Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a medical doctor, natural philosopher, abolitionist, inventor, poet, founding member of the Lunar Society, and grandfather to Charles Darwin. In 1794, Erasmus produced Zoonomia, an examination of physiology, health and biological nature, including what we now call evolution. Not only were his evolutionary notions discussed in the Darwin household, but when the younger Darwin first wrote a trial essay towards his Origin of Species, it was titled Zoonomia. This is the first edition.
Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia; or the Laws of Organic Life. Vol. I. London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1794. DeB Ec 1794 D
Emma Darwin (née Wedgwood, 1808-1896) was the granddaughter of Josiah Wedgwood, a wealthy manufacturer who made a fortune in pottery. Emma was Darwin’s first cousin. They married on 29 January 1839 and were the parents of ten children. An inveterate list maker, Darwin created a 'Marry' or 'Not Marry' sheet. The plus side included 'female chit-chat', a constant companion for old age, and taking care of the house. One minus read: 'Fatness & idleness – anxiety & responsibility – less money for books etc. If many children forced to gain one's bread.’
Emma Darwin, née Wedgwood. Watercolour by George Richmond, 1840
While attending a private school at Shrewsbury, Darwin preferred game-shooting and rat-catching than to classroom instruction. He disliked mathematics, and while attending medical school at Edinburgh, he came to dislike the pain and suffering inherent in the then medical and surgical practices. One true escape was natural history, and from early childhood he collected beetles. This passion was to last: 'No pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles (Autobiography).' Here is Darwin, aged seven.
Charles Darwin, aged 7, 1816
Between 28 May and 3 August 1876, Darwin wrote his autobiographical recollections, which was compiled just for the family. In 1958, Darwin’s granddaughter Nora Barlow produced a full unabridged edition, which included his critical views of God and Christianity. It was a timely publication, designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species. The silhouette is of Darwin’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, who, while sometimes despairing of his son’s future, was supportive and proud of his accomplishments.
Charles Darwin, Autobiography. London: Collins, 1958. Science QH 31 D2 A3