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Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin in 1792
Born 12 December 1731(1731-12-12)
Elston Hall, Elston, Nottinghamshire
near Newark-on-Trent
Died 18 April 1802 (aged 70)
Breadsall, Derby

Erasmus Darwin (12 December 1731 – 18 April 1802) was an English physician who turned down George III's invitation to be a physician to the King. He was also a natural philosopher, physiologist, abolitionist, inventor and poet. His poems included much natural history, including a statement of evolution and the relatedness of all forms of life. He was a member of the Darwin–Wedgwood family, which includes his grandsons Charles Darwin and Francis Galton. Darwin was also a founding member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, a discussion group of pioneering industrialists and natural philosophers.

Erasmus Darwin House, his home in Lichfield, is now a museum dedicated to Erasmus Darwin and his life's work.

Contents

Life

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Early life

Stone-cast bust of Erasmus Darwin, by W. J. Coffee, c. 1795

Born at Elston Hall, Nottinghamshire near Newark-on-Trent, England, the youngest of seven children of Robert Darwin of Elston (12 August 1682–20 November 1754), a lawyer, and his wife Elizabeth Hill (1702–1797). His parents' choice of name, Erasmus, is an unusual one; the most historically significant person of that name was Desiderius Erasmus, the great humanist. His siblings were:

  • Robert Darwin (17 October 1724–4 November 1816)
  • Elizabeth Darwin (15 September 1725–8 April 1800)
  • William Alvey Darwin (3 October 1726–7 October 1783)
  • Anne Darwin (12 November 1727–3 August 1813)
  • Susannah Darwin (10 April 1729–29 September 1789)
  • John Darwin, rector of Elston (28 September 1730–24 May 1805)

He was educated at Chesterfield Grammar School, then later at St John's College, Cambridge.[1] He obtained his medical education at Edinburgh Medical School. Whether Darwin ever obtained the formal degree of MD is not known.

Darwin settled in 1756 as a physician at Nottingham, but met with little success and so moved the following year to Lichfield to try to establish a practice there. A few weeks after his arrival, using a novel course of treatment, he restored the health of a young man whose death seemed inevitable. This ensured his success in the new locale. Darwin was a highly successful physician for more than fifty years in the Midlands. George III invited him to be Royal Physician, but Darwin declined. In Lichfield, Darwin wrote "didactic poetry, developed his system of evolution, and invented amongst other things, an organ able to recite the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments".[2]

Marriages and children

Darwin in 1770

Darwin married twice and had 14 children, including two illegitimate daughters by an employee, and, possibly, at least one further illegitimate daughter.

In 1757, he married Mary (Polly) Howard (1740–1770). They had four sons and one daughter, two of whom (a son and a daughter) died in infancy:

The first Mrs. Darwin died in 1770. A governess, Mary Parker, was hired to look after Robert. By late 1771, employer and employee had become intimately involved and together they had two illegitimate daughters:

  • Susanna Parker (1772–1856)
  • Mary Parker Jr (1774–1859)

Susanna and Mary Jr later established a boarding school for girls. In 1782, Mary Sr (the governess) married Joseph Day (1745–1811), a Birmingham merchant, and moved away.

Darwin may have fathered another child, this time with a married woman. A Lucy Swift gave birth in 1771 to a baby, also named Lucy, who was christened a daughter of her mother and William Swift, but there is reason to believe the father was really Darwin.[3] Lucy Jr. married John Hardcastle in Derby in 1792 and their daughter, Mary, married Francis Boott, the physician.

In 1775, Darwin met Elizabeth Pole, daughter of Charles Colyear, 2nd Earl of Portmore, and wife of Colonel Edward Pole (1718–1780); but as she was married, Darwin could only make his feelings known for her through poetry. When Edward Pole died, Darwin married Elizabeth and moved to her home, Radbourne Hall, four miles (6 km) west of Derby. The hall and village are these days known as Radbourne. In 1782, they moved to Full Street, Derby. They had four sons, one of whom died in infancy, and three daughters:

  • Edward Darwin (1782–1829)
  • Frances Ann Violetta Darwin (1783–1874), married Samuel Tertius Galton, was the mother of Francis Galton
  • Emma Georgina Elizabeth Darwin (1784–1818)
  • Sir Francis Sacheverel Darwin (1786–1859)
  • John Darwin (1787–1818)
  • Henry Darwin (1789–1790), died in infancy.
  • Harriet Darwin (1790–1825), married Admiral Thomas James Malling

Death

Darwin died suddenly on the 18 April 1802, weeks after having moved to Breadsall Priory, just north of Derby. He is buried in All Saints Church, Breadsall.

Erasmus Darwin is commemorated on one of the Moonstones, a series of monuments in Birmingham.

Writings

Botanical works

Darwin formed the Lichfield Botanical Society in order to translate the works of the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus from Latin into English. This took seven years. The result was two publications: A System of Vegetables between 1783 and 1785, and The Families of Plants in 1787. In these volumes, Darwin coined many of the English names of plants that we use today.

Darwin then wrote The Loves of the Plants, a long poem, which was a popular rendering of Linnaeus' works. Darwin also wrote Economy of Vegetation, and together the two were published as The Botanic Garden.

Zoönomia

Darwin's most important scientific work is Zoönomia (1794–1796), which contains a system of pathology, and a treatise on "generation", in which he anticipated the views of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and Lamarckism, which foreshadowed the modern theory of evolution and the modern evolutionary synthesis. Darwin based his theories on David Hartley's psychological theory of associationism.[4] The essence of his views is contained in the following passage, which he follows up with the conclusion that one and the same kind of living filament is and has been the cause of all organic life:

Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!

Erasmus Darwin was familiar with the earlier evolutionary thinking of James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, and cited him in his 1803 work Temple of Nature.

Poem on evolution

Erasmus Darwin offered the first glimpse of his theory of evolution, obliquely, in a question at the end of a long footnote to his popular poem The Loves of the Plants (1789), which was republished throughout the 1790s in several editions as The Botanic Garden. His poetic concept was to anthropomorphize the stamen (male) and pistil (female) sexual organs, as bride and groom. In this stanza on the flower Curcuma (also Flax and Tumeric) the "youths" are infertile, and he devotes the footnote to other examples of neutered organs in flowers, insect castes, and finally associates this more broadly with many popular and well-known cases of vestigal organs (male nipples, the third and fourth wings of flies, etc.)

65 Woo'd with long care, CURCUMA cold and shy
Meets her fond husband with averted eye:
Four beardless youths the obdurate beauty move
With soft attentions of Platonic love.

"Curcuma_. l. 65. Turmeric. One male and one female inhabit this flower; but there are besides four imperfect males, or filaments without anthers upon them, called by Linneus eunuchs. The flax of our country has ten filaments, and but five of them are terminated with anthers; the Portugal flax has ten perfect males, or stamens; the Verbena of our country has four males; that of Sweden has but two; the genus Albuca, the Bignonia Catalpa, Gratiola, and hemlock-leaved Geranium have only half their filaments crowned with anthers. In like manner the florets, which form the rays of the flowers of the order frustraneous polygamy of the class syngenesia, or confederate males, as the sun-flower, are furnished with a style only, and no stigma: and are thence barren. There is also a style without a stigma in the whole order dioecia gynandria; the male flowers of which are thence barren. The Opulus is another plant, which contains some unprolific flowers. In like manner some tribes of insects have males, females, and neuters among them: as bees, wasps, ants."

"There is a curious circumstance belonging to the class of insects which have two wings, or diptera, analogous to the rudiments of stamens above described; viz. two little knobs are found placed each on a stalk or peduncle, generally under a little arched scale; which appear to be rudiments of hinder wings; and are called by Linneus, halteres, or poisers, a term of his introduction. A.T. Bladh. Amaen. Acad. V. 7. Other animals have marks of having in a long process of time undergone changes in some parts of their bodies, which may have been effected to accommodate them to new ways of procuring their food. The existence of teats on the breasts of male animals, and which are generally replete with a thin kind of milk at their nativity, is a wonderful instance of this kind. Perhaps all the productions of nature are in their progress to greater perfection! an idea countenanced by the modern discoveries and deductions concerning the progressive formation of the solid parts of the terraqueous globe, and consonant to the dignity of the Creator of all things."

Darwin's final long poem, The Temple of Nature, was published posthumously in 1803. The poem was originally titled The Origin of Society. It is considered his best poetic work. It centers on his own newly-conceived theory of evolution. The poem traces the progression of life from microorganisms to civilized society. Darwin largely anticipated most of what his grandson Charles Darwin would later propose, except for the idea of natural selection.

His poetry was admired by Coleridge and Wordsworth. It often made reference to his interests in science; for example botany and steam engines.

Education of women

The last two leaves of Darwin's A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools (1797) contain a book list, an apology for the work, and an advert for "Miss Parkers School". The work probably resulted from his liaison with Mary Parker. The school advertised on the last page is the one he set up in Ashbourne, Derbyshire for their two illegitimate children, Susanna and Mary.

Darwin regretted that a good education had not been generally available to women in Britain in his time, and drew on the ideas of Locke, Rousseau, and Genlis in organising his thoughts. Addressing the education of middle class girls, Darwin argued that amorous romance novels were inappropriate and that they should seek simplicity in dress. He contends that young women should be educated in schools, rather than privately at home, and learn appropriate subjects. These subjects include physiognomy, physical exercise, botany, chemistry, mineralogy, and experimental philosophy. They should familiarize themselves with arts and manufactures through visits to sites like Coalbrookdale, and Wedgwood's potteries; they should learn how to handle money, and study modern languages. Darwin's educational philosophy took the view that men and women should have different, but complementary capabilities, skills, spheres, and interests.[5] In the context of the times, this program may be read as a modernising influence.

Lunar Society

The Lunar Society: these dates indicate the year in which Darwin became friends with these people, who, in turn, became members of the Lunar Society. The Lunar Society existed from 1765 to 1813.

Before 1765:

After 1765:

Darwin also established a lifelong friendship with Benjamin Franklin, who shared Darwin's support for the American and French revolutions. The Lunar Society was instrumental as an intellectual driving force behind England's Industrial Revolution.

The members of the Lunar Society, and especially Darwin, opposed the slave trade. He attacked it in The Botanic Garden (1789–1791), and in The Loves of Plants (1789) and The Economy of Vegetation (1791).

Other activities

In addition to the Lunar Society, Erasmus Darwin belonged to the influential Derby Philosophical Society, as did his brother-in-law Samuel Fox (see family tree below). He experimented with the use of air and gases to alleviate infections and cancers in patients. A Pneumatic Institution was established at Clifton in 1799 for clinically testing these ideas. He conducted research into the formation of clouds, on which he published in 1788. He also inspired Robert Weldon's Somerset Coal Canal caisson lock.

Darwin's experiments in galvanism were an important source of inspiration for Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.

Cosmological speculation

Contemporary literature dates the cosmological theories of the Big Bang and Big Crunch to the 19th and 20th centuries. However Erasmus Darwin had speculated on these sorts of events in The Botanic Garden, A Poem in Two Parts: Part 1, The Economy of Vegetation, 1791:

Roll on, ye Stars! exult in youthful prime,
Mark with bright curves the printless steps of Time;
Near and more near your beamy cars approach,
And lessening orbs on lessening orbs encroach; —
Flowers of the sky! ye too to age must yield,
Frail as your silken sisters of the field!
Star after star from Heaven's high arch shall rush,
Suns sink on suns, and systems systems crush,
Headlong, extinct, to one dark center fall,
And Death and Night and Chaos mingle all!
— Till o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form,
Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,
And soars and shines, another and the same.

Inventions

Darwin was the inventor of several devices, though he did not patent any. He believed this would damage his reputation as a doctor, and encouraged his friends to patent their own modifications of his designs.

Rocket engine

In notes dating to 1779, Darwin made a sketch of a simple liquid-fuel rocket engine, with hydrogen and oxygen tanks connected by plumbing and pumps to an elongated combustion chamber and expansion nozzle, a concept not to be seen again until one century later.

Major publications

  • Erasmus Darwin, A Botanical Society at Lichfield. A System of Vegetables, according to their classes, orders... translated from the 13th edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Vegetabiliium. 2 vols., 1783, Lichfield, J. Jackson, for Leigh and Sotheby, London.
  • Erasmus Darwin, A Botanical Society at Lichfield. The Families of Plants with their natural characters...Translated from the last edition of Linnaeus’ Genera Plantarum. 1787, Lichfield, J. Jackson, for J. Johnson, London.
  • Erasmus Darwin, The Botanic Garden, Part I, The Economy of Vegetation. 1791 London, J. Johnson.
  • Part II, The Loves of the Plants. 1789, London, J. Johnson.
  • Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life, 1794, Part I. London, J. Johnson,
  • Part I-III. 1796, London, J. Johnson.
  • Darwin, Erasmus 1797. A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools. J. Johnson, Derby. 4to, 128 pages; last two leaves contain a book list, an apology for the work, and an advert for "Miss Parkers School".
  • Erasmus Darwin, Phytologia; or, The Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening. 1800, London, J. Johnson.
  • Erasmus Darwin, The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society. 1806–1807, London, J. Johnson.

Family tree

Darwin-Wedgwood-Galton family tree.png

Appearance in fiction and music

  • Charles Sheffield, an author noted largely for hard science fiction, wrote a number of stories featuring Darwin in a manner quite similar to Sherlock Holmes. These stories were collected in a book, The Amazing Dr. Darwin.
  • Darwin's opposition to slavery in poetry was included by Benjamin Zephaniah in a reading. This inspired the establishment of the Genomic Dub Collective, whose album includes quotations from Erasmus "Ras" Darwin, his grandson Charles Darwin and Haile Selassie.
  • The forgetting of Erasmus' designs for a rocket is a major plot point in Stephan Baxter's tale of alternate universes, Manifold: Origin.
  • Phrases from Darwin's poem The Botanic Garden are used as chapter headings in The Pornographer of Vienna by Lewis Crofts.
  • British poet J.H. Prynne took on the pseudonym Erasmus W. Darwin for his "plant time" bulletins in the pages of Bean News (1972).

See also

References

  1. ^ Darwin, Erasmus in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  2. ^ Pevsner N. The Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire. Penguin, Harmondsworth 1951. p67
  3. ^ Error 404
  4. ^ Allen, Richard C. 1999. David Hartley on human nature. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-4233-0
  5. ^ DNB entry for Erasmus Darwin. Oxford.

Further reading

  • Darwin, Erasmus. (1794-6). Zoonomia. J. Johnson (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 9781108005494)
  • King-Hele, Desmond. 1963. Doctor Darwin. Scribner's, N.Y.
  • King-Hele, Desmond. 1977. Doctor of Revolution: the life and genius of Erasmus Darwin. Faber, London.
  • King-Hele, Desmond (ed) 1981. The Letters of Erasmus Darwin Cambridge University Press.
  • King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin: a life of unequalled achievement Giles de la Mare Publishers.
  • King-Hele, Desmond (ed) 2002. Charles Darwin's 'The Life of Erasmus Darwin Cambridge University Press.
  • Krause, Ernst 1879. Erasmus Darwin, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. Murray, London.
  • Pearson, Hesketh. 1930. Doctor Darwin. Dent, London.
  • Porter, Roy, 1989. 'Erasmus Darwin: doctor of evolution?' in 'History, Humanity and Evolution: Essays for John C. Greene, ed. James R. Moore.
  • Seward, Anna 1804. Memoirs of the life of Dr. Darwin.
  • Uglow, Jennifer 2003. Lunar Men: the friends who made the future Faber, London.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Erasmus Darwin.

Erasmus Darwin (12 December 173118 April 1802) was an English physician, natural philosopher, physiologist, inventor and poet. He was one of the founder members of the Lunar Society, a discussion group of pioneering industrialists and natural philosophers. He was a member of the Darwin — Wedgwood family, which most famously includes his grandson, Charles Darwin.

Sourced

  • Roll on, ye Stars! exult in youthful prime,
    Mark with bright curves the printless steps of Time;
    Near and more near your beamy cars approach,
    And lessening orbs on lessening orbs encroach; —
    Flowers of the sky! ye too to age must yield,
    Frail as your silken sisters of the field!
    Star after star from Heaven's high arch shall rush,
    Suns sink on suns, and systems systems crush,
    Headlong, extinct, to one dark center fall,
    And Death and Night and Chaos mingle all!
    — Till o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
    Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form,
    Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,
    And soars and shines, another and the same.
  • Soon shall thy arm, unconquer’d steam! afar
    Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;
    Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear
    The flying chariot through the field of air.
  • No radiant pearl which crested Fortune wears,
    No gem that twinkling hangs from Beauty’s ears,
    Not the bright stars which Night’s blue arch adorn,
    Nor rising suns that gild the vernal morn,
    Shine with such lustre as the tear that flows
    Down Virtue’s manly cheek for others’ woes.
  • Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
    Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
    First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
    Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
    These, as successive generations bloom,
    New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
    Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
    And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.
  • Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!
  • For if we may compare infinities, it would seem to require a greater infinity of power to cause the causes of effects, than to cause the effects themselves. This idea is analogous to the improving excellence observable in every part of the creation; such as in the progressive increase of the solid or habitable parts of the earth from water; and in the progressive increase of the wisdom and happiness of its inhabitants; and is consonant to the idea of our present situation being a state of probation, which by our exertion we may improve, and are consequently responsible for our actions.

External links

Wikipedia
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ERASMUS DARWIN (1731-1802), English man of science and poet, was born at Elton, in Nottinghamshire, on the 12th of December 1731. After studying at St John's College, Cambridge, and at Edinburgh, he settled in 1756 as a physician at Nottingham, but meeting with little success he moved in the following year to Lichfield. There he gained a large practice, and did much, both by example and by more direct effort, to diminish drunkenness among the lower classes. In 1781 he removed to Derby, where he died suddenly on the 18th of April 1802. The fame of Erasmus Darwin as a poet rests upon his Botanic Garden, though he also wrote The Temple of Nature, or the Origin of Society, a Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803), and The Shrine of Nature (posthumously published). The Botanic Garden (the second part of which - The Loves of the Plants - was published anonymously in 1789, and the whole of which appeared in 1791) is a long poem in the decasyllabic rhymed couplet. Its merit lies in the genuine scientific enthusiasm and interest in nature which pervade it; and of any other poetic quality - except a certain, sometimes felicitous but oftener ill-placed, elaborated pomp of words - it may without injustice be said to be almost destitute. It was for the most part written laboriously, and polished with unsparing care, line by line, often as he rode from one patient to another, and it occupied the leisure hours of many years. The artificial character of the diction renders it in emotional passages stilted and even absurd, and makes Canning's clever caricature - The Loves of the Triangles - often remarkably like the poem it satirizes: in some passages, however, it is not without a stately appropriateness. Gnomes, sylphs and nereids are introduced on almost every page, and personification is carried to an extraordinary excess. Thus he describes the Loves of the Plants according to the Linnaean system by means of a most ingenious but misplaced and amusing personification of each plant, and often even of the parts of the plant. It is significant that botanical notes are added to the poem, and that its eulogies of scientific men are frequent. Erasmus Darwin's mind was in fact rather that of a man of science than that of a poet. His most important scientific work is his Zoonomia (1794-1796), which contains a system of pathology, and a treatise on generation, in which he, in the words of his famous grandson, Charles Robert Darwin, "anticipated the views and erroneous grounds of opinions of Lamarck." The essence of his views is contained in the following passage, which he follows up with the conclusion "that one and the same kind of living filaments is and has been the cause of all organic life": "Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, - would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!" In 1799 Darwin published his Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening (1799), in which he states his opinion that plants have sensation and volition. A paper on Female Education in Boarding Schools (1797) completes the list of his works.

Robert Waring Darwin (1766-1848), his third son by his first marriage, a doctor at Shrewsbury, was the father of the famous Charles Darwin; and Violetta, his eldest daughter by his second marriage, was the mother of Francis Galton.

See Anna Seward, Memoirs of the Life of Dr Darwin (1804); and Charles Darwin, Life of Erasmus Darwin, an introduction to an essay on his works by Ernst Krause (1879).


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Erasmus Darwin
File:Portrait of Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby (1792).jpg
Painting of Erasmus Darwin
Born 12 December 1731(1731-12-12)
Elston Hall, Elston, Nottinghamshire
near Newark-on-Trent
Died April 18, 1802 (aged 70)
Breadsall, Derby
File:Darwin cutout.gif
Statue of Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin (12 December 1731 – 18 April 1802), was a scientist, poet, inventor and a medical doctor. He was a member of the Lunar Society (a group of important scientists and businessmen who were friends). Erasmus Darwin looked at how living things evolved (change over a long time). His grandson, Charles Darwin, later wrote a book that explained evolution by natural selection.

Contents

Life

Early life

Darwin was born in Newark-on-Trent, a town in Nottinghamshire. His father was a lawyer. When Erasmus was a child, he was very interested in nature. He liked clocks and electricity. He understood nature well. He said that people should eat meat during Lent, a Christian festival before Easter when people eat only simple food.

Becoming a Doctor

He went to the University of Cambridge, and then studied to be a doctor in Edinburgh. He became a doctor in 1756, and worked in Lichfield in Staffordshire. He worked hard and learned a lot about medicine. Soon, lots of people respected him, and the King, George III asked him to become the Royal Doctor, but Erasmus preferred to stay where he was.

Personal life

Darwin married twice and had 14 children, including two illegitimate daughters by an employee, and, possibly, at least one further illegitimate daughter. In addition to the five children of his first marriage to Mary Howard (1740–1770), and seven to his second wife, Elizabeth Pole, there are two daughters by the governess Mary Parker, and another probable with a married woman, Lucy Smith.

His writings

Botany

Darwin formed the Lichfield Botanical Society in order to translate the works of the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus from Latin into English. This took seven years. The result was two publications: A System of Vegetables between 1783 and 1785, and The Families of Plants in 1787. In these volumes, Darwin coined many of the English plant names that we use today.

Darwin then wrote The Loves of the Plants, a long poem, which was a popular rendering of Linnaeus works. Darwin also wrote Economy of Vegetation, and together the two were published as The Botanic Garden.

His last long poem, the Temple of Nature, was published after his death, in 1803. This is considered his best poetic work. It centers on his own newly-conceived theory of evolution, tracing traces the progression of life from microorganisms to civilized society.

Zoology

Darwin's most important scientific work is Zoönomia (1794–1796), which contains a system of pathology, and a treatise on generation, in which he anticipated some of Lamarck's ideas on evolution.

The essence of his views is contained in the following passage, which he follows up with the conclusion that one and the same kind of living filament is and has been the cause of all organic life:

Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued (invested) with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!

This is a clear statement of the kind of evolutionary thinking which Lamarck is known for.

Later works

Darwin's idea of evolution surfaced in several of his other works. In the Loves of the Plants (1789), reprinted in several editions as The Botanic Garden, there occurs the comment: "Perhaps all the productions of nature are in their progress to greater perfection!". All these natural history works are in the form of poems, and so they are not satisfactory from the point of view of modern science. But the 18th century was a time when intelligent men made connections; the specialist types of scientist occurred first in the lifetime of his grandson Charles.

The last two leaves of Darwin's A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools (1797) contain a book list, an apology for the work, and an advert for "Miss Parkers School". The work probably resulted from his liaison with Mary Parker. The school advertised on the last page is the one he set up in Ashbourne, Derbyshire for their two illegitimate children, Susanna and Mary.

Later Life

Darwin translated (changed) the work of Carolus Linnaeus from Latin to English. The books explain how different plant species are related (connected) to each other. Darwin made the English names for many plants. He was friends with many important scientists and businessmen, the Lunar Society. These men shared lots of ideas. They supported (agreed with) the French and American Revolution, and wanted to end slavery. Darwin wrote poems against slavery. He was a generous man, he helped people who had no money. He wrote poems explaining his ideas about evolution. He also made many inventions (new things) and predicted that electricity and aeroplanes would be useful in the future. He also made a sketch (simple drawing) of a hydrogen-oxygen rocket engine in 1779.

Erasmus Darwin died on the 18 April, 1802, and is buried in All Saints Church, Breadsall, north of Derby.

Books

  • Desmond King-Hele, Erasmus Darwin: A Life of Unequalled Achievement 1999, Giles de la Mare Publishers
  • Desmond G. King-Hele (ed.), Charles Darwin's 'The Life of Erasmus Darwin 2002, Cambridge University Press
  • Desmond G. King-Hele, The Letters of Erasmus Darwin 1981, Cambridge University Press
  • Jennifer Uglow, Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 2003, Faber and Faber

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