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Darwin Correspondence Project

Darwin and working from home

Ever wondered how Darwin worked? To celebrate Darwin’s 211th birthday we are launching For the Curious, a series of simple interactives that explore different areas of Darwin’s life, work and legacy through his letters.

We start with ‘Darwin working from home’, in which you can explore objects from Darwin’s study and garden at Down House to learn how he worked and what he had to say about it. Not all his work days were successful, here are some letters about Darwin's bad days

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Darwin's works in letters

Another present for Darwin's birthday: five new pages are added to our Works in letters section on the 'big book' before Origin, Origin itself, the subsequent editions of Origin, Orchids, and the Life of Erasmus Darwin. These complement our existing pages on Journal of researches, Living and fossil cirripedia, Descent of man, Expression of emotions, and Insectivorous plants (accompanied by this song with lyrics based on Darwin's letters).

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Movement in plants experiment.jpg

Photograph of experiment on movement in plants
Photograph of experiment on movement in plants: probably Averrhoa bilimbi.
DAR 209.15: 20
By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

1877 letters now online

Flowers, bloom, a son married . . . and a suspended monkey in Cambridge at Darwin's honorary LLD ceremony. The transcripts and footnotes of over 600 letters written to and from Darwin in 1877 are now online. Read more about Darwin's life in 1877 and see a full list of the letters.

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Amy Richenda Darwin (née Ruck)
Amy Richenda Darwin (née Ruck)
CUL 416.c.95.249
Cambridge University Library

Darwin's 1876 letters online

Birth, tragic death . . . and cardigan jackets. To mark the 211th anniversary of Darwin's birth, we have released online the transcripts and footnotes of over 460 letters written to and from him in 1876 and a supplement of 180 letters written before 1876. Read more about Darwin's life in 1876 and see a full list of the letters.

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Origin is 160; Darwin's 1875 letters now online

To mark the 160th anniversary of the publication of Origin of species, the full transcripts and footnotes of nearly 650 letters to and from Charles Darwin in 1875 are published online for the first time. You can read about Darwin's life in 1875 through his letters and see a full list of the letters.

Edward Emanuel Klein had assisted Darwin with his experiments on the digestive fluid of insectivorous plants. In 1875, Klein was a very controversial witness at the Royal Commission on vivisection. When asked about his use of anaesthetics in research, Klein expressed doubt about the validity of experiments conducted under such conditions, and even asserted that he had ‘no regard at all’ for the sufferings of animals when performing a painful experiment. Darwin also testified to the commission, and wrote of Klein's contribution: ‘I am astounded & disgusted ... but it is most painful as I liked the man.’  

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Volume 27 (1879) now published

In 1879, Darwin continued his research on movement in plants and researched, wrote, and published a short biography of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin as an introduction to a translation of an essay by Ernst Krause on Erasmus’s scientific work. Darwin’s son Francis spent a second summer at the Botanical Institute in Würzburg, Germany, learning the latest experimental techniques in plant physiology. As well as their regular tour of visits to family, the Darwins spent most of August on holiday in the Lake District. In October, Darwin’s youngest son, Horace, became officially engaged to Ida Farrer, after some initial resistance from her father, who, although an admirer of Charles Darwin, thought Horace a poor prospect for his daughter. Volume 27 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin is now available. Read more about Darwin's life in 1879.

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Hunt for new Darwin letters
* Letter to J. D. Hooker, [10-11 November 1844]
Image based on a caricature by George Montbard, Cambridge University Library, DAR 225: 178

Hunt for new letters: last chance!

Think you know of a letter to or from Darwin that we haven’t found? Let us know!

Although we already know of more than 15,000 letters that Darwin exchanged with nearly 2000 correspondents around the world, letters continue to come to light in both public and private collections, and we rely on the goodwill and support of archivists, collectors, scholars, and families around the world to make the corpus as complete as possible. The letters inform and are informed by one another, and our ability to understand the whole is increased with every letter we are able to add.

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Read and search the full texts of more than 12,000 of Charles Darwin’s letters, and find information on 3,000 more. Discover complete transcripts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received up to the year 1877.

Darwin for Schools

Discover our new and improved schools resources for 11-14 year olds.

Visit the schools section