SIR Henry Dale’s long life encompassed many activities, of which a masterly account is given in the biographical memoir by his friend and colleague, Wilhelm Feldberg (1). The historian of the future will find much to analyse in the extensive collections of his papers. But, even though it is the centenary of his birth, the memory of that vigorous presence in the front row of meetings of the Physiological Society is still so recent and so vivid as to prompt, not analysis, but the collation of a number of such letters and papers as may recall some salient features of his life and the flavour of his personality.
Darwin was awarded the Royal Society’s highest award, the Copley Medal, at the anniversary meeting on 30 November 1864. The event is worth examining in some detail because first, there was a disagreement as to whether the Origin of species had been included in, or excluded from, the grounds on which the award of the medal had been made. The published letters of Darwin’s supporters give the impression that the President of the Society, General Sabine, behaved rather dishonourably by saying, in his presentation speech, that the Origin was not to be considered as one of the pieces of work for which the award was being made. However, although it is not possible to reconstruct events completely, an examination of the minutes of the Council, and of some items of correspondence, shows that Sabine’s behaviour was not as reprehensible as his detractors made out. Secondly, the event is of interest because at the dinner which followed the meeting, Charles Lyell gave a speech which, in his own words, was ‘somewhat of a confession of faith as to the “Origin”’. A carefully written and corrected manuscript of the speech survives in the Lyell papers at Edinburgh University, and it is reproduced here in full.