Forwards an enclosure for CD, at Archdeacon John Sinclair's request [extract from J. Sinclair's Life and works of Sir John Sinclair (1837) 2: 83–5], showing how Dr Erasmus Darwin anticipated Justus von Liebig [in recognising the importance of phosphorus-rich manures].
My dear Darwin/
I was requested by Archdeacon Sinclair to send the enclosed to your brother. It contains a remarkable prophecy of your grandfather which long anticipated the opinion of Libig & well deserves attention.
Will you forward with my kind regards | very sin
Erasmus Darwin Esq
Nor did the Board confine their efforts to the Collection & diffusion of agricultural Knowledge; they endeavoured also to arrange it—to connect husbandry with philosophy or as the Founder of the institution frequently expressed himself ``to raise agriculture from the level of an art to the dignity of a science.'' They wished its process no longer to be carried on blindly or empirically, but to be formed into a regular system & conducted upon rational & experimental principles. The two branches of science from which the greatest aid might be expected were vegetable physiology & chemistry; the Board therefore endeavoured to prevail on men of eminence in these departments to employ their scientific attainments in arranging & combining theoretically the miscellaneous facts & loose notions of which agricultural knowledge at that time exclusively consisted. Among the most valuable results were Darwin's Phytologia & Davy's Lectures on Agricultural Chemistry.
The Phytologia or Philosophy of Agriculture & Gardening was dedicated by the
Author in the most cordial terms of friendship & esteem to Sir John Sinclair
as a work ``begun at his instigation, & forwarded by his encouragement.''
Life of Sir John Sinclair Bar
- f1 4880.f1The reference is to John Sinclair, archdeacon of Middlesex and vicar of Kensington. The enclosure was a handwritten extract from a book by Sinclair about the life of his father, John Sinclair (Sinclair 1837, 2: 83--5); it included a tribute to CD's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin.
- f2 4880.f2The enclosure discusses points in Erasmus Darwin's Phytologia (E. Darwin 1800) that the author thought predated Justus von Liebig's conclusions regarding agricultural fertiliser. Liebig had noted that fields required the replacement of essential minerals in order to maintain a constant state of fertility (Liebig 1840, p. 182). He recommended bone as a rich source of calcium and magnesium phosphates and further observed that the waste materials of the glue industry represented an untapped source of valuable minerals in a form particularly suitable for agricultural use (ibid., p.185). For an analysis of Liebig's role in the development of agricultural chemistry, particularly in the analysis and development of artificial fertilisers, see Brock 1997, pp. 145--82.
- f3 4880.f3The reference is to the Board of Agriculture, founded in 1793 at the instigation of John Sinclair Sr, who became its first president (E. J. Russell 1966, pp. 54, 67).
- f4 4880.f4E. Darwin 1800 and H. Davy 1813. For a discussion of Erasmus Darwin's Phytologia, and his anticipation of later discoveries in agriculture and plant biology, see King-Hele 1999, pp. 333--8. Humphry Davy's Elements of agricultural chemistry is discussed in Russell 1966, pp. 67--76.
- f5 4880.f5The quotation is from E. Darwin 1800, p. 211.
- f6 4880.f6Sinclair refers to a remark on the use of ash as a fertiliser Hunter 1777, pp. 382--3.
- f7 4880.f7In his biography of his grandfather, CD quoted this sentence, adding in a note that he was `indebted to Dr Dowson's Life of Erasmus Darwin, for the reference to the Life and Works of Sir J. Sinclair' (Erasmus Darwin, p. 113); the quoted sentence appears in Dowson 1861, p. 56.