Nick Matzke posted Entry 2053 on February 22, 2006 10:10 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2048

Alleged photo of Charles Darwin taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, online in the Yale University collection[Note: See update at bottom of post]
Over at Stranger Fruit, John Lynch has linked to a charming photo of someone who is allegedly Darwin, further allegedly signed by Darwin. The photo accompanied an Ed Larson article published in the November/December 2005 issue of Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society, produced at Boston University. Furthermore, it is found in the online archives of the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, in the Julia Margaret Cameron collection.

However, many of us Darwin fans think that this photo is not Chuck, and that someone, somewhere, has Officially Screwed Up. Mind you, it’s not quite as bad as 2004, when Barnes and Noble was selling the Autobiography of Charles Darwin with a photo of Alfred Russel Wallace on the cover, but a screwup nonetheless.

The question remains: Who Is That Bearded Man? Your poll options are below the fold.

Here is the full version of the “Darwin” photo:

Alleged photo of Charles Darwin taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, online in the Yale University collection

Background information

Before you vote, consider the following facts:

1. I was recently in the UK for the University of Birmingham Darwin Day, and got to visit Down House, Darwin’s home in Downe (yes, the village has the “e”, but not the house) south of London.

2. In the aforementioned Down House, there are many portraits of Darwin. One, taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, has a handwritten note below it, saying, “I like this Photograph very much better than any other which has been taken of me. Ch. Darwin”
Darwin signature on Julia Margaret Cameron photo, saying, quote, I like this Photograph very much better than any other which has been taken of me. Ch. Darwin

3. The alleged Darwin photo at Yale has the same handwritten note; however, the text description at Yale, “I like this Photograph much better than any other which has been taken of me”, says only “much better” rather than the accurate quote, “very much better.”

4. The handwritten note at Down House was not attached to the above frizzy-haired bearded guy, rather, it was attached to this rather more dignified photo of Darwin, online at The American Museum of Photography, which clearly is the one and only Charles Darwin. This photo was also taken by Julia Margaret Cameron and is described as having the (accurate) handwritten Darwin note below it.

Julia Margaret Cameron photo portrait of Charles Darwin, online at The American Museum of Photography


Time to Vote: Who is this Bearded Man?

Pick all that apply:

(a) It’s Charles Darwin. He’s got a beard and everything.
Darwin photo, by Julia Margaret CameronDarwin and monkey mirror cartoon


(b) Alfred Russel Wallace, who always gets confused with Darwin anyway.
Charles Darwin autobiography, with Alfred Russel Wallace on the cover


(c.) Some footnote in history with a weird name also photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, H. Thoby Prinsep, who evidently had some frizzy hair problems.
H. Thoby Prinsep, Julia Margaret Cameron archives, Yale University


(d) The Bearded Man used in the famous Annals of Improbable Research study, “Feline Reactions to Bearded Men,” which was followed by many follow-up studies and a Special Bearded Men Issue of AIR.
Annals of Improbable Research, Feline reactions to Bearded Men


(e) The irascible philosopher of biology Michael Ruse
ruse3.jpgRuse with dodo statue(ref)


(f) The dogged philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett
daniel_dennett.gif(ref)(ref)


(g) The God of Western theism
Michaelangelo_God.jpgGod-man creates the bacterial flagellum(ref)


(h) The mysteriously unnamed Intelligent Designer
Michaelangelo_God.jpgGod-man creates the bacterial flagellum(ref)


(i) Either Michael Ruse or Daniel Dennett, after arguing with the other about Darwin, God, and The Intelligent Designer.

(j) I don’t know who it is, but it’s pretty weird that a note in Darwin’s handwriting in one famous Darwin photo would somehow get spliced onto a photo of someone totally different in the Yale University archives, unless maybe Julia Margaret Cameron did it herself as a joke.

Please make your votes in the comments.

Update 1: Additional candidates have been proposed: Santa Claus, Noah, the guy who plays Moses in some movie, “Sam Jaffe playing God, or God playing Sam Jaffe”, Odin (the real God of Western theism), Gandalf, Dumbledore, someone sharing a common ancestor with Darwin, a Martian, and PZ Myers in 2040. Obviously I did not exhaust the Bearded Man Pool.

Update 2: John Lynch has received a reply from Kevin Repp, Curator of Modern European Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Library at Yale.

On the Darwin Photo

My post on the Darwin photo was picked up by Nick at the Panda’s Thumb. Yesterday, I contacted Kevin Repp, Curator of Modern European Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke and I received this reply today:

Many thanks for your query. As it turns out, the photo in question is indeed of Mr. Princep. How it came to be cataloged as one of Darwin is a mystery. The inscription business makes it all the more curious. In any case, I have alerted our digital library cataloging staff, and the record will be corrected promptly. Thanks again for pointing this out to us.

Mystery solved … well sort of. We still don’t know about the inscription.

Princep was a British civil servant in India and was married to the photographer’s sister. See here (which reproduces an 1865 photo that is clearly from the same sitting).

Posted on February 23, 2006 02:16 PM

Update 3: I just received a reply from Ed Larson; he says, “Yes, you are right, I had nothing to do with the picking the picture and never saw it until I received the publication…. If you make another entry in the blog, please include the fact that I knew nothing of the photo until it was published. Once I saw it, I knew it was not Darwin.” So in case anyone was wondering, Ed Larson does know what Darwin looked like.

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Comment #81648

Posted by Tiax on February 23, 2006 12:09 AM (e)

The taker of this photo is cited as “Julia Margaret Cameron.” She kept extensive records of her photography with the Copyright Office. Of special note is the entry:

143 H. T. Prinsep 3/4 head draped in Cloak, thumb & portion of hand shewing 3/19 May 1865

Clearly that is this photograph.

Comment #81651

Posted by Popper's Ghost on February 23, 2006 12:38 AM (e)

Thanks for Tom the Dancing Bug!

Comment #81654

Posted by Registered User on February 23, 2006 1:03 AM (e)

Well, there’s no way to know FOR SURE who the guy in the photo is or who took it.

So we have to take the possibility of mysterious intervening aliens seriously.

Unless some dogmatic atheist tells us we aren’t allowed to do that.

Comment #81681

Posted by coturnix on February 23, 2006 3:11 AM (e)

In the original thread I suggested Ruse, but now I am not so sure any more. I’ll have to sleep on it, then think some deeeep thoughts before deciding.

Comment #81685

Posted by Roscoe on February 23, 2006 3:31 AM (e)

I‘m split 50-50. It‘s either Sam Jaffe playing God, or God playing Sam Jaffe.

Comment #81700

Posted by Dale Stanbrough on February 23, 2006 5:23 AM (e)

“Chuck”? “CHUCK”?

Please, he wasn’t an American, so his name was “Charles”, and always was “Charles”.

Comment #81714

Posted by Stephen Elliott on February 23, 2006 6:56 AM (e)

Posted by Dale Stanbrough on February 23, 2006 05:23 AM (e)

“Chuck”? “CHUCK”?

Please, he wasn’t an American, so his name was “Charles”, and always was “Charles”.

Or possibly Charley.

Anyhoo, I reckon the guy in the picture to be Santa Clause; After a few months of dieting.

Comment #81716

Posted by Popper's Ghost on February 23, 2006 7:08 AM (e)

In the original thread I suggested Ruse, but now I am not so sure any more.

I would hope not, since Tiax’s note gives conclusive evidence that it’s Henry Thoby Prinsep.

Comment #81724

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on February 23, 2006 7:46 AM (e)

Oh, come on now - it’s Chuck. Just look at that nose and eyebrows. And he’s got the right kind of hair in the right kind of place. It’s just that he’s clearly come in from playing cricket and he’s a bit… mussed.

Comment #81728

Posted by mark on February 23, 2006 7:56 AM (e)

Why, it’s the geezer I saw on the street corner, selling bits of string and mumbling something about how he used to be called “the Isaac Newton of Information Theory” when he was young. I gave him a quarter and moved away quickly.

Comment #81730

Posted by PZ Myers on February 23, 2006 8:15 AM (e)

I’m looking at the captions, and both say “very much better”.

I’d like to add a few more options to your list. Since Behe has claimed the designer could be an alien or a time traveler, we should consider the possibility the photo is of k) a Martian, or l) (and I like this one best) a photo of PZ Myers from 2040, placed there by a time-traveling prankster or a chronosynclastic glitch in the Intarwubs. I’m planning on getting increasingly grizzled and hirsute, so there may be some resemblance in 30 years.

I’m probably still going to vote for ©, though.

Comment #81733

Posted by Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. on February 23, 2006 8:39 AM (e)

The figure in the photo in question seems to lack Darwin’s distinctively shelf-like brow-ridge. So I’m guessing it isn’t him.

Comment #81735

Posted by Paul Nelson on February 23, 2006 8:56 AM (e)

I don’t know – I don’t think it’s Darwin [the nose is wrong] – but I have to say that this is the funniest post at Panda’s Thumb EVER.

Darwin, Wallace, Ruse, Dennett, God, the Intelligent Designer. Now there’s a cocktail party.

Comment #81737

Posted by Jim Wynne on February 23, 2006 9:01 AM (e)

Paul Nelson wrote:

Darwin, Wallace, Ruse, Dennett, God, the Intelligent Designer. Now there’s a cocktail party.

Except that God and the Intelligent Designer have never been seen together at the same party.

Comment #81740

Posted by SteveF on February 23, 2006 9:20 AM (e)

I think it is fairly obvious from his comment why Thomas is a palaeontologist!

Anyway, I think its is (reasonably clearly) ‘C.’

Comment #81742

Posted by eTourist on February 23, 2006 9:48 AM (e)

It’s Theodore Roberts, the guy who plays Moses in the silent version of the Ten Commandments. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014532/

Comment #81743

Posted by PaulC on February 23, 2006 9:49 AM (e)

This is further evidence for a conclusion I reached long ago about growing a beard. Whenever I started to let my beard grow, my objective–if there was any–was to stand out in a crowd, assert my individuality, look “distinguished”, or whatever. But in fact, if you have a beard, that’s what people remember, and you get lumped into a category “guys with beards” (subcategories: full beards, goatees, etc.) In a counterintuitive way, trying to look as generic as possible may make it more likely for people to remember what you actually look like. (This would work the opposite way if having a beard was the norm.) These days if I have facial hair, it consists of 3-day stubble–out of laziness and not nostalgia for Miami Vice.

Comment #81746

Posted by JONBOY on February 23, 2006 10:02 AM (e)

Look very carefully at the top left side of the hair line,and you will see an image of the Virgin Mary.

Comment #81748

Posted by Keith Douglas on February 23, 2006 10:16 AM (e)

Can the photo be dated somehow?

Comment #81749

Posted by Jim Wynne on February 23, 2006 10:29 AM (e)

Keith Douglas wrote:

Can the photo be dated somehow?

That depends on whether you’re asking if the age of the photo can be reliably ascertained, or if it can be taken out for dinner and a movie.

Comment #81751

Posted by steve s on February 23, 2006 10:47 AM (e)

Comment #81735

Posted by Paul Nelson on February 23, 2006 08:56 AM (e)

I don’t know — I don’t think it’s Darwin [the nose is wrong] — but I have to say that this is the funniest post at Panda’s Thumb EVER.

And unlike a funny thread at Dembski’s blog, it’ll be here tomorrow too!

Comment #81753

Posted by wamba on February 23, 2006 11:06 AM (e)

Some footnote in history with a weird name also photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, H. Thoby Prinsep, who evidently had some frizzy hair problems.

Frizzy hair problems? Apparently you’ve never seen a halo before. You should improve the company you keep.

Comment #81754

Posted by wamba on February 23, 2006 11:09 AM (e)

(g) The God of Western theism

Wrong photo, Odin would have an eye patch. I think you have a photo there of the God of Middle Eastern monotheism.

Comment #81758

Posted by k.e. on February 23, 2006 11:32 AM (e)

hey de ‘ regigisterated User
If you are not sure (Well, there’s no way FOR SURE ), then I’m pretty damn sure some alien WHO THINKS he just MIGHT BE an athirstiest MARTIAN could JUST BE fooled into thinking THAT PHOTO of AN ATHEIST MARTIAN was in fact …….JP3 or JESUS JFK CHRIST HIMSELF.

Heck I’m willing to go for or even HOWARD the Antichrist AHMANSON jr (look that up dear reader, but make sure you take your meds first) or HERBERT P. HUGHS who really KNOWS?S

Comment #81759

Posted by Karl on February 23, 2006 11:34 AM (e)

I think it’s Moses.
Goddidit.

Comment #81760

Posted by k.e. on February 23, 2006 11:40 AM (e)

OK dinner AND and a movie that’s funny !

But what about its’ DNA ?????????
I thought that only GODS….….……. PHOTO”S ….….….and old McDonald’s wrappers didn’t HAVE DNA …….yeah yeah …….except when touched by living things sheesh.

Carol Heddle FL BLAST etc etc oh and DISCORDANT INDECENT ….whackers

Comment #81764

Posted by k.e. on February 23, 2006 12:00 PM (e)

Obviously VERY deep thinkers the pair of them;
The the guy with more “up top” is thinking “why isn’t dry cleaning available in my neighborhood…so I can have the soup stains removed from my favorite tie before the next meeting at the Royal Society dinner”

and ….er Darwin thinking thinking “why is it going to take another 165 years before the Internet takes off”

Comment #81769

Posted by Faidon on February 23, 2006 12:13 PM (e)

Jim Wynne wrote:

Except that God and the Intelligent Designer have never been seen together at the same party.

You… You mean that J. Hovah, the famous bajillionnaire/philanthropist, and that mysterious caped crusader, IDman, are really… Nah, can’t be.

Anyway, I say that guy looks like Walt Whitman at the time he looked like Gandalf.

Comment #81770

Posted by k.e. on February 23, 2006 12:18 PM (e)

Nice one Faidon, what about a nice Whitman quote to make us all feel better ?

Comment #81771

Posted by normdoering on February 23, 2006 12:27 PM (e)

The first thing that came to my mind was Gandalf the wizard, played by Ian McKellen, in “Lord of the Rings.”

I don’t think that’s right, but something is saying to me: that’s an actor in costume.

Comment #81774

Posted by Don on February 23, 2006 12:38 PM (e)

I am willing to bet that this guy and Darwin share a common ancestor.

Comment #81778

Posted by Don on February 23, 2006 12:58 PM (e)

By the way…

Julia Margaret Cameron’s sister Sara was married to H Thoby Prinsep. Cameron photographed many famous people in addition to family members and friends. She also photographed Henry Thoby Prinsep’s son Valentine.

See…

Sara and Henry Thoby Prinsep opened their home to entertain thinkers and scientists of the Victorian age, and I’m just presuming Charles Darwin might have been a visitor at some point although he wasn’t much for getting out. Imagine seeing Darwin and Prinsep in the same room together.

About Julia’s sister Sarah, at leicestergalleries cache

In the 1850s and 1860s she held a salon at their London home, Little Holland House in Kensington, which was frequented by everybody who was anybody in the worlds of science, politics, literature and art. Mrs. Stirling wrote of her famous Sunday afternoon at homes:

‘A breezy Bohemianism prevailed. That time of dread, the conventional Sunday of the early Victorian era, was exchanged for the wit of cynics, the dreams of the inspired, the thoughts of the profoundest thinkers of the age … Among the habitues of Little Holland House were Carlyle, with his rugged genius, Tennyson, Thackeray, Dickens, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Browning and a score of others whose names now enrich the sun of England’s greatness.’

Comment #81788

Posted by BWE on February 23, 2006 1:15 PM (e)

Except that God and the Intelligent Designer have never been seen together at the same party.

That’s because no one ever invites them.

Comment #81790

Posted by BWE on February 23, 2006 1:19 PM (e)

k.e. wrote:

Heck I’m willing to go for or even HOWARD the Antichrist AHMANSON jr (look that up dear reader, but make sure you take your meds first) or HERBERT P. HUGHS who really KNOWS?S

It’s not the antichrist.

Comment #81795

Posted by Sean on February 23, 2006 1:43 PM (e)

You guys are all wrong! It is clearly Noah!

Comment #81797

Posted by Faidon on February 23, 2006 1:47 PM (e)

k. e. wrote:

Nice one Faidon, what about a nice Whitman quote to make us all feel better ?

Oh OK… Here’s one for the ID crowd:

Whitman The White wrote:

Contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I can contain multitudes.

Comment #81799

Posted by BWE on February 23, 2006 1:50 PM (e)

Sorry, antichrist

Comment #81801

Posted by JONBOY on February 23, 2006 1:57 PM (e)

I happened upon this little known fact about Darwin that I was not familiar with,I’m sure the more learned amongst you are, but never the less it’s quite interesting.
One additional and little known synthesis provided by Darwin concerns the theory of plate tectonics. While in South America, Darwin had a chance to explore the Andes and hike in the mountains. His observations of sea shells at some elevation in the Andes intrigued him and he postulated vast tectonic movements that would remain in obscurity for at least a century.The theory of plate tectonic of which Darwin had the first inklings and the theory of atoll formation, which stands basically in the same form today as that which Darwin proposed, illustrates Darwin’s ability to take bits and pieces of information and put them together in some sort of rational explanation.

Comment #81809

Posted by Albion on February 23, 2006 2:25 PM (e)

Professor Dumbledore.

Comment #81833

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on February 23, 2006 4:46 PM (e)

PZ Myers writes,

I’m looking at the captions, and both say “very much better”.

It was confusing, but I was referring to the difference between the webpage quotes of the handwritten note, here at the American Museum of Photography vs. here at the erroneous Yale University entry.

Comment #81836

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on February 23, 2006 4:53 PM (e)

Paul Nelson writes,

I don’t know – I don’t think it’s Darwin [the nose is wrong] – but I have to say that this is the funniest post at Panda’s Thumb EVER.

Thanks Paul.

Myself, I’m rather partial to the cdesign proponentsists post, but maybe that’s just me ;-).

Comment #81856

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on February 23, 2006 6:29 PM (e)

Hey Paul, I have a few questions for you here:

http://www.geocities.com/lflank/nelson.html

Comment #81897

Posted by Coragyps on February 23, 2006 10:04 PM (e)

H. Thoby as a given name? Dayum, I’m glad my kids are raised! I’d be tempted to suggest that to the wife if she was still in the mood to have another. It would have at least got her out of the mood…

Comment #81899

Posted by Tice with a J on February 23, 2006 10:38 PM (e)

Gotta be Prinsep. The hair and the clothing are the same in both pics.

Comment #82046

Posted by Bob on February 24, 2006 2:10 PM (e)

It’s clearly that famous, liberal scientist, and contemporary Moses, named Charlton Heston

Comment #105736

Posted by Mike Flacklestein on June 14, 2006 10:34 PM (e)

I live at 56452 Commonwealth in Seattle. Been up here before?