My middle childhood years were spent in the beautiful countryside just to the south of where Josiah Wedgwood had his pottery factories. The Trent and Mersey Canal is near to where I played and walked and explored between the ages of nine and thirteen.
Wedgwood had the idea of building that canal, in the monetary sense of making it a reality. The engineer James Brindley first alerted him of the possibility.
One of Josiah's grandsons was Charles Darwin, whose 200th birthday will be celebrated on 12 February 2009. Without the entrepreneurial work and amorous activities of Josiah Wedgwood, we may never have had the Theory of Evolution.
How would young Darwin have found the time to study other than by having wealthy relatives? It helped, too, that Josiah Wedgwood was a friend of Erasmus Darwin, the other grandfather of Charles, who had some ideas about the origin of species himself.
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England. My mother was born there too. Many of her ancestors could not even read or write. But the names of Wedgwood and Darwin are part of my heritage, and my sense of place, and my sense of being.
Josiah Wedgwood helped to put an end to slavery in the British empire. He therefore helped to give a great many people an identity as fellow humans in the eyes of others.