1792 Erasmus Darwin portrait at 61 years

1792 Erasmus Darwin portrait at 61 years

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Caption: Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) from a picture by Wright of Derby, reproduced with later hand colouring by his grandson, Charles Darwin in "Life of Erasmus Darwin" 1879 (Ernst Krause co-author). In 'Zoonomia' 1794 Erasmus wrote "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 to bold to imagine, that all warmblooded animals have arisen from one living filament". He goes on to make it clear he is imagining evolution as a process largely driven by innate propensities rather than external factors. He has not presaged Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, but more simply announced his radical views for the mutability of species. Darwin saw him as an important free thinker but was irked by the suggestion he had pre-formulated a theory of evolution.

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Keywords: 18th century, colour, erasmus darwin, evolution, living filament, naturalist, portrait, pre-darwinian, scientist, zoonomia

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