Charles Darwin was born into a family fairly dripping with a fascination in natural history. On his father’s – Robert Darwin’s – side of the family, there was a history of involvement in medicine. In particular, his paternal grandfather, Erasmus, was both a physician and celebrated poet.
Erasmus, together with Charles Darwin’s maternal grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood (he of pottery fame), were members of the Lunatics: a society of free-thinkers set around Birmingham in the late 18th Century. Erasmus Darwin was ahead of his time in suggesting that species were not immutable and that life had evolved from one form to another. Additionally, Erasmus’s brother, John, was a botanist who had written a major textbook used to classify plants. Robert Darwin also shared a strong interest in plants, as well as being a doctor too.
Charles Darwin’s mother, Susannah, was Josiah Wedgwood’s daughter. It would be her brother’s daughter (i.e. Charles’ cousin) Emma, who Charles would marry.
Charles and Emma had ten children. Initially Charles and Emma lived in Gower Street, London, but with the birth of their third child imminent, they moved to Down House in the village of Downe, Kent.