He was educated at a private school in Woodbridge, Suffolk and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1874. He founded the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company in 1885 and was Mayor of Cambridge between 1896 and 1897. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1903. He was knighted in 1918.
- Erasmus Darwin IV (7 December 1881 – 24 April 1915) who was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres during the First World War.
- Ruth Frances Darwin (1883–1972), married Dr William Rees-Thomas, was a notable advocate of eugenics.
- Emma Nora Darwin (1885–1989) edited the 1959 edition of The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and married the civil servant Sir Alan Barlow.
His family home, "the Orchard", in Huntingdon Road, Cambridge, is now the site of Murray Edwards College.
He is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge with his wife, Lady Ida Darwin; his brother Sir Francis Darwin is interred in the same graveyard. His other brother Sir George Darwin is buried in the Trumpington Extension Cemetery, Cambridge.
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