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Zoonomia; or the Laws of Organic Life (1794) is a two-volume medical work by Erasmus Darwin dealing with pathology, anatomy, psychology, and the functioning of the body. The book incorporates early ideas relating to the theory of evolution that were later more fully developed by his grandson, Charles Darwin.


English Romantic poet William Wordsworth used Darwin's Zoonomia as the source for "Goody Blake and Harry Gill", a poem published in the Lyrical Ballads (1798).[1]

Relevant quotes[edit]

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 proportion 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 years...that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality...and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end?...

Shall we then say that the vegetable living filament was originally different from that of each tribe of animals above described? And that the productive living filament of each of those tribes was different originally from the other? Or, as the earth and ocean were probably peopled with vegetable productions long before the existence of animals...shall we conjecture that one and the same kind of living filament is and has been the cause of all organic life?[2]


  1. ^ Wu, Duncan (2003). Wordsworth: An Inner Life. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 97–98. ISBN 1-4051-1369-3.  See also: Averill, james. (1978). "Wordsworth and 'Natural Science': The Poetry of 1798." Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 77(2). 232–46.
  2. ^ Zoonomia Sect 39.4.8 of Generation

Further reading[edit]

  • Smith, Christopher Upham Murray. Robert Arnott, ed. (2005). The Genius of Erasmus Darwin. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-7546-3671-2. 

External links[edit]