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Curious Objects : Beard and scalp hair enclosed in a letter to Charles Darwin

Curious Objects

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Shortly after the publication of Charles Darwin’s <i>Descent of man</i>, Frank Chance, a physician and Hebrew scholar, wrote to Darwin holding himself up as an exception to Darwin’s statement: ‘when in man the beard differs in colour from the hair of the head, as is often the case, it is, I believe, invariably of a lighter tint, being often reddish’. Chance’s beard was darker than his scalp hair and he enclosed these samples to prove it. He also included a meticulous self-description of his body hair and ideas about how he might have inherited it from the maternal and paternal sides of his family. Darwin annotated the letter with a summary and incorporated Chance’s observation into the second edition of <i>Descent</i> as a rare exception to the rule.</p>

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