Annual Priestley Lecture 2017: Erasmus Darwin

The Annual Priestley Lecture by Jonathan Powers (University of Derby), sponsored by Mill Hill Chapel, The Leeds Library and Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society

Dr Erasmus Darwin FRS (1731 – 1802) physician, poet, scientist, inventor, philosopher, abolitionist and advocate for the education of women was one of the most influential figures of the 18th-century enlightenment. He was a founding member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, which included Joseph Priestley, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, John Baskerville, John Whitehurst and Josiah Wedgwood. The network was inspired by their friend Ben Franklin and many members were painted by Wright of Derby. Erasmus Darwin was very much a man ahead of his time. He proposed a comprehensive theory of evolution decades before his grandson Charles. But the integration of this theory with his radical politics led to ‘difficulties’ in the aftermath of the French Revolution - albeit primarily in the form of satire rather than the violence which descended on his friend Joseph Priestley.

Jonathan Powers DL Hon DUniv FInstP FRSA is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) of the University of Derby, having been Academic Director of the previous College of Higher Education (which gained University status in 1992). He studied Physics at Birmingham University and Philosophy at Sussex. This combination enabled him to roam widely, heading degree courses in three different Faculties at Middlesex Polytechnic, teaching History with the Open University and becoming both a Chartered Physicist and Dean of Humanities. In recent years he has been writing ‘mini-monographs’ on figures associated with the Midlands Enlightenment in support of the work of organisations such as the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Erasmus Darwin House in Lichfield, and the Arkwright Society at Cromford Mill.

This lecture is free, and you do not need a ticket but, if you are coming with a party of friends and would like seats reserving, please contact John Lydon, Secretary, Leeds Phil. and Lit. Tel. 0113 2785596 (evenings). 

Location details

Mill Hill Chapel, City Square, Leeds