Scientist of the Day - Josiah Wedgwood II
Josiah Wedgwood II, an English manufacturer, was born Apr. 12, 1769 (first image above). Josiah II was the son of the founder of the Wedgwood Pottery firm, and he inherited the company upon the death of Josiah I in 1795. Josiah II grew up in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. He had a number of siblings; a family portrait by George Stubbs in 1780 (second image) depicts Josiah II as the boy on horseback in the center; the young woman on the horse next to him is his older sister, Susannah. In 1796, Susannah married Robert Darwin and moved to nearby Shrewsbury, where she gave birth to Charles Darwin in 1809. In 1807, Josiah II bought an estate, Maer Hall, in Staffordshire (third image). Charles spent much of his boyhood at Maer Hall with uncle Josiah, especially during hunting season, and Darwin would later marry one of Josiah's daughters, Emma (fourth image), making Josiah his father-in-law as well as his uncle.
Josiah performed two great services for art and science in England. In 1798, upon the publication of Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a volume that included Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Josiah offered Coleridge an annuity of £150 per annum if he would give up the ministry and devote himself to poetry, an offer accepted by Coleridge. And on Sep. 1, 1831, Josiah, upon hearing from young Charles that his father was opposed to his joining the voyage of HMS Beagle, rode over to Shrewsbury and persuaded Darwin's father that the engagement was just what Charles needed. Darwin's father graciously relented, and Darwin went off with Captain Fitzroy and the crew of the Beagle. So Josiah was directly responsible for the publication of Coleridge’s Christabel and Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, to say nothing of some very fine pieces of jasperware, including this copy of the Portland Vase in the Victoria & Albert Museum, produced on Josiah II’s watch around 1840 (fifth image).
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to email@example.com.