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Since this book was finished Erasmus Darwin, a grandson of Charles and Emma Darwin, has been killed in action. He was only thirty-three years old, and his life was cut short before all its promise could be fulfilled; but he had already shown himself a man of such rare abilities and so fine and lovable a character that it has been felt that some account of him should be put on record. At the request of his aunt, Mrs. Litchfield, I therefore add to her book this little tribute to his memory. I have made use of a notice already published in The Times, and have supplemented it from letters written by the Commanding Officer and some of the men of Erasmus's battalion, and by those of his friends who can speak of a side of his life of which I have no direct knowledge.
Erasmus was the eldest child and only son of Horace and Ida Darwin, and a grandson on his mother's side of the first Lord Farrer. He was born on December 7, 1881, at Cambridge, which was throughout his life the home of his father and mother. He was in Cotton House at Marlborough, and gained an exhibition for mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. He came up to Trinity in October, 1901, and took the Mathematical Tripos in his second year, being placed among the Senior Optimes.
Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802) is remembered not only as the grandfather of Charles but as a pioneering scientist in his own right. A friend and correspondent of Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley and Matthew Boulton, he practised medicine in Lichfield, but also wrote prolifically on scientific subjects. He organised the translation of Linnaeus from Latin into English prose, coining many plant names in the process, and also wrote a version in verse, The Loves of Plants. The aim of his Zoonomia, published in two volumes (1794–6), is to 'reduce the facts belonging to animal life into classes, orders, genera, and species; and by comparing them with each other, to unravel the theory of diseases'. The first volume describes human physiology, especially importance of motion, both voluntary and involuntary; the second is a detailed description of the symptoms of, and the cures for, diseases, categorised according to his physiological classes.