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Erasmus

Erasmus

[ih-raz-muhs]
Darwin, Erasmus, 1731-1802, English physician and poet. During most of his life he practiced medicine in Lichfield and cultivated a botanical garden. He was a prominent member of the Lichfield literary group, which included Anna Seward and Thomas Day. In a long poem, The Botanic Garden (1789-91), Darwin expounded the botanical system of Linnaeus. His Zoonomia (1794-96), explaining organic life according to evolutionary principles, anticipates later theories. He was the grandfather of Charles Darwin and of Francis Galton.

See biography by D. King-Hele (1964).

Erasmus or Desiderius Erasmus [Gr. Erasmus, his given name, and Lat., Desiderius=beloved; both are regarded as the equivalent of Dutch Gerard, Erasmus' father's name], 1466?-1536, Dutch humanist, b. Rotterdam. He was ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church and studied at the Univ. of Paris. Erasmus' influence began to be felt in Europe after 1500. It was exercised through his personal contacts, his editions of classical authors, and his own writings. He was acquainted with most of the scholars of Europe and his circle of friends was especially large in England; it included Thomas More, John Colet, and Henry VIII. His editions of Greek and Latin classics and of the Fathers of the Church (especially of Jerome and Athanasius) were his chief occupation for years. His Latin edition of the New Testament was based on the original Greek text. For many years he was editor for the printer Johannes Froben in Basel. Erasmus' original works are mainly satirical and critical. Written in Latin, the language of the 16th-century scholar, the most important works are Adagia (1500, tr. Adages or Proverbs), a collection of quotations; Enchiridion militis christiani (1503, tr. Manual of the Christian Knight); Moriae encomium (1509, tr. The Praise of Folly, 1979); Institutio principis christiani (1515, tr. The Education of a Christian Prince, 1968); Colloquia (1516, tr. Colloquies); and his collected letters (tr., ed. by F. M. Nichols, 1904-18; repr. 1962). Erasmus combined vast learning with a fine style, a keen and sometimes sharp humor, moderation, and tolerance. His position on the Reformation was widely denounced, especially by Martin Luther, who had first looked on Erasmus as an ally because of Erasmus' attacks on clerical abuse and lay ignorance. Though eager for church reform, Erasmus remained all his life within the Roman Catholic Church. As a humanist he deplored the religious warfare of the time because of the rancorous, intolerant atmosphere and cultural decline that it induced. Erasmus was finally brought into open conflict with Luther and attacked his position on predestination in On the Freedom of the Will.

See studies by M. M. Phillips (1949, repr. 1965), J. Huizinga (tr. 1952, repr. 1957), R. H. Bainton (1969), T. A. Dorey, ed. (1970), and G. Thompson (1974).

(born Oct. 27, 1469, Rotterdam, Holland—died July 12, 1536, Basel, Switz.) Dutch priest and humanist, considered the greatest European scholar of the 16th century. The illegitimate son of a priest and a physician's daughter, he entered a monastery and was ordained a priest in 1492. He studied at the University of Paris and traveled throughout Europe, coming under the influence of St. Thomas More and John Colet. The book that first made him famous was the Adagia (1500, 1508), an annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs. He became noted for his editions of Classical authors, Church Fathers, and the New Testament as well as for his own works, including Handbook of a Christian Knight (1503) and Praise of Folly (1509). Using the philological methods pioneered by Italian humanists, he helped lay the groundwork for the historical-critical study of the past. By criticizing ecclesiastical abuses, he encouraged the growing urge for reform, which found expression both in the Protestant Reformation and in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Though he saw much to admire in Martin Luther, he came under pressure to attack him; he took an independent stance, rejecting both Luther's doctrine of predestination and the powers claimed for the papacy.

Learn more about Erasmus, Desiderius with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Erasmus Darwin, detail of an oil painting by Joseph Wright, 1770; in the National Portrait Gallery, elipsis

(born Dec. 12, 1731, Elston Hall, Nottinghamshire, Eng.—died April 18, 1802, Derby, Derbyshire) British physician, poet, and botanist, grandfather of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton. A freethinker and radical, Darwin often wrote his opinions and scientific treatises in verse. In Zoonomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life (1794–96), he advanced a theory of evolution similar to that of Lamarck, suggesting that species modified themselves by adapting to their environment in an intentional way. He initially enjoyed great success, but his work fell out of favour because of his unorthodox views on evolution. However, the extent of his influence on contemporaries and successors was far-reaching, and today he remains an important figure of historical interest.

Learn more about Darwin, Erasmus with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Oct. 27, 1469, Rotterdam, Holland—died July 12, 1536, Basel, Switz.) Dutch priest and humanist, considered the greatest European scholar of the 16th century. The illegitimate son of a priest and a physician's daughter, he entered a monastery and was ordained a priest in 1492. He studied at the University of Paris and traveled throughout Europe, coming under the influence of St. Thomas More and John Colet. The book that first made him famous was the Adagia (1500, 1508), an annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs. He became noted for his editions of Classical authors, Church Fathers, and the New Testament as well as for his own works, including Handbook of a Christian Knight (1503) and Praise of Folly (1509). Using the philological methods pioneered by Italian humanists, he helped lay the groundwork for the historical-critical study of the past. By criticizing ecclesiastical abuses, he encouraged the growing urge for reform, which found expression both in the Protestant Reformation and in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Though he saw much to admire in Martin Luther, he came under pressure to attack him; he took an independent stance, rejecting both Luther's doctrine of predestination and the powers claimed for the papacy.

Learn more about Erasmus, Desiderius with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Erasmus Darwin, detail of an oil painting by Joseph Wright, 1770; in the National Portrait Gallery, elipsis

(born Dec. 12, 1731, Elston Hall, Nottinghamshire, Eng.—died April 18, 1802, Derby, Derbyshire) British physician, poet, and botanist, grandfather of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton. A freethinker and radical, Darwin often wrote his opinions and scientific treatises in verse. In Zoonomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life (1794–96), he advanced a theory of evolution similar to that of Lamarck, suggesting that species modified themselves by adapting to their environment in an intentional way. He initially enjoyed great success, but his work fell out of favour because of his unorthodox views on evolution. However, the extent of his influence on contemporaries and successors was far-reaching, and today he remains an important figure of historical interest.

Learn more about Darwin, Erasmus with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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