The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for

Courtesy of PZ Myers…

Posted by That Other Mike on 17/04/2008

“Darwin Had Difficult Handwriting”
Find out for yourself. Darwin Online has acquired a huge digital collection of Darwin’s papers, everything from book drafts to personal letters, and has them scanned and available on the web. There they are in all their scribbled, crossed out, penciled over, rewritten glory — historians and antiquarians will drool over these, but me, I prefer the neatly typed versions.

DarwinFascinating stuff – to be able to look at the handwriting of Charles Darwin and see the various places where he changed his mind about things, crossed out wrong words and so on.

And, of course, the rest of the site is pretty interesting reading, too: there are sections talking about Darwin’s various books and other publications, as well as, of course, Darwin’s complete publications, thousands of handwritten manuscripts and the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue ever published.

The material is priceless – it gives us insight into the workings of one of the most influential people in all of history and possibly the most influential single person in the history of science; as the site says, “perhaps no one has influenced our knowledge of life on Earth as much as Charles Robert Darwin”.

Darwin's initial sketch of the tree of lifeIt also provides a valuable educational resource – for teachers looking to cover Darwin in their classes, for those trying to self-educate and for parents after accurate material on Darwin.

Another good reason to look is that it humanises Darwin. All too often he is presented as some kind of abstract; either venerated as some kind of bearded messiah of science or demonised as some kind of ape-loving destroyer of faith, but hardly ever seen as just a man. Items such as “Darwin’s Life in Pictures” and the biographical sketch both reduce and elevate him – they make him human. The page entitled “Our Poor Annie” is particularly poignant; it shows Darwin’s thoughts and recollections on his daughter, Anne, shortly after she died; in succinct yet spontaneous and loving prose, it is a fitting memorial to the life of the child he cherished.

Go and read the site, or at least bookmark it for another time; the opportunity to look at Darwin’s life and works, written in his own hand, should not be missed.


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