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Charles Darwin's 'The Life of Erasmus Darwin'
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  • Page extent: 194 pages
  • Size: 216 x 138 mm
  • Weight: 0.4 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 508/.092 B
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: QH31.D3 D37 2003
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Darwin, Erasmus,--1731-1802
    • Naturalists--England--Biography
    • Physicians--England--Biography

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521815260 | ISBN-10: 0521815266)

Charles Darwin's book about his grandfather, The Life of Erasmus Darwin, is curiously fascinating. Before publication in 1879, it was shortened by 16%, with several of the cuts directed at its most provocative parts. The cutter, with Charles's permission, was his daughter Henrietta - an example of the strong hidden hand of meek-seeming Victorian women. Originally published in 2003, this first unabridged edition, edited by Desmond King-Hele, includes all that Charles originally intended, the cuts being restored and printed in italics. Erasmus Darwin was one of the leading intellectuals of the eighteenth century. He was a respected physician, a well-known poet, a keen mechanical inventor, and a founding member of the influential Lunar Society. He also possessed an amazing insight into the many branches of physical and biological science. Most notably, he adopted what we now call biological evolution as his theory of life, 65 years prior to Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.

• Published in the bicentenary of Erasmus Darwin's death • Was the first unabridged publication of a book by Charles Darwin • Much easier to read than Charles Darwin's scientific books, as he is not constrained by scientific convention


Introduction; Synopsis; Charles Darwin's preface; The Life of Erasmus Darwin by Charles Darwin; Charles Darwin's references; Notes on the text.


Review of the hardback: '… a marvellous insight into Darwin's judgement of his grandfather, and a unique look at his original text.' Endeavour

Review of the hardback: 'This scholarly work has two sets of footnotes, Charles's original references and then a more detailed set by the author. We must be greatly indebted to King-Hele for spending the time and care in producing this very important slim volume. This is a book that will be used many times by scholars who are intrigued with eighteenth-century development and its preoccupation with science and its potentials.' Open History

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