It's been nearly 150 years since Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species" (okay, 148 years, since it was published on November 24, 1859, for you sticklers). While the work iitself is well known, the research and thought process that led him to those ineluctable truths about life on this planet is not. But thanks to a new online research project we can follow some of what Darwin went through on his intellectual voyages.
The project is Cambridge University's Darwin Correspondence Project. It was actually initiated in 1974 as a way to collect Darwin's letters and publish them in book form. However, it quickly expanded to include not only letters from Darwin but also missives to him. There are over 9,000 letters now in the collection (Darwin had correspondence with about 2,000 different people, which makes me feel really guilty about all those letters I didn't send to grandma.)
The Project Web site, which launched this month, contains roughly 2,000 letters, including some fascinating exchanges with naturalist Alfred Wallace. Darwin and Wallace jointly published a paper that appeared before "Origin of Species" expounding their views and theories. There are also more personal epistles that give us a glimpse of life in the 1800s, and notes about how Darwin regarded his studies (he thought being on the Beagle, for example, was a wonderful "lark").
Sites like the Darwin Correspondence Project are what the World Wide Web was supposed to originally be all about. So why not quit clicking on those silly monkey vidoes on YouTube and go to the source.
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