Like grandfather, like grandson: Erasmus and Charles Darwin on evolution

Christopher U.M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Last year (2009) marked the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth and the sesquicentenary of The Origin of Species. This article examines the influence of Erasmus Darwin on Charles's evolutionary thought and shows how, in many ways, Erasmus anticipated his much better-known grandson. It discusses the similarity in the mindsets of the two Darwins, asks how far the younger Darwin was exposed to the elder's evolutionary thought, examines the similarities and differences in their theories of evolution, and ends by showing the surprising similarity between their theories of inheritance. Erasmus's influence on Charles is greater than customarily acknowledged, and now is an opportune time to bring the grandfather out from behind the glare of his stellar grandson.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-199
Number of pages14
JournalPerspectives in Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Charles Darwin
  • Origin of Species
  • Erasmus Darwin
  • evolution
  • theories of evolution
  • inheritance


Dive into the research topics of 'Like grandfather, like grandson: Erasmus and Charles Darwin on evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this