Erasmus Darwin House – Staffordshire, England - Atlas Obscura
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Staffordshire, England

Erasmus Darwin House

The house where Charles Darwin's grandfather formed many of his influential ideas and inventions. 

This amazing little museum is tucked away on a street near Lichfield Cathedral. In its past life, it was the home of physician, scientist, philosopher, and poet Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin.

Darwin was a notable physician—he even once turned down King George III’s invitation to become a physician to the king—and an innovator. From 1758 to 1781, this charming abode served as his home base.

While Darwin lived within this house, he pursued his medical practice and devised numerous inventions, including a vertical axis windmill, a steering mechanism for wheeled vehicles, and a reliable form of a flushing toilet mechanism. He also wrote his book Zoonomia, which was one of the first texts to mention the idea of evolution. His grandson Charles is known to have read and been influenced by the ideas presented within the text.

Darwin was also a founding member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham. The society was a dinner club full of scientists, industrialists, and engineers. In addition to Darwin, it included bright minds like Matthew Boulton and Benjamin Franklin. These renowned individuals were known to regularly meet at this house.

Darwin’s house is now a museum run by a group of dedicated enthusiasts. Step inside the museum, and you’ll find a variety of displays and items relating to Darwin’s professional and private life, as well as his achievements.

Be sure to explore the grounds, too. Outside the house, there’s a fantastic reproduction of Darwin’s medicinal herb garden and his wife’s culinary herb garden. The medicinal garden is full of species identified in the physician’s own journals.

Know Before You Go

Admission is free, but visitors are encouraged to leave a donation. The museum is suitable for wheelchairs. See the website for details about the museum's hours, which change depending on the season. Various group tours are also available.

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