Charles Darwin's complete works go online

Charles Darwin's works go online

Charles Darwin photographed in 1854 - the complete works of one of the world's greatest scientists are being published online at

The complete works of one of history's greatest scientists, Charles Darwin, are being published online.

The project run by Cambridge University has digitised some 50,000 pages of text and 40,000 images of original publications - all of it searchable.

Surfers can even access downloadable audio files to use on MP3 players.

The resource is aimed at serious scholars, but can be used by anyone with an interest in Darwin and his theory on the evolution of life.

"The idea is to make these important works as accessible as possible; some people can only get at Darwin that way," said Dr John van Wyhe, the project's director.

One big collection
Dr van Wyhe has spent the past four years searching the globe for copies of Darwin's own materials, and works written about the naturalist and his breakthrough ideas on natural selection.

The historian said he was inspired to build the library at when his own efforts to study Darwin while at university in Asia were frustrated.
Images as well as texts are available online

"I wrote to lots of people all over the world to get hold of the texts for the project and I got a really positive reaction because they all liked the idea of there being one big collection," he told BBC News.

Darwin Online features many newly transcribed or never-before-published manuscripts written by the great man.

These include a remarkable field notebook from his famous Beagle voyage to the Galapagos Islands, where detailed observations of the wildlife would later forge his scientific arguments.

Free use

Randal Keynes is a British author and the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin

The real artefact was stolen in the 1980s and is still missing, but the text has been transcribed from a microfilm copy made two decades earlier.

"It is astonishing to see the notebook that Darwin had in his pocket as he walked around the Galapagos - the scribbled notes that he took as he clambered over the lava," said Randal Keynes, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

"If people can read it on the web and they learn that it was stolen then I think there is more chance that this very important piece of national heritage is recovered," he told BBC News.

Darwin travelled to the Galapagos in The Beagle

Other texts appearing online for the first time include the first editions of the Journal Of Researches (1839), The Descent Of Man (1871), The Zoology Of The Voyage Of HMS Beagle (1838-43) and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of the Origin Of Species, the pivotal tome that elucidated his thoughts on evolution.

There is no charge to use the website. Most texts can be viewed either as colour originals or as fully formatted electronic transcriptions. There are also German, Danish and Russian editions.

Users can also peruse more than 150 supplementary texts, ranging from reference works to contemporary reviews of Darwin's books, obituaries and recollections.

At the moment the site contains about 50% of the materials that will be provided by 2009, the bicentenary of the naturalist's birth. "The family has always wanted Darwin's papers and manuscripts available to anyone who wants to read them. That everyone around the world can now see them on the web is simply fantastic," said Mr Keynes.


Diagram from the book "On the Origin of Species" published in 1859.

This is Darwin's most famous work, and one of the most famous ever written. In it Darwin brings together many convincing arguments to show that living things change over time and that they are related to one another genealogically. The book revolutionized our understanding of life on earth.

Galapagos finches (drawn by Darwin in 1845) - Darwin saw these birds as he travelled to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of what is now Ecuador in South America.

This is Darwin's classic account describing his travels and discoveries during the five-year Beagle voyage (often called 'The voyage of the Beagle').

'Nothing can be more improving to a young naturalist, than a journey in a distant country'

'The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention...we seem to be brought somewhere near to that great fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings on this earth.'
Last edited by Blackleaf; Oct 21st, 2006 at 12:33 PM..
The following prose-poem focuses on the first two paragraphs of Darwin's most famous book "On The Origins of Species." My poem also links Darwin's work to the historical context of the 1840s and especially 1844--which he mentions in the first paragraph of his great work.-Ron Price, Tasmania

Charles Darwin refers, in the first paragraph of the preface to his book On The Origin Of Species(1859), to the origin of species being "that mystery of mysteries." It is a term, he says in that same first paragraph, which was used "by one of our greatest philosophers." Darwin goes on to say that after "patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on" the subject of specie origin, he allowed himself "to speculate on the subject and draw up some short notes." He enlarged these notes "in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions which then seemed" probable to him. From 1844 to 1859 Darwin "steadily pursued the same object."

"My work is now nearly finished," he says in the second paragraph of that same preface, "but as it will take me two or three more years to complete it, and as my health is far from strong, I have been urged to publish this Abstract. I have more especially been induced to do this as Mr. Wallace…..has arrived at almost exactly the same general conclusions that I have on the origin of species. Last year he sent to me a memoir on this subject, with a request that I would forward it to Sir Charles Lyell, who sent it to the Linnean Society, and it is published in the third volume of the Journal of that Society. Sir C. Lyell and Dr. Hooker, who both knew of my work--the latter having read my sketch of 1844--honoured me by thinking it advisable to publish, with Mr. Wallace's excellent memoir, some brief extracts from my manuscripts." -Ron Price with appreciation to Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859.
It was a very big year back in 1844!
Marx's first writings that hot summer;
The first electric telegram with the words
"What hath God wrought?" The YMCA
began and Joseph Smith was martyred.
The Millerites experienced what came
To be called The Great Disappointment.
The first international cricket match and
between Canada and the USA, the first safe
was invented and so goes the litany on 1844…..
The time appointed for the judgement,
the judgement of those things which were
written in the books, each according to
their works1 at the time of the end,
the end times; the close of the 2300 days,
the work of investigation and blotting out
of sins--both of the living and of the dead.
The date 1844 marks the end of the longest
time prophecy in the Bible, a prophecy that
is at the very heart of the book of Daniel.
1844 marks the beginning of the first phase
of the judgement and
the beginning of the
final work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary
prior to His return to this Earth. While Daniel
focuses our attention on the heavenly scenes,
the book of Revelation focuses on a mighty
movement that arises on earth,2 a special
movement that comes at the end of those
2300 days of no-man's-land prophecy.

1Rev. 20:12
2 Rev. 10.

Ron Price
16 January 2006
Darwin: A Personal and Poetic Context

All my journeying from place to place across two continents and into innumerable towns and cities, my endless emotional and sexual choices, my religious faith, the thousands of books read and skimmed involved self-transformation, the work of Israfil and the laying down of endless tracks of poetry. This self-transformation is a process of development and self-surrender; this Israfil is a breathing of life into my world; this poetry brings order, rhythm and pattern into this ordinary life. -Ron Price with thanks to Richard Davenport-Hines, Auden, Heinemann, London, 1995, p.3.

Striving for integration,
struggling to unify experience,
synthesizing all that comes my way,
to organize my scattered thoughts
into a living whole: everything
related to everything within a
new tradition, born the other day,
before Freud, Weber, Marx, Darwin—
shall I say shortly after the French
Revolution—now richly tapestried
with heroes, saints, myths, an incredible
array of the most beautiful buildings in
the world and a poetry descended like
a rain from heaven: mystic, sweet, profound.

Ron Price
4 September 1998
Last edited by RonPrice; Jan 16th, 2007 at 08:57 PM..Reason: to make some additions

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