skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Goodsir   27 August [1863]1

South Cottage. Wardie | Edinburgh.

Augt 27.

My dear Sir.

I have obd. examined the slide—2 I have obd. no Sarcinæ on it. The spherical bodies are Torulæ in various stages of development.3 The minute black atoms are evidently the result of decomposition, probably of biliary matter. I find also epithelial scales from the mouth, single 〈and〉 coherent, generally in the vicinity or attached to small masses of a filamentous aspect, and probably also from the mouth. There is nothing on the slide referable to the food.

You will bear in mind, that Torula is generally present in acid matter ejected from the stomach.4

The Carb. of Potash has no doubt acted beneficially;5 and I trust you will now derive benefit from your visit to Malvern—6

I shall most willingly repeat the examination should the vomiting recur. Hoping that it will not—I remain | My dear Sir | Yours most truly | John Goodsir.

Charles Darwin Esq.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from John Goodsir, 21 August [1863].
CD had sent Goodsir a microscope slide and phial of his vomit so that it could be examined for organisms that might be causing his persistent vomiting; see letters from John Goodsir, 21 August [1863], and 28 August [1863]. No letter to Goodsir accompanying the slide has been found.
Under highly acidic stomach conditions, a characteristic microflora consisting of yeasts (formerly designated by the generic term Torula) and bacteria may develop (Brock et al. 1994, p. 403).
Potassium carbonate (carbonate of potash) was used as an alkaline remedy for stomach upsets (Paris 1820, p. 337).
CD was planning to visit a hydropathic establishment in Malvern, Worcestershire (see letter to W. D. Fox, 23 May [1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [August 1863]).


Paris, John Ayrton. 1820. Pharmacologia; or the history of medicinal substances, with a view to establish the art of prescribing and of composing extemporaneous formulæ upon fixed and scientific principles; illustrated by formulæ, in which the intention of each element is designated by key letters. 3d edition, enlarged. London: W. Phillips.


Has found no Sarcina on the slides of fluid [see 4272] and nothing referable to the food. Will repeat examination if vomiting recurs.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Goodsir
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 74
Physical description
4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4278,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11