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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Cooper   21 September 1872

7. Theobald street | New Kent road | London S. E. | c/o Mr. Stevens1


To C. Darwin Esq:—

Hond. Sir,

I have recently had an interview with Drs. Denny & Kellock, at Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington,2 upon the subject of a discovery I made some years since, but which has never been ventilated: it relates to horticulture immediately, & remotely to palæontology & geology, & will explain many difficulties in connexion with these sciences, which have hitherto been considered insuperable, & will also furnish a key to the knowledge of facts, now occult, that will materially tend to the confirmation of your grand exposition,—“The Origin of Species”. We have yet to learn the causes & agencies concerned in the production of the monstrous organisms, both animal & vegetable, of byegone ages:— my theory will elucidate them. Relative to artificial cultivation, this discovery promises the development of tropical productions, in excess of their natural condition, in a similar ratio to that realized in the pansy, fuschia, pelargonium, &c.

Such is my programme, & to what other great discoveries mine may lead, time & talent only can make manifest. Dr. Denny kindly gave me your address, & I take the liberty of appealing, with some hope of success, to one who has dared so much for truth & science, feeling a strong conviction that you will, if in your power, promote my views, which are as follows:— I am 53 years of age, & want occupation, which, if I could obtain, & retain for 12 months, would enable me to thoroughly carry out my plans at my own expense; but I find that younger men are everywhere preferred before me, & therefore my future is very precarious. I ask only a moderate return for my services, & am capable of engaging in various pursuits, having been fairly educated, can revise & correct M.S.S., keep accounts, am a good copyist, have studied medicine for more than 30 years, & have originated some important features in this science, but hold no legal qualification.

I am acquainted with gardening, & have been very successful with succulents, am familiar with the use of most ordinary workmen’s tools, can turn my hand in many ways to manual labour, & am willing to make myself useful as might be required, so that the work be not too laborious, nor involve too much endurance in reference to time: in short, I am anxious for the opportunity of giving my discovery to the world, so soon as I shall have proved it incontrovertibly; I have done so partially, & am perfectly satisfied as to ultimate results, but occasion has not served to carry it thro’ entirely. This discovery was made unexpectedly, & arose from a soure foreign to the associations with which I have connected it, & as my own idiosyncrasy is not likely to be exactly repeated, it is probable that the same train of thought which led to its origination will not occur in another mind in any definite period. As to character, my testimonials, extending over the last 30 years, will bear me out in every way. My proposition is a bold one, & will doubtless be ridiculed by some; however, I wish to meet with some Gentleman, who, upon the basis of my readily proved integrity, & for the sake of science, will place faith in my ipse dixit3 to the extent of either giving or introducing me to some employment, as before referred to. I am not willing to impart my knowledge of this discovery until I can do so triumphantly with a “q.e.d.”.

If you will honour the foregoing with your consideration, I shall be happy to wait upon you, at your instance, as you may please to appoint, & apologizing for this intrusion,

I remain, | Hond. Sir, | Yrs. respectfy, | Wm. Cooper.

“Palmam qui meruit ferat”!4


John Stevens was a doorplate engraver and metal worker at 7 Theobald Street, London (Census returns of England and Wales 1881 (The National Archives: Public Record Office RG11/535/103/41)). William Cooper has not been further identified.
John Denny and William Berry Kellock were both medical practitioners at the Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington Medical Dispensary, London (Medical directory, Plarr 1930). CD had recently corresponded with Denny about crossing experiments with Pelargonium (see letter to John Denny, 22 July 1872).
Ipse dixit (Latin): he himself said it; i.e. a dogmatic pronouncement or dictum (Chambers).
Palmam qui meruit ferat (Latin): let he who merits the palm possess it.


Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

Medical directory: The London medical directory … every physician, surgeon, and general practitioner resident in London. London: C. Mitchell. 1845. The London and provincial medical directory. London: John Churchill. 1848–60. The London & provincial medical directory, inclusive of the medical directory for Scotland, and the medical directory for Ireland, and general medical register. London: John Churchill. 1861–9. The medical directory … including the London and provincial medical directory, the medical directory for Scotland, the medical directory for Ireland. London: J. & A. Churchill. 1870–1905.

Plarr, Victor Gustave. 1930. Plarr’s lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Revised by Sir D’Arcy Power. 2 vols. London: Simpkin Marshall.


Requests financial support for horticultural researches, which, he promises, will enormously increase yields.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Cooper
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Theobald St, 7
Source of text
DAR 161: 223
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8530,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

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