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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Local Heroes > Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin house

Erasmus Darwin house

Erasmus Darwin

Erasmus Darwin was a doctor, poet and philosopher - one of the leading intellectuals of 18th century England. He was the grandfather of naturalist Charles Darwin. His house is now a museum in Lichfield, south Staffordshire.

The inscription on Erasmus Darwin's monument describes him as a "doctor, poet and philosopher" - but this only tells part of the story.

Yes, he was a great doctor - in the 1790s, King George III asked him to be his personal physician. Yes, he was a poet - his epic The Botanic Garden was widely read in his day.

However, it was his extraordinary scientific inventiveness that would appeal to us most today. He designed a "flying chariot" (which we might call an aeroplane!) and a speaking machine for analysing speech.

Not restricting himself to mechanics, he also worked in biology, revealing the process of photosynthesis in plants.

Evolution

Perhaps we should not be surprised then to learn that he was already working on a theory of evolution - that is, the theory that Man is descended from a single microscopic ancestor - well before his grandson Charles took up the debate.

Erasmus Darwin

As befits a man ahead of his time, he also developed other theories - particularly in education. He founded a girls' school at Ashbourne, on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border, which was managed by his two daughters.

Erasmus Darwin House

It may seem all the more extraordinary then that a permanent and substantial monument to the man had to wait until the last year of the twentieth century to be set up in his home town.

Erasmus Darwin House (pictured at the top of the page) in the town's Beacon Street was opened in April 1999, and now acts both as a tourist attraction and as international research centre for Erasmus Darwin scholars and students.

The House also welcome a new refurbishment of two display areas (with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund). The grand opening of the 'new' museum will take place on Saturday 4th July 2009.
For more information on any events at Erasmus Darwin House, see the website (link in the top right-hand corner of this page), or call 01543 306260.

Home life

Evidence of the time reveal Erasmus to have been a bit of a maverick who, according to his friend James Keir, 'paid little regard to authority.'

He was described by many as a friendly and generous fellow with a sharp wit who loved to tease. Married twice - both times to women he adored - he also had an in-between mistress and fourteen children.

So we're sure you'll agree, Erasmus was indeed a colourful character. They don't make 'em like that anymore - certainly one of a kind!

Our thanks to Nicholas Redman and the Erasmus Darwin Foundation for providing the facts for this profile of the great man.

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last updated: 04/11/2009 at 10:54
created: 03/04/2006

You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Local Heroes > Erasmus Darwin



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