this month, Alfred Russel Wallace was celebrated
as the ‘forgotten hero’ of the creation of evolution
theory by the unveiling of a statue at the Natural History
Museum by Sir David Attenborough and the
naming of a new genus of wasp in his honour - Wallaceaphytis.
and Darwin worked separately but jointly published the theory of
evolution by natural selection in a paper in August 1858. However,
it was Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species that
caught the public imagination the following year.
I think we should
give some thought to the contribution to the evolution theory made
by Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus.
Darwin (12 December 1731 – 18 April 1802) was a Lichfield
doctor and one of the key thinkers of the Birmingham Luna
Society which was so instrumental in developing many fields
of endeavour during the Enlightenment period.
was a philosopher, poet and inventor who campaigned for the abolition
of slavery and pioneered the use of digitalis in the treatment of
heart ailments – apparently working out dosage by (sometime
fatal) trial and error.
his book Zoonomia (published in 1796) he presents
the world with the first coherent version of what became known as
the theory of evolution. Charles certainly read and commented upon
his grandfather’s work but his contribution seems to have
been lost over time.