Some questions for discussion

  • Why was correspondence so important for Darwin?
  • How did Darwin get people he didn’t know to write to him?
  • How do people address one another in the correspondence?
  • What kind of scientific material did letters contain?
  • How much knowledge does Darwin assume when he writes to different people?
  • What sort of things could one say in a letter that could not be said in print, and vice versa?
  • Did social differences, such as gender and class, matter in scientific exchange?
  • What does Darwin do when he wants to introduce a potentially controversial topic?
  • What reasons did people have for writing to Darwin?
  • How was friendship established through correspondence, and what roles could friendship play in science?
  • Was Darwin’s use of correspondence unusual in the 19th century?
  • How does nineteenth-century correspondence differ from discussions on the internet today?