LONDON (AP) -- Ruth Padel, the great-great-granddau ghter of Charles Darwin, became Oxford University's first female professor of poetry on Saturday.

She was voted to the prestigious five-year post by graduates and academics, and she is the first woman to hold the job since it was created in 1708.

Her series of poems about the famous naturalist — "Darwin A Life in Poems" — received rave reviews when it was published earlier this year, and Padel said she wanted to use her new post to unite poetry and science.

"That is what I should like to do — to explore what poems can give to students, college by college, department by department, in the humanities and sciences," she said.

The competition for the poetry professorship was marred by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott's decision to withdraw from the contest after anonymous letters criticizing him were sent to professors. British newspapers reported that the letters made reference to an allegation of sexual harassment made against the St. Lucia-born poet by a former student in the 1980s.

Padel was voted in with 297 of the votes cast. Her rival, Indian poet Arvind Mehrotra, received 129 votes.

Padel takes over the poetry professorship from scholar Christopher Ricks in September.