Steve Sailer writes:
If I might venture my own Johnsonian alternative history: if Franklin had been even luckier, he might also have anticipated Darwin’s theory of natural selection. After all, Darwin’s breakthrough was inspired by his reading Malthus’s reflections on Franklin’s 1754 finding that the American population doubled every 25 years.
But this low-hanging fruit was left to be plucked by Darwin, who enjoyed, as Johnson points out, the ideal combination of nature and nurture for the task. Both his paternal grandfather and father had been among the highest paid doctors in England, while his mother was a Wedgwood. British upper-class culture, with its emphasis on hunting, animal breeding, scientific agriculture, and the dispersion all over the countryside of learned men as vicars, put intellectuals in closer touch with nature than in most other times and places. Thus, Darwin was the Neil Armstrong of naturalists: the product of a system that worked well. But if not Darwin, somebody similar would have gotten the job done.