AN EXCEPTIONALLY EARLY SCIENTIFIC LETTER ON THE USE OF CHLOROFORM, AND THE STUDY OF BARNACLES WHICH WAS TO PLAY A KEY COMPONENT IN HIS THEORY OF EVOLUTION
DARWIN, CHARLES (1809-82). British scientist. Good, early Autograph Letter Signed, “C. Darwin” with remarkable science content. “Athenaeum Club, Saturday August 20, 1848”. Three full pages, octavo. To “My dear Dr. Booth”. [Francis Booth. 1792-1863. American physician and botanist; resided in London from 1820, and at various times the Secretary, and Treasurer of the Linnean Society of London]. Extremely fine condition. Darwin writes:
“Since I saw you, I have been persuaded at the British Museum to write direct to Dr. Gould at Boston, for I hear he is a very kind man and likes to assist everyone. Dr Gould has attended to Cirripedia [barnacles – Darwin’s work on barnacles was a key component in the theory of speciation he published some 10 years later, in his 1859 magnum opus On the Origin of Species.] more than anyone else and if he grants my request, I consider it superfluous to trouble any one else. Should this channel fail, I will not fail to remember your most kind offer. With my true thanks for all your sympathy and assistance about Chloroform – pray believe me. Yours very sincerely, C. Darwin”.
A number of Charles Darwin’s biographies record the administration of chloroform by Darwin to his wife Emma, during her labor and delivery of her eighth child, Leonard. This occurred on 15 January 1850, a little over two years after James Young Simpson in Edinburgh described the analgesic action of inhaled chloroform. An online search of more than 9000 items of Darwin’s correspondence at Cambridge University and other sources revealed that he was an active proponent and user of chloroform in midwifery, for euthanizing animals he studied, as well as in botanical studies of carnivorous plants. He also discovered that the concurrent inhalation of chloroform, during its administration to his wife, alleviated his distressing anxiety which he suffered when present at her earlier confinements. [ ! ] [Reference: courtesy National Library of Medicine]. Just an outstanding letter with choice ‘content’… on so many levels.