Charles Darwin's notes are put online

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Notebooks where Shrewsbury's most famous son first jotted down his theory of evolution have been put online for the first time.

Charles Darwin's work has been digitised by the University of Cambridge, which has released more than 12,000 images of his material.

They chart Darwin's journey from him first coining the term "natural selection" to the release of On the Origin of Species 155 years ago.

Darwin was born in Shrewsbury on February 12, 1809 and a statue of him stands outside the town's library, a building that was once his school.

It is hoped the material will aid academic research throughout the world.


Cambridge University Library holds almost the entire collection of Darwin's working scientific papers.

Letters showing the Christ's College graduate's emotional side were released last year. The latest releases are said to be the most important for understanding the development of Darwin's evolutionary theory.

They include documents such as the "Transmutation" and "Metaphysical" notebooks of the 1830s, and the 1842 "Pencil Sketch" which sees Darwin's first use of the term "natural selection".


Professor David Kohn, director of the Darwin Manuscripts Project, which collaborated with the university, said: "These documents truly constitute the surviving seedbed of the Origin. In them, Darwin hammered out natural selection and the structure of concepts he used to support natural selection.

"It was here also that he developed his evolutionary narrative and where he experimented privately with arguments and strategies of presentation that he either rejected or that eventually saw the light of day with the Origin's publication on November 24, 1859."

Cambridge University associate director, Dr Alison Pearn, added: "The information Darwin received, and the discussions he conducted in these letters played a crucial role in the development of his thinking. It is a really significant step that now for the first time they can be studied and searched in the context of the scientific papers of which they are an integral part."

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