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Erasmus Darwin: Poet of Progress

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Erasmus Darwin – Charles’s grandfather – was well-known among his eighteenth-century contemporaries, highly respected by many but reviled by others. Energetic and sociable, this corpulent tee-totaller wrote best-selling poems on plants, technology and evolution. He also ran a successful medical practice, was a Fellow of the Royal Society and promoted industrialization by sponsoring science, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Midlands. In her research, Patricia Fara has explored fresh ways of thinking about this champion of Enlightenment thought. More than fifty years before his famous grandson, Erasmus Darwin dared to publish controversial ideas about evolution that put his medical text on the Vatican’s banned list. Politically radical, he campaigned for the abolition of slavery, supported the French Revolution, promoted education for women, and challenged Christian orthodoxy.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Humanities Society talks series.

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