Darwin Goes Digital for 150th Anniversary of "On the Origin of Species"

By Andrew Moseman | November 24, 2009 10:09 am

darwinToday’s the day—the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species, the most famous work of the great 19th century naturalist. And to mark the occasion, the Darwin Manuscripts Project is uploading Darwin’s original drafts—10,000 pages worth—into an online archive. Look for the material to go online later today.

The collection includes 34 of the original 36 draft leaves of the book, according to editor David Kohn. “I’ve sat in the Cambridge University Library since 1974, touching these documents, but this is the first time that anyone can do this — online in this quantity and with this quality,” Kohn said [MSNBC]. The project leaders intend to digitize more manuscripts down the road, and also reconstruct Darwin’s library.

Still, there are missing pieces. English Heritage, which operates Darwin’s former home as a museum, launched a mission to recover a crucial Darwin notebook that’s been missing for the last two or three decades and might have been stolen from the house. According to Darwin’s great-great-grandson, the author Randal Keynes, the notebook contains notes and descriptions of animals from Darwin’s Galapagos visit. Says Keynes: “The Galapagos notebook is of outstanding value for the history of science…. If Darwin had not posed the questions in that notebook, he might never have written On the Origin of Species” [BBC News]. Luckily, English Heritage still has microfilm of the notebook created in 1969.

While one Darwin artifact is lost, another is found: A British family turned up a first edition of On the Origin of Species in an unexpected location. Christie’s auction house said Sunday the book – one of around 1,250 copies first printed in 1859 – had been on a toilet bookshelf at a family’s home in Oxford [AP]. Christie’s expects the book to fetch upwards of $100,000.

Related Content:
80beats: In Galapagos Finches, Biologists Catch Evolution in the Act
80beats: Darwin is Too Hot for Turkish Officials: Evolution Article Gets Censored
80beats: Vatican Gives Darwin a Big Birthday Hug, Leaving Creationists on the Fringes
DISCOVER: Darwin’s Great Blunder—And Why It Was Good for the World
DISCOVER: DISCOVER Does Darwin: Special Section on Evolution

Image: Wiki Commons


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