Charles Darwin’s Grandfather Was Famous for His Poems About Plant Sex
Today, the name “Darwin” only conjures one person: Charles Darwin, the 1800s English naturalist famed for writing On the Origin of Species and for contributing to our understanding of evolution. But in England about a hundred years earlier, another Darwin was just as famous: Erasmus Darwin, whose poetic visions of evolution can be seen in his grandson’s theories.
Darwin, born on this day in 1731, was trained as a physician. His activities, however, stretched far beyond a doctor’s craft. “A radical campaigner for equality, he condemned slavery, supported female education and opposed convention Christian ideas on creation,” writes Patricia Fara for the Oxford University Press blog. He was active during a period known as the Enlightenment, when his contemporaries like Karl Marx, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft were all working to understand how the universe worked using tools that ranged from the scientific to the poetic.