Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882

Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882 was very interested in homeopathy and he received treatment from homeopath James Manby Gully, John Chapman and James Smith Ayerst at Malvern, and Darwin also consulted Frederick William Headland, and Edward Headland,

A staunch advocate of hydrotherapy, Darwin enjoyed treatment from Edward Wickstead Lane (who was married into the famous homeopathic Drysdale family) at Moor Park and Sudbrooke Park, and from Edmund Smith who was a homeopath and the proprietor of Ilkley Wells House, and homeopath William Philip Harrison also a proprietor of the  hydrotherapy establishment at Ilkley Wells House,

Darwin’s biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore describe him as ‘a hard core scientist addicted to quackery‘ (page xx), who was ‘interested in the vital force in living matter‘ (page 159-160). Darwin initially believed that each species had a fixed life span limited by their vital force (page 223), though he soon realised that the new theory of Transmutation meant that there could be no limit to the vital force (page 229). Darwin treated himself with galvanism (page 335) to stimulate his ‘animal electricity’ and to help his poor stomach,

Darwin wrote to homeopath Charles Harrison Blackley to discuss his work on allergy, and Darwin was also a friend of homeopath John James Drysdale and his brother Charles Robert Drysdale,

James Crichton Browne (1840-1938), a leading British psychiatrist and one of Charles Darwin’s most significant correspondents and collaborators, experimented with the homeopathic remedy conium in the treatment of mania, and found to his surprise that it had a pronounced effect on the brain (Anon, The Monthly Homeopathic Review, (1872). Page 176). James Crichton Browne also experimented with provings of chloroform (Richard HughesA Cyclopaedia of drug pathogenesy, issued under the auspices of the British Homœopathic Society and the American Institute of Homeopathy, Volume 2, (Published for the British Homeopathic Society by E. Gould & Son, 1891)) which were avidly picked up in homeopathic publications.

Throughout his life, Darwin met or knew many of the great homeopaths and homeopathic supporters of his age, including Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, William Alingham, Thomas Gold Appleton, James Smith Ayerst, Charles Babbage, Charles Harrison Blackley, William A F Browne, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, William Benjamin Carpenter, Robert Chambers, Robert Lucas Chance, John Chapman, Frederic Chopin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Moncure Daniel Conway, Richard Corfield (the brother of the famous homeopathic chemist Charles Corfield), Catharine Crowe, his brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin, Charles Dickens, John James Drysdale and his brother Charles Robert Drysdale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Roupell Everest, Henry Fawcett (who taught his son William), his cousin William Darwin Fox, Francis Galton (his half cousin), Harry Goodsir, William Rathbone Greg, Frederick William Headland, Leonard Horner, Thomas Henry Huxley, Henry James Junior, Augustus Wilhelm Koch, Robert Lawson Tait, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Lyell, and his relatives James Mackintosh and his son Robert Mackintosh, Harriet Martineau, Karl Marx (staying with John Epps), Giovanni Ettore Mengozzi, S A Merrell, Roderick Murchison, William Thierry Preyer, Edwin Chadwick Rowland Hill, John Ruskin, John Rutherford Russell, Walter Scott, Leslie Stephen, Bartholomew Sulivan, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Masters Theobald, John Tyndall, Alfred Russel Wallace, Samuel Wilberforce, James John Garth Wilkinson, George Wyld,

Darwin was also a keen antislavery supporter and a great admirer of Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, John Epps, William Lloyd Garrison,

Darwin was a great admirer of homeopathic supporters William Ewert Gladstone, John Frederick William Herschel, Alexander von Humboldt, Samuel Smiles, Thomas Southwood Smith, Joseph Sturge, and he was influenced by Friedrich Tiedmann,

Darwin brought the children’s books of Mary Howitt for his children, and his family was heavily influenced by Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852,

As a boy, Charles Darwin attended Shrewsbury School with Richard Corfield, the brother of the famous homeopathic chemist Charles Corfield, and Charles Darwin stayed in Richard Corfield‘s home in Valparaiso in 1834 and in 1835,

In 1824, Darwin heard about Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, and his speech against Slavery from Fanny Allen who wrote to tell the young Charles Darwin all about it, describing Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux’s speech as the ‘most incomparable thing I ever heard‘. Henry Peter Brougham 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux was a Member of Josiah Wedgewood II’s Abolition Committee, and a lifelong supporter of homeopathy.

In 1826, Darwin attended the lectures of Robert Jameson alongside John Rutherford Russell, who was also a student at Edinburgh at that time. Darwin also attended the lectures of Andrew Duncan 1744 – 1877, famous for his work with the mentally ill, and for his extraction of cinchona from Peruvian Bark (and who also taught Frederick Hervey Foster Quin),

At this time, Darwin met Leonard Horner, the father in law of Charles Lyell, who was an advocate of homeopathy, and who took Darwin to the opening session of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In Darwin’s Secret Cause, the authors describe how Charles Darwin found himself embroiled in the new craze for phrenology when he was a student at Edinburgh. George Combe‘s book System of Phrenology was followed by his The Constitution of Man, ‘one of the best selling science books of the 19th century’, caused an uproar amongst Charles Darwin’s professors and friends.

Athough a ‘perfect storm’ erupted against phrenology, many others including Darwin’s friend William A F Browne were enthusiastic advocates of the new craze of phrenology, and surgeon John Lizars, who also taught Erasmus Alvey Darwin, abandoned the practice of slicing of the brain like a loaf of bread to investigate certain discrete areas within the brain as a result. Many of Darwin’s teachers conceded that phrenology had a serious neuroanatomical contribution to make.

In Darwin’s Secret Cause, the authors describe how Charles Darwin developed a horror of bleeding from attending over 100 hours of anatomy classes and dissecting rooms, writing of Alexander Munro III “I dislike him & his lectures so much that I cannot speak with decency about them. He is so dirty in person & actions”.

In 1831, Darwin set out on his 5 year voyage on the Beagle, clutching a copy of Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions given to him as a parting gift by his friend John Stevens Henslow. Charles Darwin said of Alexander von Humboldt… like another sun’ Alexander von Humboldt ‘… illumines everything I behold’.

In 1836, Darwin met John Frederick William Herschel (who was a colleague of Charles Babbage and Mary Everest Boole), ‘Darwin was in awe of the man… and introduced himself‘,

Back in London after 5 years on the Beagle, Darwin read Friedrich Tiedmann, and in 1838, the success of Joseph Sturge in the final abolition of slavery caused great rejoicing in the Wedgewood and Darwin families.

in 1840, 1849 and 1850, Darwin consulted his physician and relative Henry Holland 1st Baronet to no avail, as Henry Holland was baffled by Darwin’s symptoms, so Darwin set off the see James Manby Gully for his ‘miraculous cure’ by hydrotherapy and homeopathy. In 1854, Henry Holland issued the 3rd Edition of his Medical Notes and Reflections, and his Chapters on Mental Physiology, which contained several allusions to homeopathy, wherein he stated that orthodox medicine is unscientific and has no principle to guide it, on matching symptoms to the remedyobserving primary and secondary effects of the remedy (though John James Drysdale is rather crushing of Henry Holland’s views in his review) ( John James DrysdaleThe British Journal of Homeopathy, Review of Henry Holland’s books, Vol XIV No. LVI, (April 1856). Page 269-302. See also Henry Holland, Medical notes and reflections, (Longman, 1840). See also Henry Holland, Chapters on mental physiology, (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1852)).

Darwin also consulted Frederick William Headland in 1860, the son of Edward Headland (who bravely raised the subject of homeopathy before the Medical Society of London in 1827 and again in 1849), and the nephew of William Headland (member of the British Homeopathic Society, described by his homeopathic colleagues as ‘our first chemist‘ and ‘our chief homeopathic chemist‘). Darwin also consulted Edward Headland in 1864 (Anon, The British Homeopathic Review, Volume 3, (William Headland, 1859). Page 3. See also Edward Chepmell, A Domestic Homeopathy, (William Headland, 1858). Frontspiece. See also Samuel Hahnemann, Robert Ellis Dudgeon (translator), Organon of medicine, tr. by R.E. Dudgeon, (1849). Page 342. See also Anon, London Medical Gazette, Volume 19, (Longman, 1837). Page 116. See also Anon, Truths and their reception, considered in relation to the doctrine of homoeopathy: to which are added various essays on the principles and statistics of homoeopathic practice, British Homoeopathic Association, London(Highley, 1849). Page 65).

Darwin also had correspondence with S A Merrell, an American homeopath, on 1.2.1869 and on 28.10.1870,

The Wedgwood family seen to have known James John Garth Wilkinson and his wife from at least 1866, when a Ms. Wedgwood and a Mrs. Garth Wilkinson were subscribers to the London Working Women’s College, and they both knew Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle. Emma Wedgwood and Mrs. Garth Wilkinson were sponsors of the National Anti-Vivisection Society in 1887, (Emma Wilkinson died in 1886) (Emma Wedgwood subsequently married Charles Darwin),

Francis Galton (cousin of the Darwin’s), having caught the fad for Spiritualism, arranged a séance in January 1874 at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house with those attending including Charles Darwin, Hensleigh Wedgwood and Thomas Henry Huxley. Charles Darwin’s son George Darwin hired the medium Charles Williams… (it is possible that Robert Masters Theobald, and George Wyld, were also present),

Charles Darwin was very interested in the work of homeopath Charles Harrison Blackley whose work on allergy, Darwin described as ‘ingenious and profoundly interesting’. Darwin wrote to Charles Harrison Blackley to discuss his work on allergy,

Charles Darwin was also a friend of homeopath John James Drysdale and his brother Charles Robert Drysdale, and Darwin was also a friend of Thomas Henry Huxley,

Charles Darwin also consulted homeopath James Smith Ayerst, and he also received treatment from Edmund Smith who was a homeopath and the proprietor of Ilkley Wells House, a homeopathic treatment facility, and from William Philip Harrison also a proprietor of the hydrotherapy establishment at Ilkley Wells House,

Charles Darwin was also a close friend of Henry James Junior, who was also a close friend of William Darwin. Henry James Junior‘s brother was named Garth Wilkinson James in honour of homeopath James John Garth Wilkinson.

Charles Darwin was also a correspondent of Mary Everest Boole.

Also, Darwin’s wife Emma was taught to play the piano by homeopathic supporter Frederic Chopin.

Robert Lucas Chance who supplied optical glass to Charles Darwin was a Founder and Sponsor (alongside Josiah Mason), and Trustee, and on the Management Committee of the Birmingham Homeopathic Hospital,

Charles Darwin placed his son in Bruce Castle School in Tottenham, which was a continuation of the famous Hazelwood School, founded by Edwin Chadwick Rowland Hill and his brothers, Arthur and Matthew. Edwin Chadwick Rowland Hill was married to Louisa Epps, a member of the famous homeopaths Epps Family.

John Chapman had already published articles by Charles Darwin in the Westminster Review and he was also responsible for publishing Thomas Henry Huxley‘s articles promoting Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in his influential magazine the Westminster Review April 1860 issue.

This publication probably did more for the promulgation of Charles Darwin’s work than any other source. The Westminster Review was the leading radical periodical of its day.

Charles Darwin lay low at his home in Kent, was plucked from poverty and obscurity by publisher John Chapman. Charles Darwin’s first paid employment was as scientific reviewer on the Westminster Review, the radical quarterly periodical that John Chapman bought in 1851 and turned into the best journal of the century.

Interestingly, Charles Darwin’s friends, Catharine Crowe, Harriet Martineau and Charles Babbage, as well as Charles Darwin himself (and many others), were suspected of being the author of The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, published anonymously in England in 1844, 17 years before the The Origin of Species:

The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation proposed a natural theory of cosmic and biological evolution, tying together numerous speculative scientific theories of the age, and created considerable political controversy in Victorian society for its radicalism and unorthodoxy.

The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation argued for an evolutionary view of life in the same spirit as the late Frenchman Jean Baptiste Lamarck. Jean Baptiste Lamarck had long been discredited among intellectuals by the 1840s and evolutionary (or development) theories were exceedingly unpopular, except among the political radicals, materialists, and atheists.

Such was the popularity of The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation that Charles Darwin chose to refer directly to this book in his introduction to On the Origin of Species, identifying what he felt was one of its gravest deficiencies with regards to its theory of biological evolution:

“The author of The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation would, I presume, say that, after a certain unknown number of generations, some bird had given birth to a woodpecker, and some plant to the mistletoe, and that these had been produced perfect as we now see them; but this assumption seems to me to be no explanation, for it leaves the case of the coadaptations of organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life, untouched and unexplained.

The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation caused Alfred Russel Wallace to part company from his friend Charles Darwin. Alfred Russel Wallace is best known for independently proposing a theory of natural selection which prompted Charles Darwin to publish on his own theory.

The anonymous publication of the The Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in 1844, and the very great caution shown by Charles Darwin in publishing his radical ideas had a similar cause, the need to avoid a direct conflict with religion whilst giving voice to scientific ideas. We know that Charles Darwin owned a copy of William Lawrence‘s book, and that he did brood about the consequences of publishing his ideas.

In William Lawrence‘s day the impact of laws on sedition and blasphemy were even more threatening than they were in Charles Darwin’s time. Charles Darwin referred to William Lawrence (1819) six times in his Descent of man (1871).

William Lawrence‘s Natural history of man contained some remarkable anticipations of later thought, but was ruthlessly, and successfully, suppressed. The suppression was so effective that to this day William Lawrence does not seem to get the recognition he deserves. He is omitted, for example, from many of the Charles Darwin biographies, and from some evolution textbooks.

Charles Lyell and Joseph Dalton Hooker were instrumental in arranging the peaceful co-publication of the theory of natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858: each had arrived at the theory independently.

However, Alfred Russel Wallace no longer saw Natural Selection as the agent of human progress, believing to his end that the spiritual influences on humanity far outweighed any influences from the material World.

Alfred Russel Wallace became a spiritualist. At about the same time, he began to maintain that natural selection cannot account for mathematical, artistic, or musical genius, as well as metaphysical musings, and wit and humour.

Alfred Russel Wallace eventually said that something in “the unseen universe of Spirit” had interceded at least three times in history. The first was the creation of life from inorganic matter. The second was the introduction of consciousness in the higher animals. And the third was the generation of the higher mental faculties in mankind.

Alfred Russel Wallace also believed that the raison d’être of the universe was the development of the human spirit. These views greatly disturbed Charles Darwin, who argued that spiritual appeals were not necessary and that sexual selection could easily explain apparently non-adaptive mental phenomena.

While some historians have concluded that Alfred Russel Wallace’s belief that natural selection was insufficient to explain the development of consciousness and the human mind was directly caused by his adoption of spiritualism, other Alfred Russel Wallace scholars have disagreed, and some maintain that Alfred Russel Wallace never believed natural selection applied to those areas.

Reaction to Alfred Russel Wallace’s ideas on this topic among leading naturalists at the time varied. Charles Lyell endorsed Alfred Russel Wallace’s views on human evolution rather than Charles Darwin’s. However, many, including Thomas Henry Huxley, Joseph Dalton Hooker, and Charles Darwin himself, were critical…

This debate has never been reconciled.

Indeed, Rudolf Steiner developed a new path to spiritual knowledge which he called ‘Spiritual Science‘, maintaining that in our modern World, we should gain a direct knowledge of the supersensible by developing our latent spirituality in full rational consciousness.

This debate split Charles Darwin from his friends, but Origin of Species does not attempt to tackle the numinous. It does not even attempt to address the issue. Charles Darwin lived at a time when ideas were rapidly evolving and he was surrounded by radical ideas. Charles Darwin knew the established Church would react violently to Origin of Species, but the World needed radical ideas to break free from the dogma of the past.

I can imagine Charles Darwin turning in his grave if he knew that his Origin of Species was being used as a new fundamentalist bible to reintroduce a new scientific and materialistic dogma, and with such force aforethought that humanity is being trampled underfoot. What is quite so terrible about allowing humanity a sense of the numinous?

Charles Darwin himself was not opposed to the numinous, and neither were his friends and family. It was William Darwin Fox who convinced Charles Darwin to try homeopathy and visit the establishment of James Manby Gully, ably abetted by Bartholomew Sulivan, who sailed withCharles Darwinon the HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s voyage of 1836.

Charles Darwin suffered repeated episodes of illness involving stomach pains from 1838 onwards, and had no success with conventional treatments. In 1849 after about four months of incessant vomiting he followed the recommendation of his friend Captain Bartholomew Sulivan and cousin William Darwin Fox, and after reading James Manby Gully’s book rented a villa at Malvern for his family and started a two month trial of the treatment on 10 March.

Charles Darwin was a friend of homeopath John James Drysdale and his mother Elizabeth Drysdale. Elizabeth Drysdale was the wife of William Drysdale and the mother in law of the hydropathic specialist Edward Wickstead Lane whose establishment at Moor Park Charles Darwin visited.

John James Drysdale was a constant visitor at Moor Park who ‘made his brother in law’s home his own’ and came often with his younger brother Charles Robert Drysdale, who was a physician with homeopathic sympathies.

Charles Darwin knew *John James Drysdale well enough to know his views on various scientific and social subjects well enough to be able to recommend him to Herbert Spencer as a potential subscriber to the ‘System of Synthetic Philosophy‘. (Though Darwin did know *John James Drysdale and Charles Robert Drysdale at Moor Park, he would also have met another brother George Robert Drysdale (the author of of The Elements of Social Science; or, Physical, Sexual, and Natural Religion) and several other Drysdale family members so it is not completely clear which Drysdale he actually mentioned to Herbert Spencer).

Charles Darwin received hydropathic treatment in 1859 for his illness from Edward Wickstead Lane. He wrote that he played billiards here and said “I really think I shall make a point of coming here for a fortnight occasionally, as the country is very pleasant for walking”.

Charles Darwin assisted Edward Wickstead Lane in establishing a library at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary by sending him copies of Household Worlds, a weekly journal edited by Charles Dickens, and other books.

Charles Darwin wrote to Edward Wickstead Lane on 12.10.1852 saying:

I cannot help remarking that I doubt the expediency of your choice of books in one particular. I question the propriety of putting the Pilgrim’s Progress in the hands of mad people unless upon the homeopathic principle of alleviating a disease with a medicine that would very often cause it.

Edward Wickstead Lane transfered his business to Sudbrooke Park, where Charles Darwin also went for treatment.

Darwin was also a friend of homeopath Moncure Daniel Conway, who linked together Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Charles Lyell, and Thomas Carlyle. Charles Darwin was part of a social set which included homeopathic supporters Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin’s brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin, Harriet Martineau, George Everest and his brother, homeopath Thomas Roupell Everest, Robert Everest (?brother of George Everest and Thomas Roupell Everest – a geographer who lived in India). Publisher John Chapman and Thomas Henry Huxley were part of this group.

Darwin wrote:

“I much like & think highly of Dr. James Manby Gully (24.3.1849)” and “Dr James Manby Gully gives me homoeopathic medicines three times a day, which I take obediently without an atom of faith (19.3.1949)” and “Dr. G. feels pretty sure he can do me good, which most certainly the regular Doctors could not (28.3.1849)” and “I determined to give up all attempts to do anything and come here and put myself under Dr. James Manby Gully.

It has answered to a considerable extent: my sickness much checked and considerable strength gained (6.5.1849)” and “Dr. James Manby Gully & the Cold Water Cure, which has had an astonishingly renovating action on my health (13.6.1849)” and “Dr. James Manby Gully tells me I shall have to follow treatment for a year. I consider the sickness as absolutely cured.

And about 3 weeks since I had 12 hours without any flatulence, which showed me that it was possible that even that can be cured, as Dr. G. has always said he could (7.7.1849)” and “I steadily gain in weight & eat immensely & am never oppressed with my food.

I have lost the involuntary twitching of the muscles & all the fainting feelings &c black spots before eyes &c &c Dr James Manby Gully thinks he shall quite cure me in 6 or 9 months more (12.10.1849)” and “Having gained weight ever since I commenced is a clear sign that I have not overdosed myself.”

Dr. James Manby Gully has had plenty of experience & with me has always been cautious (May 1850)“.

Darwin does criticise homeopathy and Dr. James Manby Gully, despite of the improvement in his health:

“I cannot but think in my beloved Dr James Manby Gully, that he believes in everything” when his daughter was very ill, he had a clair-voyant girl to report on internal changes, a mesmerist to put her to sleep” an homeopathist, viz Dr. John Chapman; & himself as Hydropathist! & the girl recovered (4.9.50)

However, despite being disillusioned by Dr. James Manby Gully at times, Charles Darwin still brought his daughter Annie to see Dr. James Manby Gully when she was so ill on 27.3.1851. Dr. James Manby Gully offered him hope but Annie worsened:

“She has been very quiet all morning, but vomited badly at 6 A.M. which, however bad, shows she has more vital force than during two previous days.

and hope faded and she remained at death’s door even though Dr. James Manby Gully slept nearby. Annie unfortunately died in April 1851.

Nonetheless, Darwin continued to use hydropathy, and homeopathy.

“Dr James Manby Gully did me much good (7.12.1855)” and “It was very kind in Dr. James Manby Gully to speak so of me: if you go there again, pray remember me most kindly to him, & say that never (or almost never) the vomiting returns, but that I am a good way from being a strong man (3.10.1856)

and Darwin continues to recommend Dr. James Manby Gully to his friends:

“most heartily glad I am that Dr. James Manby Gully has done you some good (22.2.1857)

though Darwin does criticise Dr. James Manby Gully too:

“And in one respect I like him (Edward Wickstead Lane) better than Dr. James Manby Gully, viz that he does not believe in all the rubbish which Dr. G. does (30.4.1957)“.

In 1859, Darwin went for treatment with homeopath William Philip Harrison at his Ilkley Wells House Hydrotherapy Establishment, where he complained to Joseph Dalton Hooker that:

I have been very bad lately; having had an awful ‘crisis’ one leg swelled like elephantiasis – eyes almost closed up – covered with a rash and fiery boils; but they tell me it will surely do me much good – it was like living in hell‘.

After Annie died, it was just too difficult for Darwin to see James Manby Gully, (Darwin’s daughter Annie died but James Manby Gully‘s daughter survived), and it was 12 years before Darwin returned to Malvern to receive treatment from James Manby Gully again. Adrian Desmond and James Moore explain in their book Darwin, that Charles Darwin could not face going back to Malvern, he was too distressed to stay for Annie’s funeral at the time, and when the family returned to Malvern in1863, it was Emma who visited the grave.

Darwin also received homeopathic treatment from James Smith Ayerst at Malvern at this time.

Emma writes on 29 Sept 1863:

We like Dr Ayerst tho’ he has not the influence of Dr James Manby Gully. Dr James Manby Gully it is hopeless to try to see tho’ I must say he has been to see Ch. twice & he quite approves of his treatment. He takes 2 or 3 wet rubbings in the day & small walks in the garden, but he is weak— Our stay here has however been of real use to our sick boy & put us on a better system with him. Ch. appetite is so good I think he must get strength soon & he has struggled on for 5 days without sickness.

CD had formerly received hydropathic treatment from James Manby Gully at Great Malvern, Worcestershire, but was treated on this occasion by Ayerst, presumably on the recommendation of James Manby Gully, owing to James Manby Gully‘s own ill health (see letter from William Darwin Fox, [16–22 May 1863], and letters to William Darwin Fox, 23 May [1863], and 4 [September 1863]

In 1865, John Chapman visited Darwin at Down House and took his case homeopathically, and treated him with his spinal ice bag. John Chapman was a specialist in dyspepsia, sickness, and psychological medicine, and Darwin prepared a list of his symptoms for him:

Age 56-7 – for 25 years extreme spasmodic daily and nightly flatulence, occasional vomiting, on two occasions prolonged during months. Vomiting preceded by shivering, hysterical crying, dying sensations or half faint & copious very palid urine. Now vomiting & every passage of flatulence preceded by ringing of ears, treading on air & vision, focus and black dots, air fatigue, specially risky, brings on the head symptoms, nervousness when Emma leaves me…

Even so, Darwin remained fascinated by the ideas and philosophy he learnt from James Manby Gully and from his other homeopathic physicians and friends. He continued to investigate homeopathy for many years after Annie’s death, receiving treatment from homeopaths and corresponding with them:

Letter from Charles Darwin to Joseph Dalton Hooker 16.1.1862:

P.S. The letter with curious address forwarded by Mrs Hooker was from a German Homoepathic Doctor—an ardent admirer of the Origin—had himself published nearly the same sort of book, but goes much deeper—explains the origin of plants & animals on the principles of Homeopathy or by the Law of Spirality— Book fell dead in Germany— Therefore would I translate it & publish it in England &c &c?!

The Charles Darwin Project have not been able to identify the German Homeopath mentioned (though interestingly they do include a disclaimer to make it look as if Darwin was not influenced by homeopathy – interesting!):

“The German homeopathic doctor has not been identified. He was seemingly an adherent of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s law of spiral growth of plants. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe claimed in his paper, [there is in plants a general spiral tendency, through which, in connection with a vertical tendency, every construction, every form of plant following the law of metamorphoses is achieved] (Goethes Werke pt 2, 7: 49).

Dana Ullman believes he has been able to identify the German homeopath:

After consultation with various historians, especially Robert Jutte (chief historian of the Robert Bosch Institute), we have determined that the German homeopath is probably Augustus Wilhelm Koch (1805-1886). For details, see pages 112-114 of Dana Ullman’s book The Homeopathic Revolution.

Read Dana Ullman‘s The Curious Case of Charles Darwin and Homeopathy

In 1867, Charles Darwin read at Henry Ward Beecher’s chapel during his American tour, where and Henry Ward Beecher made a favourable impression, as Darwin reports in his letters (Henry Ward Beecher was a great campaigner for homeopathy all his life).

In 1874, Darwin consulted Thomas Henry Huxley‘s colleague allopath Andrew Clark 1st Baronet, who found that the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica was of great benefit in constipation, and it is possible this is the ‘strychnineCharles Darwin complained about, during his treatment by Andrew Clark in 1874 (no doubt given without sufficient dilution!)

Dr. Clark’s regime could not be kept up. The diet proved impossible and his ‘strychnine’ preparation ‘did me harm’.

Darwin investigated homeopathic dilutions (1860) and continued his studies on Drosera until 1881, and he ‘marvelled that ‘so inconceivably minute a quantity as the one twenty millionth of a grain of phosphate of amonia’ made a tentacle bend through 180 degrees‘ (Adrian Desmond and James Moore Darwin page 597),

(William Thierry Preyer also experimented with ultra low dilutions, discovering that he could paralyse frogs with 0.000000 gms of curare (5 millionths of a gram)),

Writing to Joseph Dalton Hooker on 21.11.1860, Darwin said:

I am working like a madman on Drosera. Here is a fact for you which is certain as you stand where you are, though you won’t believe it, that a bit of hair 1/10000 of one grain in weight placed on gland, will cause one of the gland bearing hairs of drosera to curve inwards, and will alter the condition of the contents of every cell in the foot stalk of the gland.’

Writing to Charles Lyell a few days later, Darwin said:

I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the species in the world. “I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the species in the world. But I will not publish on Drosera till next year, for I am frightened & astounded at my results.

In this connection I may refer to Darwin’s researches with the fly catching plant, Drosera, or Sundew. Darwin found that solutions of certain salts of ammonia stimulated the glands of the tentacles and caused the latter to turn inwards.

He made this solution more and more dilute, but still the plant was able to detect the presence of salt.

Darwin was almost frightened by his results.

Writing to Frans Cornelis Donders he says:

The 1/4,000,000th of a grain absorbed by a gland clearly makes the tentacle which bears the gland becomes inflected; and I am fully convinced that 1-20,000,000th of a grain of the crystallised salt (i.e., containing about one-third of its weight of water of crystallisation) does the same.

“The leaves are first rate chemists & can distinguish even an incredibly small quantity of any nitrogenised substance from non=nitrogenised substances.”

Darwin abandoned his original intention to publish a short paper on the subject, fearing that his estimate of the astonishing sensitivity of the leaves of these plants to minute quantities of nitrogenous substances would scarcely be believed without further supporting evidence (letter to Edward Cresy, 12 December [1860]).

This work was not published until 1875, when Insectivorous plants appeared. (letters to Charles Lyell, 24 November [1860], and to Daniel Oliver, 20 October [1860]).

I declare it is a certain fact, that one organ is so sensitive to touch that a weight of 1/78,000 of a grain (ie seventy-eight times less weight than that, viz 11000 of a grain, which will move the best chemical balance) suffices to cause conspicuous movement.

“Is it not curious that a plant shd be far more sensitive to a touch than any nerve in the human body! Yet I am perfectly sure that this is true.” (equivalent to a 7th homeopathic decimal dilution).

Darwin wrote to the well known physiologist Prof Frans Cornelis Donders of Utrecht Netherlands, that he observed 1/4,000,000th of a grain of the salt had a demonstrable effect on Drosera.

Here is what he said about his experiments: “And that the 1/20,000,000th of a grain of the crystallised salt does the same.

Now I am quite unhappy at the thought of having to publish such a statement.

The reader will best realise this degree of dilution by remembering that 5,000 ounces would more than fill a thirty one gallon cask or barrel and that to this large body of water one grain of the salt was added – only half a drachm or thirty minims of the solution poured over the leaf. Yet this amount sufficed to cause the inflection of the leaf.

My results were for a long time incredible, even to myself and I anxiously sought for every source of error. The observations were repeated during several years.

Two of my sons, who were as incredulous as myself, compared several lots of leaves simultaneously immersed in the weaker solutions and in water and declared that there could be no doubt as to the differences in their appearance.

In fact, every time that we perceive an odour, we have evidence that infinitely smaller particles act on our nerves. Moreover, this extreme sensitiveness, exceeding that of the most delicate part of the human body, as well as the power of committing various impulses from one part of the leaf to another, have been acquired without the intervention of any nervous system.”

It is not surprising that homeopaths were amongst the first people to embrace Darwin’s Origins of Species and to write to him to share their ideas and offer him support.

On 15.12.1880, Darwin accepted membership of homeopath Giovanni Ettore Mengozzi‘s La Scuola Italica,

Towards the end of his life, Darwin consulted Norman Moore 1st Baronet and Dr. Allfrey,

Of interest:

Charles Darwin visited Llandudno in 1824, and his visit is written up in *John Price‘s guidebook Llandudno And How To Enjoy It. Charles Darwin was a life long friend of ‘Old Price’, as he called his friend John Price. They had first met as children when Charles Darwin was aged 15 and ‘Old Price’ was aged 21. John Price also knew Francis Darwin and Darwin’s brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin, who was known as ‘Old Strol’. John Price was in correspondence with the children of Henry Thomas, homeopathic proprietor of the Llandudno Hydropathic Establishment.

Charles Darwin’s neice Margaret Susan Wedgwood lived in Llandudno.


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