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14   Life and Letters of Francis Gait on

repelled by the florid language or the want of reasoned inference drawn from marshalled facts. Part of this is due to his date, but not all, for his time carries us to the Wollastons, Young, Kerwan, Priestley and Smeaton, some of whom were close intimates of Darwin himself, to say nothing of the great continental physiologists, naturalists and mathematicians. Darwin's defects were partly due to his environment, the incessant occupation of a most popular physician, which hindered the possibility of a life wholly devoted to science, the smaller interests and the want of friction with the best minds which must often occur in narrow provincial circles-though the neighbouring Birmingham was in those days a centre of considerable mental activity. Yet beyond all this there was something of the prophet about Erasmus Darwin. He had thrown off the old teleological dogmas and was seeking a new theory of life, and he had inspirations even if his poetical representation of them wearied his grandsons and in no lesser degree wearies a still more modern reader. To start examining the characters of living forms not with a view of seeing in them evidence of design, but of testing their utility to the owner and how he or his stock might have acquired them, was a real step forward. Had Erasmus Darwin been by calling a man of science and not of medicine, doubtless many of his inspirations would have perished under his own analysis. Others would have stood his trained criticism, and been established by marshalled facts-as true scientific knowledge. As it is we regard him as a most interesting personality, almost as a man of genius ; but rather as evidence of. the general ability of the Darwin stock,"than as a powerful environmental or traditional factor influencing the development of either Charles Darwin or Francis Galton'.

With our present views on heredity, we look upon Charles Darwin and Francis Galton as drawing their ability from the same reservoir as Erasmus Darwin did, but we realise that it only flowed from him to them in the sense that he was the conduit, not the source of the ability.

1 This view was fully accepted by Francis Galton himself. Writing of men of science in his Hereditary Genius (1869) he says: . "The number of individuals in the Darwin family who have followed some branch- of natural history is very remarkable

the more so because it so happens that the tastes appear (I speak from private sources of knowledge) to have been more personal than traditional. There is a strong element of individuality in the different members of the race which is adverse to traditional influence."


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