Darwin’s Sons

Image: Silhouette of Erasmus Darwin (right), playing chess with his son Erasmus (left).

Image from: Erasmus Darwin House, Lichfield (By kind permission of Jane Darwin).

Photograph: David Remes (2003).

Erasmus and Polly both were freethinkers and sceptical about religion. The three of five their children who survived the childhood were brought up with “no seeds of superstition”. They were “an inexhaustible fund of happiness” for their parents.

Polly’s early death in 1770 was a great shock to Darwin: “The dear Partner of all the Cares and Pleasures of my Life ceased to be ill – and I felt myself alone in the World!” Darwin was left to bring up his small sons, Charles (1758-1778), aged eleven, Erasmus (1759-1799), ten and Robert Waring (1766-1848), four. His sister Susannah agreed to come and help to look after the children and run the household.

Charles, the eldest, became a brilliant medical student at Edinburgh University, but died as a result of an infection contracted while was conducting a dissection. Erasmus became a lawyer and died tragically by drowning in 1799. Robert Waring trained as a doctor at Edinburgh and practised as a doctor in Shrewsbury where his son, Charles Darwin (1809-82) was born.


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10-0An “ever-open door”: Erasmus Darwin and Lichfield 1068-0Lichfield in the late 18th century 3997-0Darwin’s Home 1085-0Darwin’s Medical Practice 1077-0“Doctor Darwin – On the Road” 1072-0Medical Research and Dissection 1088-0Inventions, the Commonplace Book and the Lunar Society 1078-0Biological Evolution 1071-0Home Life 1082-0Darwin’s Sons 1076-0Mary Parker 1083-0Darwin’s Daughters 1087-1Darwin and Education 1080-0Elizabeth Pole 1069-0Darwin’s Legacy