Darwin's private papers go digital

Project releases online over 90,000 online pages of Charles Darwin's photographs, sketches, and manuscripts, including the first draft of his theory of evolution.

The works of one of the most towering figures of modern science are now available to anyone on the Web.

The Darwin Online Project is releasing on Thursday more than 90,000 online pages of Charles Darwin's photographs, sketches, and manuscripts, including the first draft of his theory of evolution.

Caroline McCarthy/CNET News.com

Transcripts of many of the documents have been published in the past, but this is the first time that the original manuscripts have been made available to the general public--and seeing these works in Darwin's original scrawl somehow adds to the weightiness of what you are reading.

"This release makes his private papers, mountains of notes, experiments, and research behind his world-changing publications available to the world for free," John van Wyhe, director of the project, told Reuters. "His publications have always been available in the public sphere--but these papers have until now only been accessible to scholars."

Besides drafts of On the Origin of Species, the collection includes thousands of notes and other drafts of his writings, as well as notes from his voyage on the Beagle, where he began to establish his theories on evolution.

For a more personal glimpse into Darwin's life, there are also some letters from his wife, Emma, on her concerns about his faith, as well as recipes from her cookbook.

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About the author

Desiree Everts DeNunzio is a freelance editor and writer. She's dabbled in digital media and technology for the past decade, including stints at CNET News and Wired magazine. When she's not fiddling with various gadgets, she spends her time running after chickens and her own brood.

 

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