April 17, 2008

Darwin’s Papers Arrive on the Web

Charles Darwin's collection of research found its way to the Web on Thursday for the first time.

The Web site, Darwin-online.org.uk, showcases the largest collection, amounting to around 20,000 items and 90,000 images, according to the Cambridge University Library, which is home to Darwin's papers.

The site also boasts the largest Darwin bibliography ever exhibited, due to the work of R. B. Freeman, and the largest catalogue of manuscripts "“ over 30,000 entries. Users are able to search any part of the collection.

"This release makes his private papers, mountains of notes, experiments, and research behind his world-changing publications available to the world for free," said John van Wyhe, director of the project.

"His publications have always been available in the public sphere - but these papers have until now only been accessible to scholars."

Some of the papers have never been on the Web, such as the first edition of the Journal of Researches, also known as the Voyage of the Beagle, which represents the time when Darwin embarked upon his research of evolution.

Darwin's notebooks have also been published. He used notebooks in the field to write down his initial responses. One notebook, used by Darwin on the Galapagos, is missing after being stolen in the 1980s, according to the Web site.

"Darwin changed our understanding of nature forever. His papers reveal how immensely detailed his researches were," said van Wyhe.

"The release of his papers online marks a revolution in the public's access to - and hopefully appreciation of - one of the most important collections of primary materials in the history of science."

The online collection is expected to grow even more before the bicentenary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of species in 2009. New content is continually being added, according to the site.


On the Net:

The Complete Work Of Charles Darwin Online