International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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MONDAY, JULY 6  /  19:00 - 20:30  /  Salle Marie Gérin-Lajoie
Erasmus Darwin’s and Lamarck’s conceptions on evolution: a comparison

Pedrita Donda (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil)

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) is generally known by his works devoted to medicine. However, he also brought contributions to botany, heredity, and evolution. In the historical sketch of the 6th edition of On the Origin of species in a foot-note, Charles Darwin (1809-1892) commented: “It’s curious how largely my grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, anticipated the views and erroneous grounds of opinion of Lamarck in his ' Zoonomia,' vol. I. pp. 500-510, published in 1794”. The aim of the present presentation is departing from the analysis of Erasmus’s and Lamarck’s works in which they presented their conceptions on evolution elucidate the similarities and differences between their proposals. This study leads to the conclusion that both Lamarck and Erasmus tried to explain the origin of life through spontaneous generation. However, Erasmus mentioned that it happened in the oceans and considered heterogenesis contrary to Lamarck. Erasmus Darwin attributed the transformation of living beings to three great objects of desires: lust, hunger and security. This idea is not present in Lamarck’s theory. Besides that, although both accepted the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Contrary to Lamarck, Erasmus believed that characteristics produced by diseases, weather changes, domestication and ways of life could be inherited. Whereas Lamarck dedicated several works to present his theory of evolution, trying to explain since the origin of life until the rise of man’s high characteristics, evolution was not the main concern in Erasmus’ works.