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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Erasmus Darwin Quotes > Evolution

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Erasmus Darwin
(12 Dec 1731 - 18 Apr 1802)

English physician, poet, philosopher, botanist and naturalist.


Erasmus Darwin Quotes on Evolution (9 quotes)

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E canchis amnia.
Everything from shells.
— Erasmus Darwin
Motto on his bookplate, 1771, expressing his evolutionary beliefs.
Science quotes on:  |  Everything (476)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Shell (64)

By firm immutable immortal laws Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,
Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife
Organic forms, and kindled into life;
How Love and Sympathy with potent charm
Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;
Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,
And bind Society in golden chains.
— Erasmus Darwin
From 'Production of Life', The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803), 3, Canto I, lines 1-8.
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From the sexual, or amatorial, generation of plants new varieties, or improvements, are frequently obtained; as many of the young plants from seeds are dissimilar to the parent, and some of them superior to the parent in the qualities we wish to possess... Sexual reproduction is the chef d'oeuvre, the master-piece of nature.
— Erasmus Darwin
Phytologia. (1800), 115, 103.
Science quotes on:  |  Chef (3)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Generation (242)  |  Improvement (110)  |  Master (178)  |  Nature (1928)  |  New (1217)  |  Obtain (163)  |  Parent (76)  |  Plant (295)  |  Possess (156)  |  Reproduction (72)  |  Seed (93)  |  Sexual (26)  |  Superior (82)  |  Wish (212)  |  Young (228)

From thus meditating on the great similarity of the structure of the warm-blooded animals, and at the same time of the great changes they undergo both before and after their nativity; and by considering in how minute a portion of time many of the changes of animals above described have been produced; would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!
— Erasmus Darwin
Zoonomia, Or, The Laws of Organic Life, in three parts (1803), Vol. 1, 397.
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ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Ocean's pearly caves;
First, forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.
Thus the tall Oak, the giant of the wood,
Which bears Britannia's thunders on the flood;
The Whale, unmeasured monster of the main,
The lordly Lion, monarch of the plain,
The Eagle soaring in the realms of air,
Whose eye undazzled drinks the solar glare,
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect, who scorns this earthy sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens!
— Erasmus Darwin
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 1, lines 295-314, pages 26-8.
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Owing to the imperfection of language the offspring is termed a new animal, but it is in truth a branch or elongation of the parent; since a part of the embryon-animal is, or was, a part of the parent; and therefore in strict language it cannot be said to be entirely new at the time of its production; and therefore it may retain some of the habits of the parent-system. (1794)
— Erasmus Darwin
Zoonomia, Or, The Laws of Organic Life, in three parts (1803), Vol. 1, 395.
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The great CREATOR of all things has infinitely diversified the works of his hands, but has at the same time stamped a certain similitude on the features of nature, that demonstrates to us, that the whole is one family of one parent.
— Erasmus Darwin
Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 1.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Certain (550)  |  Creator (91)  |  Demonstrate (77)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Family (95)  |  Great (1575)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Parent (76)  |  Stamp (36)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Time (1877)  |  Whole (738)  |  Work (1351)

The late Mr. David Hume, in his posthumous works, places the powers of generation much above those of our boasted reason; and adds, that reason can only make a machine, as a clock or a ship, but the power of generation makes the maker of the machine; … he concludes, that the world itself might have been generated, rather than created; that is, it might have been gradually produced from very small beginnings, increasing by the activity of its inherent principles, rather than by a sudden evolution of the whole by the Almighty fiat.—What a magnificent idea of the infinite power of THE GREAT ARCHITECT! THE CAUSE OF CAUSES! PARENT OF PARENTS! ENS ENTIUM!
For if we may compare infinities, it would seem to require a greater infinity of power to cause the causes of effects, than to cause the effects themselves.
— Erasmus Darwin
'Generation', Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 509. Note that this passage was restated in a 1904 translation of a book by August Weismann. That rewording was given in quotation marks and attributed to Erasumus Darwin without reference to David Hume. In the reworded form, it is seen in a number of later works as a direct quote made by Erasmus Darwin. For that restated form see the webpage for August Weismann. Webmaster has checked the quotation on this webpage in the original Zoonomia, and is the only verbatim form found so far.
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[Some] philosophers have been of opinion that our immortal part acquires during this life certain habits of action or of sentiment, which become forever indissoluble, continuing after death in a future state of existence ... I would apply this ingenious idea to the generation, or production of the embryon, or new animal, which partakes so much of the form and propensities of the parent.
— Erasmus Darwin
Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 483-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (328)  |  Animal (617)  |  Apply (160)  |  Become (815)  |  Certain (550)  |  Death (391)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Existence (460)  |  Forever (103)  |  Form (960)  |  Future (432)  |  Generation (242)  |  Habit (168)  |  Idea (845)  |  Immortal (35)  |  Ingenious (55)  |  Life (1799)  |  New (1217)  |  Opinion (281)  |  Parent (76)  |  Philosopher (259)  |  Production (183)  |  State (491)


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  • 12 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Darwin's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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