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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. W. Baxter   6 January [1878]1

Beckenham

6 Jan.,

[Asks about the composition of a ‘spermaceti ointment’ which he has been buying for some years] because I blackened some young shoots of plants with this ointment mixed with Lamp-black & it produced an extraordinary effect on the shoots, which I think cannot be accounted for merely by the exclusion of light.2

Footnotes

The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. W. Baxter, 7 January 1878.
CD had painted one side of the cotyledons of Avena and Phalaris with a mixture of lamp-black and spermaceti ointment in order to ascertain the effect of excluding light, but they became bowed towards the blackened side owing to the grease checking their growth (Movement in plants, pp. 467–8). See also letter from Leonard Darwin, 7 January 1878. Spermaceti ointment was used as a mild dressing for blisters, cuts, and grazes (Warren 1859, p. 675).

Bibliography

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.

Warren, Ira. 1859. Household physician; for the use of families, planters, seamen, and travellers. Boston, Mass.: Higgins, Bradley, and Dayton.

Summary

Asks about the composition of a spermaceti ointment which he has been buying for some years "because I blackened some young shoots of plants with this ointment mixed with Lamp-black & it produced an extraordinary effect on the shoots, which I think cannot be accounted for merely by the exclusion of light".

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-11314
From
Charles Robert Darwin
To
William Walmisley Baxter
Sent from
unstated
Source of text
Parke-Bernet (dealers) (6 February 1962)
Physical description
* 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11314,” accessed on 17 April 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-11314.xml

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