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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   [4 September 1873]

Dear Frank

You told me once about the affinity of Lithium or Cæsium to the alkalis. Can you bring me any book just to look at, giving the affinities of the various earths alkalis & metals. I want to know under a physiological point of view, but any thing will be a guide1  

yours affect. | Ch. Darwin


CD probably began writing on Drosera (sundew) between June and October 1873 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). In Insectivorous plants, pp. 174–5, he listed the effects of alkaline, earthy, and metallic salts on the leaves of Drosera according to the order given in Henry Watts’s Dictionary of chemistry. CD’s annotated copy (see Marginalia 1: 195–6) consists of the first three volumes of the second edition (Watts 1872–4), volumes four and five of an 1871 reprint of the first edition (Watts 1862–8), and a supplement to the first edition dated 1872 (Darwin Library–Down). The substances CD experimented with included lithium nitrate, lithium acetate, and caesium chloride. For the definition of chemical affinity in this period, see Watts 1872–4, 1: 850–67.


Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Watts, Henry. 1872–4. A dictionary of chemistry and the allied branches of other sciences. 2d edition. 5 vols. London: Longman, Green, & Co.


Asks FD to bring any book that gives the affinities of the various earths, alkalis and metals.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
SP 4 73
Source of text
DAR 271.9: 2
Physical description
LS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9040F,” accessed on 8 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21