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Record number: WCP5463

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
James Cossar Ewart
7 March 1899

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Corfe View, Parkstone, Dorset to James Cossar Ewart [none given] on 7 March 1899.

Record created:
16 October 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP5463.6193)

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

Held by:
Edinburgh University Library
Finding number:
GB 237 Coll-14/9/5/16
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Parkstone, Dorset.

March 7th. 1899

Prof. J. C. Ewart.1

My dear Sir

Many thanks for your "Penycuik Experiments" which I have read with great interest, and am very glad to find you are taking up such subjects. I have only two remarks to make in the way of criticism.

1. I do not think you lay stress enough (in your suggestions for Experimenters in [the] Appendix) on the importance of breeding, for Telegony2 tests, from pairs of the same colour as well as [the] same breed. Any differences in the cross are known to bring out ancestral characters. Hence difference of colour alone may bring out stripes in horses. Also, I think it a pity that you have given so long a list of suggested experiments, because the greater the variety of single experiments the less their cumulative effect. I should say that experiments with one well selected breed, such as your Rum3 ponies, or any breed of uniform colour, repeated [[2]] say with six pairs, would be more conclusive than4 two or three times that number of experiments with quite different breeds or species. You want first, a careful examination, with photographs, of the percentage of striped foals that appear in the normal breed, both in their own home or elsewhere. That alone will be more difficult5 to get the more you multiply the breeds experimented with and without it experiments are almost useless. Then, I think each mare tested should be crossed, first with the zebra then with a horse of her own breed, -- then with zebra again, then horse, and so on alternately 4 or 5 times. And this, done with 5 or 6 distinct mares (in separate places) would settle the question of the fact of any change in characters to the to the strange antecedent haybrid [sic] percentage.

2. But that would not prove the cause of the fact. It might be either "infection" or "prenatal impression". You put this last [[3]] aside as being too improbable. But it is solely a question of evidence, and a case has come to my knowledge which, to my mind, is conclusive.

About six years ago D[octo]r. Geikie DD. of Bournemouth, a cousin of the geologists6 7, brought me a photograph given him by an old friend of his -- Dr. Richard Budd, M.D. of Barnstaple. It was so extraordinary that I wrote to Dr. Budd for confirmation & details, which he kindly gave me. The facts are these.

A gamekeeper had a gun-accident [sic] which led to the amputation of his right fore arm, at the North Devon Infirmary at Barnstaple of which Dr. Budd was Physician. Being anxious to get home he left before the wound was healed, taking instructions for the dressing, which he said his wife would do for him. His8 wife however was so nervous she could not do it, so a friend of hers -- the recently married wife of a farmer near -- offered to come and do it, which she did, till it was quite healed. About 6 months later this farmer's wife had a son born without any right fore arm, the stump exactly resembling that of [[4]] the gamekeeper. This of course intensely interested Dr. Budd, and some years afterwards, when the boy was apparently 7 or 8 years old, he himself took the photograph of the man and boy standing side by side, showing the closest resemblance between the two stumps.

What are the odds of this being chance? how [sic] many millions to one? In all England how many children are born with the right fore arm as if amputated just below the elbow, in a year, or in 50 years? Then you have the coincidence of locality, -- at least 10,000 or 20,000 to one, and then the coincidence of it being the one woman in the neighbourhood who dressed the wound when pregnant, and not any other women whose children were born in the same year in the same locality. I sent a short paper with the Photo. to the B[ritish]. Ass[ociation] [for the Advancement of Science]. in 1893, & I will try to get back the Photo. I see, also, in the art[icle]. Deformities in Chamber's Encyclo[paedia]. it is stated that there is now much evidence for the influence of mental impressions of the mother on the offspring.

Believe me | Yours very truly | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


1. Ewart, James Cosser (1851 - 1933). Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh.

2. A theory, in heredity studies at that time, that the characteristics of an offspring borne by a female could be influenced by her previous sires.

3. The Isle of Rum, off the west coast of Scotland.

4. The last letter, 'n', has been written over a crossed out letter that looks to have been a 't' or an 'l'.

5. The 'cu' part of the word has been written over letters which cannot be deciphered.

6. Geikie, Sir Archibald (1835 - 1924). Director-General of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom and Director of the Museum of Practical Geology, London.

7. Geikie, James (1839 - 1915). Murchison Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Edinburgh.

8. This word has been written over another, which cannot be deciphered.

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