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Letter from Erasmus Darwin to James Watt, 1794/07/03

Darwin writes to Watt to encourage him in his scientific experiments, especially Watt’s experiments with “inflammable air”.

Derby Jul 3-94

My dear friend,

It gave me great satisfaction both on your account and on that of the public, that you are employing your mind on the subject of medicinal airs, of which indeed Dr Beddoes had before inform’d me. You will do me a great favor by sending me an apparatus, or a description of one, and an account how easily to obtain the gasses; I have now an asthmatic patient would readily try oxygen gas mix’d with atmospheric air.

In you letter to me, you speak of obtaining inflammable air from Zinc. Do you hold the theory, that the inflammable air (Hydrogen) is extracted from the Zinc, as your expression seems [to] countenance, or do you suppose, that it is from the decomposition of water according to the idea of poor Lavoisier?

By the coach tomorrow I intend to send you a copy of my new book, hoping to amuse you, not to instruct you; I think to direct it to Mr Boulton’s Warehouse in Birmingham – if this direction be wrong, pray inquire after it. If any new matter on reading any part of my book should occur to you, or any great errors, I should be glad of your criticism towards another edition, tho’ I have sold the copy-right, I would correct it if I could.

Mrs Darwin and myself beg our kindest remembrance to Mrs Watt, whom we hope the lenient hand of time, and that strength of mind, which she possesses, and your attentions to her, will gradually procure consolation, tho’ not forgetfulness. Adieu from dear Sir

your affect. friend

E Darwin