Letter from Erasmus Darwin to James Watt, 1794/11/17

Darwin writes to Watt concerning their efforts to raise money for Dr. Beddoes’ Pneumatic Institute. Darwin also refers to their continuing experiments with gases.

Dear Sir

I am much obliged to you for both your letters, and have this day sent your advertisement and air-paragraph to the newspaper; I sent a shorter one of my own abstracted from Dr Beddoes’s the week before, but I think no subscriptions can be got but by personal application. Already I have the following names

Dr Milnes of Chesterfield Derbyshire 10-10-0
Dr Darwin of Derby 5-5-0
Dr French of Derby 2-2-0
Wm Strutt Esqr. senr Derby 2-2-0
Wm Strutt Esqr. jnr Derby 2-2-0
Joseph Strutt Esq. Derby 2-2-0
Dr Crumpton Derby 2-2-0
Sam Fox Esqr. 1-1-0
Mr Liptrot 1-1-0
Mr E. Darwin 1-1-0

I hope to get a few more, but none by advertising I am affraid. – In another week I think to insert these names in the Derby paper, and may add your Birmingham list, if you think it will give consequence to it.

Your observations are all ingenious and curious, I have not time nor activity enough for experiments and am busied in writing my second vol. of Zoonomia, which absorbs all my leisure hours. The Pthisis from the lungs is generally distinguishable from that from suppurated glands of the mesentery by the cough and expectoration, and other symptoms as pain in the bowels. I am [of the] opinion, that oxygene united with pus produces a tertium quid, an acid, which causes hectic fever, which fever does not generally exist till the matter is exposed to air. This union of oxygene with other matters, as of the smallpox, great p-x, itch, tinea capatis etc produces other infectious matters, which induce other fevers, or ulcers; but I believe them all to be not fever-producing, till they have been oxygenated. See Zoonomia Vol. II not yet publish’d.

Hence cancer is disarm’d by keeping of[f] oxygene, not by any specific virtue in carbonic acid gas. – In pulmonary consumption if the air of a room could be lower’d of oxygene, so as to render the expectorated matter mild, and yet the patient not die from want of oxygene, which if he used no exercise, perhaps he might not require much oxygene? Then there might be hopes of these ulcers healing.

Many experiments are wanted, and thence the propriety of a pneumatic institution.

I am call’d away in proper time, not having any thing further to say worthy your attention, except that Mrs Darwin joins with me in our most respectful compliments and best wishes to yourself and family

from your affect. friend

E Darwin


Nov. 17-94