Co-founder of The Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal association of
gentleman natural philosopher
s, and engineer
which contributed greatly to the industrial revolution
The Society met each lunar month at the time of the full moon, to allow sufficient light
for the members' journey home after the meeting. Presumably the members
were amused to refer to each other as Lunatic
Darwin's best-known books are Zoonomia and
The Botanic Garden.
Zoonomia is a compendium of medical and biological knowledge of the period.
It includes an attempt at a Linnaean taxonomy of diseases.
It also includes a sketchy outline of a theory of evolution, which was later superseded
by the theory of his grandson, Charles Darwin.
The Botanic Garden is an extended poem in two parts.
The second part, which was published first because Darwin thought it would be more popular,
was The Loves of the Plants. This is a didactic poem expounding the different
forms of sexual reproduction of plants, in the form of pastoral, amatory verse. Darwin was right --
this book was a best seller.
The first part, The Economy of Vegetation, is an extended allegory about just about everything else. If you read it, be sure to read the notes: they are learned yet witty and they cite just about all the culture of
the 18th century.
Coleridge "abominated" Dr. Darwin's work because of its
materialistic and atheistic tendencies.
Percy Bysshe Shelley valued his work for the same qualities.
Darwin's popularization of science is said to have been one of the inspirations of
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein.
Between his two marriages, Darwin fathered two daughters out of wedlock.
To guide them in running a school, he wrote Plan for the Conduct of Female Education,
which was noteworthy for its time (1798) for advocating
education of females at all. Its liberal policies regarding hygiene and child-rearing
were quite in advance of its day.