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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Woodward Emery   17 September 1875

Mr. Charles Darwin

My dear Sir

This communication is made to inform you of the death of Mr Chauncey Wright of Cambridge, which took place on the twelfth day of September.1 Mr. Wright was found on Sunday morning in his room in a state of profound coma, from which he never rallied, dying within half an hour after medical aid was summoned. The result of the autopsy, conducted under the direction of Dr. Morril Wyman2 seems to point to congestion of the brain as the cause of death—

Mr Wright was last seen on Saturday evening about eleven o’clock in his apartments in his usual state of health, and was discovered about seven on Sunday morning in the condition above described. Lying open on the table beside him was your recent work on insectivorous plants.3 The remains have been taken to and interred in his family tomb at Northampton Mass. The minute examination of the brain is not yet concluded, but the brain is pronounced to be of a high type—4

As an intimate friend of Mr. Wright, occupying the same apartments, it seems to me proper that I should inform you of the foregoing facts—

I have the honor to be, My dear Sir, | Your obedient servant, | Woodward Emery

8 Barristers Hall | 7 Court Sq. | Boston, Mass.

Sept. 17th 1875


Wright, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was 44 years old; he had corresponded with CD since 1871.
Morrill Wyman.
Insectivorous plants was published in London in July 1875 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). The US edition was published from stereotypes in the same year (Freeman 1977).
The size and convolutions of the brain had long been thought to have a bearing on intelligence; see, for example, Solly 1847, pp. 124, 131–2. More recently, Paul Broca had worked on brain anatomy (Schiller 1979, pp. 166–205).


Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

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

Schiller, Francis. 1979. Paul Broca: founder of French anthropology, explorer of the brain. Berkeley and London: University of California Press.

Solly, Samuel. 1847. The human brain: its structure, physiology and diseases. With a description of the typical forms of brain in the animal kingdom. 2d edition. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.


Informs CD of Chauncey Wright’s death.

Letter details

Letter no.
Woodward Emery
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Boston, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 163: 18
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10160,” accessed on 24 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23