ERASMUS DARWIN by Desmond King-Hele


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More a selective study than a biography of Charles Darwin's grandfather, who was well known in his day (1731-1802) as one of the great doctors of the time, est-selling poet, an inventor, a renowened conversationalist, and a propounder of scientific theories including that of evolution. There can be no doubt that the influence of his scientific perspective was significant to his grandson and others. However, not only in his massive scientific treatises Zoonomia (his views on animal life) and Phytologia (views on vegetable life) did his primitive ideas of evolution appear, but they were also expounded dramatically in polished if not superior verse in his long poems The Botanic Garden and The Temple of Nature, the first of which made him a best-selling poet. The scientific subject matter of these poems and their influence on such poets as Wordsworth, Coleridge (who despised them), and Shelley, as well as on the intelligentsia of his time, give him a real place in history as one of the early popularizers of science. Each aspect of Erasmus Darwin's unusual personality is presented clearly from the point of view of this admirer. But there is still need for a completely integrated modern, objective biography. Frontispiece portrait.

Publisher: Scribners