Erasmus Darwin

English physician (1731-1802)

Erasmus Darwin (12 December 173118 April 1802) was an English physician, natural philosopher, physiologist, inventor and poet. He was one of the founder members of the Lunar Society, a discussion group of pioneering industrialists and natural philosophers. He was a member of the Darwin — Wedgwood family, which most famously includes his grandson, Charles Darwin.

Erasmus Darwin


  • Roll on, ye Stars! exult in youthful prime,
    Mark with bright curves the printless steps of Time;
    Near and more near your beamy cars approach,
    And lessening orbs on lessening orbs encroach; —
    Flowers of the sky! ye too to age must yield,
    Frail as your silken sisters of the field!
    Star after star from Heaven's high arch shall rush,
    Suns sink on suns, and systems systems crush,
    Headlong, extinct, to one dark center fall,
    And Death and Night and Chaos mingle all!
    — Till o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
    Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form,
    Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,
    And soars and shines, another and the same.
  • Soon shall thy arm, unconquer’d steam! afar
    Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;
    Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear
    The flying chariot through the field of air.
  • No radiant pearl which crested Fortune wears,
    No gem that twinkling hangs from Beauty’s ears,
    Not the bright stars which Night’s blue arch adorn,
    Nor rising suns that gild the vernal morn,
    Shine with such lustre as the tear that flows
    Down Virtue’s manly cheek for others’ woes.
  • Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!
  • For if we may compare infinities, it would seem to require a greater infinity of power to cause the causes of effects, than to cause the effects themselves. This idea is analogous to the improving excellence observable in every part of the creation; such as in the progressive increase of the solid or habitable parts of the earth from water; and in the progressive increase of the wisdom and happiness of its inhabitants; and is consonant to the idea of our present situation being a state of probation, which by our exertion we may improve, and are consequently responsible for our actions.
  • Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
    Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
    First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
    Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
    These, as successive generations bloom,
    New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
    Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
    And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.

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