Saturday, April 19, 2008

Darwin Online for All

The complete works of Charles Darwin, the man who in 1859, changed the course of science by writing the evolutionary, The Origin of Species, have been finally made available for anyone, anywhere to read. Cambridge University, where Darwin studied theology, was given the collection by the Darwin family and Pilgrim Trust after World War II. It was described in 1960 as a bundle of parcels each containing small packets of manuscripts wrapped in tissue paper.

Cambridge has digitized and published online for all for free its collection of some 30,000 items and 90,000 images, which until now, was only available only to scholars at the Cambridge University Library. The Darwin Online project began in 2002 and claims to be the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue created. The collection also includes drafts of the scientist’s writings and a travel diary from his sea voyage on the Beagle, where he first his theories on evolution.

The collection may cause debate as it also touches on his religious views. A memo written by his wife, Emma, in 1839, expresses her concerns about Darwin's declining faith. "May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way?"