The Temple of Nature

Georg Flegel 1566–1638

Erasmus Darwin (1731 – 1802) was an English physician who turned down George III’s invitation to be a physician to the King.

He formed the Lichfield Botanical Society in order to translate the works of the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus from Latin into English: A System of Vegetables and The Families of Plants, in which he coined many of the English names of plants that we use today.

Darwin then wrote The Loves of the Plants, a long poem which was a popular rendering of Linnaeus’ works, and Economy of Vegetation, and together the two were published as The Botanic Garden.

Darwin’s final long poem, The Temple of Nature, centers on his own conception of evolution and traces the progression of life from micro-organisms to civilized society.

He established a lifelong friendship with Benjamin Franklin and shared his support for the American and French revolutions, he endorsed a proper education for women, and along with other members of the Lunar Society he opposed the slave trade.

His experiments in galvanism were an important source of inspiration when Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein.”

Cosmological speculation of Erasmus Darwin:

Roll on, ye Stars! exult in youthful prime,
Mark with bright curves the printless steps of Time;
Near and more near your beamy cars approach,
And lessening orbs on lessening orbs encroach; —
Flowers of the sky! ye too to age must yield,
Frail as your silken sisters of the field!
Star after star from Heaven’s high arch shall rush,
Suns sink on suns, and systems systems crush,
Headlong, extinct, to one dark center fall,
And Death and Night and Chaos mingle all!
— Till o’er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form,
Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,
And soars and shines, another and the same.

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