Don Kaplan - his legacy: Influencing teaching and research
Friedman, William E. .
The botanical and evolutionist views of Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin).
Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (M.D. and F.R.S), was a practicing physician, renowned poet, and prominent intellectual of late 18th century Britain; he was also an accomplished botanist and evolutionist. Among botanists, Erasmus Darwin’s translations of Linnaeus (System of Vegetables, 1783 and The Families of Plants, 1787) are almost completely forgotten, as is his strong advocacy for understanding the sexual systems of plants (The Botanic Garden, 1789, 1791) and the physiology, morphology, and ecology of plants (Phytologia, 1800). Regrettably, most modern historians of evolutionary biology relegate Erasmus Darwin to the sidelines as an eccentric ancestor of Charles Darwin, who spoke of evolution, but had no real impact on the course of evolutionary thought. Even Erasmus’ own grandson Charles, referred to his grandfather’s evolutionist writings as having had little impact on the development of his own evolutionary ideas. In reality, the nature and extent of his contributions to the development of evolutionary thought are generally misunderstood. Zoonomia (1794), Darwin’s magnum opus on medicine and the laws of organic life, and his epic poem Temple of Nature (1803), on the production and evolution of life and human society, are the two main texts in which Erasmus Darwin expressed his views on the descent of all life from a common ancestor, natural selection, artificial selection as an analogy for natural selection, sexual selection and more. There are other hints of Erasmus Darwin’s evolutionism in his earlier poem The Botanic Garden and in Phytologia. I will discuss Erasmus Darwin’s important, and generally overlooked, contributions to the disciplines of botany and evolutionary biology.
1 - University of Colorado, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCB 334, Boulder, Colorado, 80309-0334, USA
early evolutionist thought
Temple of Nature
Presentation Type: Symposium
Location: Ballroom 2 (Cliff Lodge)
Date: Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004
Time: 2:45 PM