Erasmus Darwin
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Erasmus Darwin (1731 - 1802)

Erasmus "of Derby" Darwin
Born in Elston, Nottinghamshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 30 Dec 1757 (to 30 Jun 1770) in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Englandmap
Husband of — married 6 Mar 1781 (to 18 Apr 1802) in Radbourne, Derbyshire, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Breadsall Priory, Derbyshire, Englandmap
Profile manager: Sunny Clark private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 15 Dec 2011
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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 [3], with some meetings held in 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: Erasmus Darwin]
  2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Darwin, Erasmus (1731–1802)
  3. Lunar Society

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