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Record number: WCP4868

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Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Charles Lyell
5 December [1868]

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, 9 St Mark?s Crescent, Regent?s Park, NW to Charles Lyell [none given] on 5 December [1868].

Record created:
15 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP4868.5269)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
American Philosophical Society
Finding number:
The Darwin-Lyell Collection
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the A. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




9. St Mark’s Crescent N.W.

Dec[embe]r 5th. 18681

Dear Sir Charles

Thanks for the many interesting papers and the copy of the "Elements"; -- I think I have now all the materials necessary. Imust [sic] read and digest a little more & then I shall be able to write straight on.

In the Phil[osophical]. Mag[azine].2 (1863) I have hit upon Prof[essor]. Challis3 theory of the Sun’s heat, as being due to ethereal vibrations excited by the stars. This is part of an [[2]] overwhelming mathematical theory of Gravitation light heat &c. worked out from atoms & ether. Have you ever heard Sir J. Herschell4[sic] or any other good authority speak of this as feasible, or at all generally accepted, -- or even possible, -- for it at once & completely answers Sir W. Thomson’s5 & Croll’s6 limitation of Geolog[ical?] time on account of loss of Suns’ heat. At all events if Prof[essor]. Challis [[3]] as a Mathematician & Physicist is at all on a par with Sir. W Thomson, it shows that the latter’s views are not so absolutely certain as Croll states.

Prof[essor]. Challis also has a theory of the Zodiacal light, -- also etherial [sic]. He says observations show that it extends beyond the earth’s orbit, & therefore can not[sic] be due to a crowd of meteors, -- which it is supposed to be by Thomson &Co[sic]. & to cause the Sun’s heet[sic] by continually falling in to line[?].

[[4]] How do the Physicists account for Gravitation? It is a constant force always doing work, in drawing the planets &c. out of their straight courses, & yet never diminishing? Ought they not to maintain that it too must come to an end?

The question of the temperature in periods of great excentricity[sic] seems very difficult. Supposing we were 1/5 nearer the sun in winter than in Summer, -- our winter at but 50 – 55 would be spring no doubt; but would winter inside the polar circle be very much milder? Could the nearness of the sun make any difference during 2 -- 3 -- 4 -- n 5 months might, -- which would be the very time we were warest [warmest]? If not, all Croll’s arguments about perpetual spring at the pole fail.

Yours very faithfully | Alfred R Wallace [signature]7


1. The year is written in pencil in a different handwriting.

2. The Philosophical Magazine was first issued in 1798. In 1814 it changed its name to ‘The Philosophical Magazine and Journal’ and in 1840 became ‘The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science’.

3. Professor James Challis (1803-1882), physicist and astronomer and director of the Cambridge Observatory.

4. Sir John Frederick William Herschel (1792-1871), 1st Baronet, mathematician, astronomer and chemist.

5. Sir William Thomson (1824-1970), 1st Baron Kelvin, mathematician, physicist and engineer.

6. James Croll (1821-1890), scientist

7. Signature is written up the left side margin of the page.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.