Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin (1731 - 1802)

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Erasmus "of Derby" Darwin
Born in Elston, Nottinghamshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married (to ) in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Englandmap
Husband of — married (to ) in Radbourne, Derbyshire, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Breadsall Priory, Derbyshire, Englandmap
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Profile last modified | Created 15 Dec 2011
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Categories: English Poets | St John's College, Cambridge | Lichfield, Staffordshire | Breadsall, Derbyshire | All Saints, Breadsall.



Erasmus Darwin of Derby was born at Elston Hall in Nottinghamshire on 12 December 1731, the son of Robert Darwin and his wife, Elizabeth Hill. He was educated at Chesterfield Grammar School, St John's, Cambridge, and the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He settled in Lichfield, Staffordshire, opening what turned out to be a most successful medical practice. He died suddenly at Breadsall Priory near Derby on 18 April 1802, and was buried at All Saints, Breadsall.

His Lichfield home, now named Erasmus Darwin House, is preserved as a Grade I Listed Building. [1]

Derby City commemorated him through the naming of numerous locations including Darwin Secondary School, The Darwin Suite event venue, and several roads.

Contributions to Science

Erasmus Darwin, with help from Brooke Boothby and William Jackson, translated into English works of the Swedish botanist Linnaeus. In this, he devised English names still used for many plants. He then wrote a poetic version of this, The Loves of the Plants, which formed part of his long poem The Botanic Garden. [2]

In Zoonomia he foreshadowed the theory of evolution and to some extent anticipated the theory of the survival of the fittest. The Temple of Nature, another long poem, explores his ideas on evolution.

He was a member of the Lunar Society, some of whose meetings took place at his home. Members of the Society included a number of people who made a leading contribution to science in the second half of the 18th and early 19th centuries and to the Industrial Revolution.


Erasmus Darwin was also an inventor. Among his inventions were a self-righting carriage, a barge canal lift, a copying machine and weather gauges.

Education of Women

Erasmus Darwin was an advocate of the education of women, and wrote A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools (1797).


Erasmus Darwin used extended poems to promulgate his scientific work to a wider audience. His two major poetic works were The Botanic Garden and The Temple of Nature. They contain detailed descriptions of nature.

Major Publications

  • A Botanical Society at Lichfield. A System of Vegetables, according to their classes, orders... translated from the 13th edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Vegetabiliium
  • The Botanic Garden (a poem): Part I, The Economy of Vegetation; Part 2, The Loves of the Plants
  • Zoonomia, a work on pathology, anatomy and psychology
  • A Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools
  • Phytologia; or, The Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening
  • The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society (a poem)


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Erasmus Darwin House," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 18, 2018).
  2. [ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Darwin, Erasmus (1731–1802)

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Erasmus is 27 degrees from Rosa Parks, 21 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 11 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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