Darwin was born in Elston Hall, Nottinghamshire, and educated at Cambridge from 1750 to 1754 and at Edinburgh from 1754 to 1756, where he acquired a reputation for his radicalism. After graduating, he began to practice medicine in Lichfield.
His medical practice thrived, and after several years George III offered to make him his personal physician. Darwin declined, however, preferring to remain in Lichfield, where he came to know Joseph Priestley, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Lichfield native Samuel Johnson. In 1781 Darwin relocated to nearby Derby and participated in the Birmingham Lunar Society.
Throughout the 1790s Darwin produced his major works, including several treatises on natural history in verse: The Botanic Garden (1789-1791) and Zoonomia (1794-1796) (in which he described a theory of evolution similar to that of Lamarck). His Plan for the Conduct of Female Education in Boarding Schools appeared in 1797, Phytologia; or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening in 1800, and The Temple of Nature; or, the Origin of Society in 1803.
Darwin was the grandfather not only of the naturalist Charles Darwin, but the less famous but still influential biologist Francis Galton.