Sociable, eccentric and inventive, his original ideas on evolution, propounded in his poem, 'Zoonomia', were superseded by those of his grandson, Charles Darwin. List Thumbnail. Erasmus Darwin. Norman, after J. Can you tell us more about this person?
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We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist. Poetry Foundation. Back to Previous. Erasmus Darwin. Poems by Erasmus Darwin. Related Content. Articles Keats in Space. More About this Poet. Region: England.
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Poems by This Poet Related. Darwin believed that prose was suited to abstract ideas, but chose to write poetry for its ability to conjure up visual images; he drew upon the Rosicrucian doctrine of Gnomes, Sylphs, Nymphs, and Salamanders, presiding over the four elements, in his personifications of all scientific, technological, and natural phenomena. Darwin published Zoonomia , in two large volumes in and This, his major treatise on medicine and natural science, embodies the work of twenty years. In it, Darwin sets himself a primary task of definition and explanation of the physiological and indeed psychological bases of, for example, the laws of animal causation, and of the four types—irritative, sensitive, voluntary, and associate—of fibrous motions on which he bases his classification of diseases.
His classification is indebted to Sauvages de la Croix and William Cullen ; he makes no reference to Morgagni. The Zoonomia also contains a defense of the spontaneous generation of life from the scum of decomposing matter, and gives even clearer expression to the theory of biological evolution that Darwin had begun to develop in The Botanic Garden. In his recurrent discussions of evolution and natural selection Darwin rejects the theory of special creation as enunciated by Linnaeus and holds that species are variable and constantly changing. He believes the earth to be millions of years old; in Zoonomia he describes the changes occurring in warm-blooded animals in various conditions and asks:.
Would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament… 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 those improvements to its posterity, world without end!
Both may have been inspired by Buffon; both emphasized evolution as an unconscious striving of the organism for survival and adjustment to environmental conditions, resulting in physical change or modification through the use or disuse of organs. Darwin may be credited, however, with the creation of the first consistent, all-embracing hypothesis of evolution.
It is interesting to note that although Charles Darwin wrote that while he had read Zoonomia as a young man, it had had no effect on him; the first draft of On the Origin of Species was, however, entitled Zoonomia. Subtitled The Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening , it illustrates the wide variety of his interests. Although the book deals with such practical matters as manures, draining and watering of land, plant diseases and how to cure them, and reform of the Linnaean system of classification, Darwin considered it to be essentially a continuation and application to plants of the discussion of biological evolution that he had begun in Zoonomia.
Darwin here as in The Botanic Garden treats plants as inferior animals, endowed with lungs leaves and lacteals because the roots absorb liquids which pass up the stems. In it, Darwin clearly affirms his belief that the ancient myths—the Egyptian mysteries, the Greek Eleusinian mysteries, and the old pagan stories—embrace basic natural truths and can thus be united with the world of science.
He is shown by The Temple of Nature to be a radical deist who believed no creed superior to another but who did not doubt the divine wisdom of creation or the moral wisdom of the Bible.
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In , Darwin suffered a serious illness, the symptoms of which were consistent with myocardial infarction , after which he never recovered his energy and zest for life. Early in he moved to Breadsall Priory, a house bought by his son Erasmus shortly before his suicide, and there had a fatal seizure. Original Works.
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London, — ; Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening, with the theory of draining morasses, and with an improved construction of the drill plough London, ; and The Temple of Nature; or the Origin of Society; A Poem with Philosophical Notes London, , of which all except Phytologia appeared in several editions and were translated into several languages. Several portraits of Darwin are extant, of which the most notable are the earliest known portrait ca. Secondary Literature.
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The grandfather of evolutionist Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin was a prominent English physician and poet whose interests included biology, botany, and technology. The son of Robert, a retired lawyer, and Elizabeth Hill Darwin, he was educated at Chesterfield School from to and studied at Cambridge University from to Darwin attended medical school at Edinburgh University from to and afterward opened a medical practice in Lichfield, near Birmingham.
His medical skills quickly earned him a wide reputation that extended even to London, where King George III is reported to have sought his services as a personal physician. Throughout his career Darwin maintained a thriving medical practice and treated impoverished patients at no charge. Darwin married Mary Howard in December of Together they had five children, three of whom survived into adulthood. Their third son, Robert, became the father of the naturalist Charles Darwin.
Erasmus Darwin's wife died in , and he continued to live in Lichfield, where he fathered two illegitimate children by a woman named Mary Parker. The two daughters were raised in Darwin's household, and he later helped them establish a school for girls in Ashbourne. In the late s Darwin began cultivating a botanical garden in Lichfield and formed a local botanical society to pursue his interests in that discipline.
He moved from Lichfield to Derby following his marriage to a young military widow, Elizabeth Pole, in An avid inventor, Darwin often pursued proof of current scientific theories and as a result of his efforts made notable contributions to such areas of study as physics, meteorology, and geology.
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