The Botanic Garden
by Erasmus Darwin
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a natural philosopher, poet, and physician. Primarily a physician, he also conducted multiple experiments that explored the relations between biology, mechanical inventions, chemistry, and botany.
Darwin’s first major work of literature was a didactic poem about the classification of plants in The Loves of the Plants, first published in 1789, which eroticized reproduction in the natural landscape. In this poem he attributes human characteristics and feelings to plants in sexually charged, abstract language. The second part of this work, The Economy of Vegetation, draws analogies between mechanics, the industrial process, and natural philosophy, offering “a theory of biological learning which included both mind and body.”
Darwin continued to probe the relationship between medicine, mechanics, philosophy, and poetry in his varied poetical works that focused on history, inventions, and gender politics until his death in 1802. In addition to his scientific work and literature, Darwin designed many mechanical instruments that reveal his innovative mind. His work and viewpoint influenced his grandson, the famed Charles Darwin.
The Botanic Garden was immediately popular and explores the classification of plants, including species reproduction and the roots of evolutionary theory.
Author: Erasmus Darwin
Title: The Botanic Garden: a Poem, in Two Parts. Part I. Containing the Economy of Vegetation. Part II. The Loves of the Plants. With Philosophical Notes
Published: New-York: Printed by T. & J. Swords, 1798.
Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library
Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy
Bound in full leather with maroon label on the spine and stamped in gold. Purchased from Riverby Books.
- Maureen McNeil, “Darwin, Erasmus (1731–1802)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed September 19, 2013. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical details are from this source.
- W.E. Snell, “Erasmus Darwin, Physician and Poet,” The British Medical Journal, 1, No. 5795 (BMJ Publishing Group, 1972), pp. 303-05.
- John Valdimir Price, "Darwin, Erasmus (1731-1802)," Continuum Encyclopedia Of British Philosophy, 2 (2006), pp. 789-790.
- Snell, p. 304.