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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Bowman   16 November 1872

5 Clifford St

Nov. 16. 72

My dear Darwin,

I ought ere this to have thanked you very much for your new book— I find it most interesting—but the material for thought in it so abundant that I can’t get on with it as fast as I could wish—1 I am reading it at all spare moments— Your bunch of 3 keys is wonderfully efficacious in the penetration of the dark problems you work upon2—and I am certain that through the avenues you open to us can these secrets become alone gradually understood. Thank you for some kind expressions— I feel that you appreciate too highly any little aid I may have supplied—3

most truly yrs | W Bowman

our good Donders has had on the 15th of Oct. the ‘Jubilium’ of his 25th year as Professor at Utrecht & a perfect ovation from his many friends & pupils4   He writes “I have been accumulated with kindness by my pupils & old pupils by my colleagues & many friends— The pupils presented me with most beautiful marble busts of Helmholtz (who had been kind enough to give his time for sittings) and of Johannes Muller sculptured by Drake in Berlin the first artist of Germany I think.5 I could not have had such a happy idea as they had had for myself. There was a great banquet to which 115 united & I was the only guest. In a word every one did all he could for making a happy day of the 15 Octr which brought at the same time so cruel souvenirs   Poor fellow alluding to the loss of his only child & daughter in her confinement of twins 2 yrs ago— They are both living & in Utrecht with their father Engelmann—6

I thought you might like the above extract—as I am sure you feel an attachment towards my old friend whose head & heart are alike great.



Bowman’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Expression (Appendix V).
CD argued that most of the expressions involuntarily used by humans and lower animals were accounted for by three principles: the principle of serviceable associated habits; the principle of antithesis; and the principle of the direct action of the nervous system (see Expression, pp. 27–9).
CD cited Bowman in Expression for information on the human eye; he gave particular thanks to him in Expression, p. 160 n. 14.
Bowman had introduced CD to Frans Cornelis Donders, professor of physiology at the University of Utrecht (Correspondence vol. 17, letter from William Bowman, 3 September [1869]). Donders had been appointed professor extraordinarius at Utrecht in 1847 (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 49 (1890–1): xiv).
Hermann von Helmholtz and Johannes Peter Müller were prominent German physiologists. Donders also referred to Friedrich Drake.
Donders’s daughter, Marie Engelmann, died on 5 March 1871 after giving birth to twins. The children, Frans and Paula Engelmann (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 49 (1890–1): xxii), were brought up by their father, Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann. See Correspondence vol. 18, letter from F. C. Donders, 17 May 1870.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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


Thanks CD for Expression, comments on it.

Describes celebration of F. C. Donders’ 25th year as professor at Utrecht.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bowman, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Clifford St, 5
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8628,” accessed on 16 October 2019,

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