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 user 2006-10-19 at 1:24:00 pm Views: 46
  • #16634

    Charles Darwin’s works go online
    The complete works of one of history’s greatest
    scientists, Charles Darwin, are being published online.

    The project run by Cambridge University has digitised some 50,000 pages of
    text and 40,000 images of original publications – all of it searchable.Surfers
    with MP3 players can even access downloadable audio files.The resource is aimed
    at serious scholars, but can be used by anyone with an interest in Darwin and
    his theory on the evolution of life.”The idea is to make these important
    works as accessible as possible; some people can only get at Darwin that
    way,” said Dr John van Wyhe, the project’s director.

    One big collection
    Dr van Wyhe has spent the past four years searching the globe for copies of Darwin’s
    own materials, and works written about the naturalist and his breakthrough
    ideas on natural selection.The historian said he was inspired to build the
    library at darwin-online.org.uk when his own efforts to study Darwin while at
    university in Asia were frustrated.”I wrote to lots of people all over the
    world to get hold of the texts for the project and I got a really positive
    reaction because they all liked the idea of there being one big
    collection,” he told BBC News.Darwin Online features many newly
    transcribed or never-before-published manuscripts written by the great man.These
    include a remarkable field notebook from his famous Beagle voyage to the
    Galapagos Islands, where detailed observations of the wildlife would later
    forge his scientific arguments.

    Free use

    The real artefact was stolen in the 1980s and is still missing, but the text
    has been transcribed from a microfilm copy made two decades earlier.”It is
    astonishing to see the notebook that Darwin had in his pocket as he walked around
    the Galapagos – the scribbled notes that he took as he clambered over the
    lava,” said Randal Keynes, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin.”If
    people can read it on the web and they learn that it was stolen then I think
    there is more chance that this very important piece of national heritage is
    recovered,” he told BBC News. Other texts appearing online for the first
    time include the first editions of the Journal Of Researches (1839), The
    Descent Of Man (1871), The Zoology Of The Voyage Of HMS Beagle (1838-43) and
    the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of the Origin Of Species, the pivotal tome
    that elucidated his thoughts on evolution.There is no charge to use the
    website. Most texts can be viewed either as colour originals or as fully
    formatted electronic transcriptions. There are also German, Danish and Russian
    editions.Users can also peruse more than 150 supplementary texts, ranging from
    reference works to contemporary reviews of Darwin’s books, obituaries and
    recollections.At the moment the site contains about 50% of the materials that
    will be provided by 2009, the bicentenary of the naturalist’s birth.”The
    family has always wanted Darwin’s papers and manuscripts available to anyone
    who wants to read them. That everyone around the world can now see them on the
    web is simply fantastic,” said Mr Keynes.