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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Stephen Paul Engleheart   2 June [1869]1


June 2d

My dear Sir

Will you do me a favour by observing during next few weeks any women just towards the end of parturition especially in a bad labour; you will, I believe, observe that at the last & worst efforts & pains, they close the orbicular muscles round the eyelids, like a Baby when crying; now what I want to know is whether this muscular contraction cause a few tears to flow. Of course the woman must not be crying from suffering in the ordinary sense. I want to hear about the same point during violent retching, when nothing is actually thrown from the stomach, which cd. get into the nose, & thus irritate the membrane, & cause tears.— I shd be very grateful for any information on above point.—2

As I am writing I will ask one other question: have you heard any credible account of good being derived in dyspepsia & nervous weakness from “Pulvermachers Volta-Electric Chain bands”; I see he quotes, Sir C. Locock, H. Holland, Ferguson &c, &c.—3

Are all the statements quackery & lies, or wd it be worth my trying as an experiment?

Forgive me troubling you & believe me | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Pulvermacher’s volta-electric chain bands (see n. 3, below).
CD was gathering information for his work on Expression.
Isaac Louis Pulvermacher’s electric belts were advertised in The Times from 1852 onwards, at first as the ‘patent portable hydro-electric chain’; an advertisement for the ‘volta-electric chain band’ with testimonials from the people CD mentions (Charles Locock, Henry Holland, and William Fergusson) appeared on 8 March 1869, p. 12. An article on Pulvermacher’s hydro-electric chain bands appeared in the Lancet 58: 388–9 (25 October 1851).


Asks about orbicular muscles in eyes of women suffering in labour.

Inquires about treatment for dyspeptic weakness involving "Volta-Electric Chain bands".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Stephen Paul Engleheart
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.398)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6771,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17