PYM, John Barton; engraver
Erasmus Darwin M.D. F.R.S. Author of Zoonomia, Phytologia, & the Botanic Garden
London: Feb. 2, 1801. Mezzotint portrait engraved by Pym after Samuel Jame Arnold. Wide margins. Plate mark: 14 7/8 x 10 3/4 inches. Sheet size: 20 5/8 x 15 1/4 inches.
In this portrait, Erasmus Darwin, one of the leading intellectuals of eighteenth century England, surrounded by books and writing supplies, reads a letter.
Erasmus Darwin was a British physician, poet, inventor, and botanist with an array of intellectual pursuits who became famous for his radical opinions. The main subject of Darwin's work is his commitment to progress. He greatly believed in the power to improve society through science, industry, and education and promoted various technological innovations including canal systems, the use of steam power, and windmills. He invented several technological devices, such as a horizontal windmill, copying machine, weather monitoring machines, and a carriage steering mechanism. He also recommended scientific progress through agriculture, including chemical fertilizers. Though he is known most for being Charles Darwin's grandfather, he is an important Enlightenment figure on his own, as the most important naturalist of the eighteenth century. His work was initially very successful which eventually receded because of his unorthodox views on evolution and the didacticism of his poetry. Today, he is often referred to as the true forefather of evolutionary theory, as an industrial capitalist, and as an influencer of Romantic literature.