historical and biographical interest which are raised by this material. In this article I shall not attempt to do more than briefly introduce the two characters concerned and thereafter, so far as possible, allow the papers to speak for themselves.

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  1. Tea Research Institute of Ceylon

    • T. E. T. BOND


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