Was Darwin left-handed?

There are a lot of people on the internet who claim Charles Darwin was left-handed.

I first came across the claim on the excellent Brain Pickings blog. My sceptical radar immediately went into overdrive. There’s no reason why Darwin shouldn’t have been left-handed, of course, but the fact I had never heard this interesting snippet of Darwin trivia before made me doubt its veracity.

Lots of minority groups like to claim Darwin as one of their own. Vegetarians are forever saying he was one of theirs (he wasn’t). Homeopaths insist on claiming he was into homeopathy (he definitely wasn’t). Born-again Christians still go on about Darwin’s deathbed conversion to Christianity (total bullshit). As a general rule, if any minority group (excluding me and my fellow beardies) claims Darwin as one of theirs, you should take the claim with a huge pinch of salt.

One reason I doubted Darwin’s left-handedness was that I have seen samples of his handwriting, and, untidy though it is, it certainly doesn’t look like the handwriting of a left-hander. But the bogus science of graphology clearly isn’t conclusive proof, so I carried out some further research.

In 1877, Darwin published A biographical sketch of an infant in Mind, a Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy. The infant in question was one of his own sons. In the paper, Darwin wrote:

[T]his infant afterwards proved to be left-handed, the tendency being no doubt inherited—his grandfather, mother, and a brother having been or being left-handed.

No mention of the infant’s father (Darwin) being left-handed, then.

Sorry, Lefties, I think we can safely say Darwin was right-handed.

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

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One thought on “Was Darwin left-handed?

  1. William R. Catton, Jr.

    Three Nancy Harrison drawings of Darwin in the children's biography of him by Deborah Hopkinson (published by Grosset & Dunlap) show him writing with his left hand. Why?

    Reply

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