Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Memorial for Darwin slave mentor

Charles Darwin
Darwin was taught the art of taxidermy by Edmonstone

A memorial to a freed slave who was an unsung early mentor and inspiration to Charles Darwin in 1826, is being unveiled by a London arts venue.

Kings Place, in central London, has commissioned a plaque honouring Guyanese-born John Edmonstone.

Edmonstone is thought to have been key to informing Darwin's decision to study naturalism rather than medicine.

The plaque has been produced with the aid of the Wedgwood porcelain works and is being affixed at a bar in Edinburgh.

John Edmonstone was brought to Edinburgh in 1807 by Charles Edmonstone. When he was freed he took his former master's name.

Edmonstone (John) taught Darwin the art of taxidermy, when the evolution theorist was a student at Edinburgh University, between 1825 and 1827.

Edmondstone had learnt it from Charles' neighbour Charles Waterton.

Porcelain brooches

It was Edmonstone's long accounts of life in the tropical rainforests of South America that were thought to have inspired Darwin's interest in naturalism.

The Wedgwood family, Darwin's extended family, were prominent abolitionists, lead by his cousin Josiah Wedgwood.

The Staffordshire-based Wedgwood company has made the plaque in the style of Josiah Wedgwood's original anti-slavery porcelain brooches.

Dr Alan Wedgwood, ex-director of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons said: "Given the prominent support my ancestors gave to the anti-slavery cause - a cause shared by Charles Darwin - it is entirely appropriate that we should be supporting the memory of an unsung hero such as John Edmonstone."

The plaque is being unveiled at Negociants Bar, in Lothian Street, close to the site of John Edmonstone's dwelling, with the approval of Edinburgh City Council.



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