Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Erasmus Darwin: Sex, Science, and Serendipity

Biography / MemoirSPECIAL OFFER

By: Patricia Fara

322 pages, 10 b/w photos

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Sep 2012 | #197730 | ISBN-13: 9780199582662
Availability: In stock
Clearance price: £10.99 £19.99 (Save £9.00) $13/€12 approx

About this book

Dr Erasmus Darwin seemed an innocuous Midlands physician, a respectable stalwart of eighteenth-century society. But there was another side to him.

Botanist, inventor, Lunar inventor and popular poet, Darwin was internationally renowned for breathtakingly long poems explaining his theories about sex and science. Yet he become a target for the political classes, the victim of a sustained and vitriolic character assassination by London's most savage satirists.

Intrigued, prize-winning historian Patricia Fara set out to investigate why Darwin had provoked such fierce intellectual and political reaction. Inviting her readers to accompany her, she embarked on what turned out to be a circuitous and serendipitous journey.

Her research led her to discover a man who possessed, according to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'perhaps a greater range of knowledge than any other man in Europe.' His evolutionary ideas influenced his grandson Charles, were banned by the Vatican, and scandalized his reactionary critics. But for modern readers, he shines out as an impassioned Enlightenment reformer who championed the abolition of slavery, the education of women, and the optimistic ideals of the French Revolution.

As she tracks down her quarry, Patricia Fara uncovers a ferment of dangerous ideas that terrified the establishment, inspired the Romantics, and laid the ground for Victorian battles between faith and science.


Introduction: Serendipity

The Loves Of The Triangles - Poetry, Geometry, And Satire
I.1: Erasmus Darwin
I.2: The Loves of the Triangles
I.3: A Triangle of Poets

The Loves Of The Plants - Botany, Women, And Morality
II.1: The Loves of the Plants
II.2: Women on Trial
II.3: Seraglios

The Economy Of Vegetation - Knowledge, Power, And Society
III.1: The Lunar Society
III.2: The Economy of Vegetation
III.3: The Triangular Slave Trade

The Temple Of Nature - Progress, Race, And Evolution
IV.1: Defining People
IV.2: The Temple of Nature
IV.3: Origins

Conclusion: Reputations & rEFLECTIONS

Appendix: 'The Loves of the Triangles'

Write a review

There are currently no reviews for this product. Be the first to review this product!


Patricia Fara lectures in the history of science at Cambridge University, where she is the Senior Tutor of Clare College. A specialist in Enlightenment England, her main passion is explaining to non-academic audiences why the history of science is so fascinating and so important. Her most recent book, Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009), won the Dingle prize awarded by the British Society for the History of Science. Her other successful publications include Newton: The Making of Genius (2002), Sex, Botany and Empire (2003) and Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment (2004). An experienced public lecturer, she appears regularly in TV documentaries and radio programmes such as In our Time and Start the Week. She also contributes articles and reviews to many journals, including History Today, BBC History, New Scientist, Prospect, Nature, and the Times Literary Supplement.

Bestsellers in this subject

Alfred Russel Wallace

NHBS Price: £12.99 $16/€15 approx

Ten Thousand Birds

NHBS Price: £34.95 $43/€39 approx

Debating Darwin

NHBS Price: £20.99 $26/€23 approx

The Invention of Nature

NHBS Special Offer Price: £7.50 £9.99 (Save £2.49) $9/€8 approx (ends 31/12/2016)