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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Bowman   [after 21 December 1872]1

My dear B.—

I am going to beg a favour of you.– Mr Blair, principal of the Blind In. at Worcester, informs me that those persons born blind, very rarely frown: indeed he thought at one time that they never frowned; but having found 2 exceptions in the case of children did not write to me till my book was published.—2 He may of course, be quite mistaken; but the point seems worth attending to.— Would you have the great kindness to observe any children born blind whom you may see;, & could you get any intelligent person, who has charge of an asylum to observe.? The points which seem worth attending to are (1) do infants born blind, contract all the muscles round their eyes whilst screaming violently like ordinary infants.? (2) whether or not—these muscles are contracted during screaming, do children born blind in after years rarely or never frown;—a frown being [recognising] by Vertical furrows between eyebrows.— (3) If there is any difference between children born blind & others in frowning or in contracting all the muscles round the eyes, do they weep as copiously as other children. (4) If of children born blind, some frown & contract the other muscles, & others do not act in this manner, would it not be worth while to consider the cause or nature of the congenital blindness?

Forgive me for begging this great favour & | believe me yrs very sincerely | C. D.

I have asked Donders if he has any opportunities to observe the same facts3


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to F. C. Donders, 21 December 1872.
Robert Hugh Blair was principal of the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen. See letter from R. H. Blair, 9 November 1872. Expression was published on 26 November 1872 (Freeman 1977), but binding of the copies began in October 1872 (see letter from R. F. Cooke, 22 October 1872).


Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


Exceptional cases of frowning by children born blind have been reported to CD by R. H. Blair [see 8615]; CD asks WB for information and observations on the use of the muscles around the eye by those blind from birth.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Bowman, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 152
Physical description
ADraftS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8588,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20