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Darwin Correspondence Project

For the curious...

A series of short pieces introducing letters on aspects of Darwin's life and research.

Darwin’s Networks

Darwin wrote to around 2000 people all over the world to help him tackle some fundamental questions about life on earth. To mark Charles Darwin's 213th birthday, we've added new networks on how his ideas spread in North America and how he researched artificial selection practised by animal and plant breeders.  Explore Darwin’s Networks to see how the correspondence he exchanged shaped events in his life and informed his ideas, and read Darwin's 1880 letters now released online for the first time and see a full list.

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Darwin and the Beagle voyage

In 1831, Darwin joined a voyage that he later referred to ‘as by far the most important event in my life’. Dive in to our 3D model of the Beagle and find out more about life on board and the adventures that he had.

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Darwin and working from home

Ever wondered how Darwin worked? As part of our For the Curious series of simple interactives, ‘Darwin working from home’ lets you explore objects from Darwin’s study and garden at Down House to learn how he worked and what he had to say about it. And not all his work days were successful, here are some letters about Darwin's bad days

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A gathering for musical purposes

Those other animals by George Alfred Henty and Harrison Weir,  p. 127]
Those other animals by George Alfred Henty and Harrison Weir, p. 127 (London :Henry and Co.,[1891?])
Biodiversity Heritage Library

Darwin, cats and cat shows

One of the more unusual invitations Darwin received was to be a patron of the Crystal Palace cat show, the first nationwide cat show in Britain.

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Partridge foot.jpg

Illustration of a partridge foot, sent to Darwin by Alfred Newton
Illustration of a partridge foot, sent to Darwin by Alfred Newton
DAR 205.9: 366
Cambridge University Library

Strange things sent to Darwin in the post

Some of the stranger things Darwin received in the post can tell us a lot about how Darwin worked at home. In 1863, Darwin was very excited when the ornithologist Alfred Newton sent him a diseased, red-legged partridge foot with an enormous ball of clay attached. He wanted to further test his statement in Origin of species about birds being ‘highly effective agents in the transportation of seeds’ (Origin, p.

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Darwin and dogs

Darwin was almost always in the company of dogs. Nina, Spark, Pincher, and Shiela. Snow, Dash, Bob, and Bran. The beloved terrier Polly (right). They were Darwin's constant companions at home and in the field, on walks and in sport, in his study and by the fireside. They were also fascinating objects of study. Darwin observed their variations in breed and behaviour, their adaptation to specific conditions, and their mental and emotional abilities, which approached those of humans.

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Drosera rotundifolia
Drosera rotundifolia

Plant or animal? (Or: Don’t try this at home!)

Darwin is famous for showing that humans are just another animal, but, in his later years in particular, his real passion was something even more ambitious: to show that there are no hard-and-fast boundaries between animals and plants.  

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