Derby British Science Association

Science and Engineering in Derby and Derbyshire

Erasmus Darwin’s Gardens

Erasmus Darwin’s Gardens: Botany, Horticulture and Arboriculture in Georgian England

Tue 28th April
Paul Elliott, Dept. of History, University of Derby

Far from being disembodied and placeless, natural philosophy, botany and natural history in Georgian society were tied in very special ways to the land as the emphasis upon the patriotic importance of agricultural and horticultural improvement demonstrates. Grandfather of Charles Darwin and leading member of the famous Lunar Society of Birmingham, Erasmus Darwin was a physician and natural philosopher who achieved tremendous success towards the end of his life during his residency at Derby as a poet and writer. Physicians were, of course, required to study botany for practical purposes, although the subject became one of the most fashionable and polite subjects in Georgian society. This talk examines the role of gardens in the development of Darwin’s philosophical ideas, particularly with respect to horticulture, botany and arboriculture. At Lichfield Darwin’s botanic garden helped to inspire translations of the works of Linnaeus as well as the celebrated Loves of the Plants (1789) and Economy of Vegetation (1791). At Derby, Erasmus and his wife Elizabeth’s continued love of gardens and horticultural improvement subsequently encouraged him to try and reform medical philosophy according to the Linnaean template, to undertake changes to Linnaean taxonomy and to conduct practical studies of plant physiology and anatomy which were detailed in Phytologia (1800). Darwin’s love of plants and gardening also inspired him to draw illuminating and controversial parallels between animal and vegetable life, informing his psychophysiology and botany alike.

B Block room 102
The University of Derby
Kedleston Road
DE22 1GB
This event will begin at 18:45 and end around 20:15.

For queries please contact Dr Ian Turner, Derbyshire Branch Chair,


About Wyken Seagrave

Author of books and websites about the history of the universe including the history of the universe, Time Crystal and many other sites, as listed on his blog.

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2009 by in 2009 Programme.

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