Seeing Corals with Darwin’s “Eye of Reason”: Discovering an Image of a Tropical Atoll in the English Countryside

  • Richard MilnerEmail author
Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)


In the leafy town of Orpington, at the southeastern edge of London’s suburban sprawl, and about 5 m from Charles Darwin’s home in Downe Village, there sits a medieval stone hall called the Priory, which is now the Bromley Museum. Among its local-history memorabilia, the Priory contains a treasure trove of nineteenth-century watercolors that were commissioned in 1869 by Darwin’s wealthy neighbor: the banker-scientist John Lubbock (1834–1913), later Lord Avebury, who lived up the hill in his father’s 22 room mansion called High Elms. Their relationship was a special one, with Lubbock being Darwin’s one and only student, his “apprentice.”


Charles Darwin Coral Reefs John Lubbock Alexander Emanuel Agassiz Ernest Griset Charles Lyell Erasmus Darwin Robert FitzRoy 



The author thanks Robert Ginsberg, Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics at the University of Miami, historians of science David Dobbs and Randal Keynes, and Vittorio Maestro, Annie Gottlieb, and Lyulph Lubbock for their constructive comments and suggestions. Also, thanks to Marie-Louise Kerr, Curator of the Bromley Museum and to Lyulph Lubbock for permission to reproduce the Griset images. And also to my friends and colleagues Hazel Marsden and the late John Marsden, who accompanied me to meet Adrian Green at The Priory’s storeroom that day. Thanks to Charles Harris and Vittorio Maestro, of Natural History magazine, which published an earlier version of this essay. Thanks to Robert H. Wilder, Jr. and the late Susan K. P. Wilder for making the author’s Darwin work possible over many years.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of AnthropologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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