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Darwin Correspondence Project

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Darwin's experimental notebook
Darwin's experimental notebook
DAR 206
Cambridge University Library

Darwin and the experimental life

Our new website section explores the central role of experimentation in Darwin's work. How did his experimental approach evolve and what were the contemporary meanings and uses of experimentation? What were Darwin's 'fool's experiments'? How did he investigate elusive phenomena like the expression of emotions, and get involved in ethical debates over experiments on animals? You can also have a go at two of Darwin's plant experiments with our new interactive.

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The Darwin family

To celebrate the 163rd birthday of Origin of species, we are launching three new interactives online from our Darwin in Conversation exhibition. They illustrate how Darwin’s children contributed to his science as infants and adults, how he did two of his plant experiments, and what it is like to work on the Darwin Correspondence Project.

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Darwin in Conversation exhibition

Meet Charles Darwin as you have never met him beforeCome to our exhibition at Cambridge University Library, running from 9 July to 3 December 2022, and discover a fascinating series of interwoven conversations with Darwin's many hundreds of correspondents around the world through his letters. Book free tickets here.

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Darwin’s Networks

Darwin wrote to around 2000 people all over the world to help him tackle some fundamental questions about life on earth. Discover how Darwin's 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.

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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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Part of letter from Fanny Owen, [late January 1828] (DAR 204: 43)
Part of letter from Fanny Owen, [late January 1828] (DAR 204: 43)
Cambridge University Library

Darwin’s first love

Darwin’s long marriage to Emma Wedgwood is well documented, but was there an earlier romance in his life? How was his departure on the Beagle entangled with his first love? The answers are revealed in a series of flirtatious letters that Darwin was supposed to destroy.

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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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Darwin's works in letters

For the 163rd anniversary of the publication of Origin, we've added a new page to our Works in letters section on Cross and self fertilisation. These complement our existing pages on the 'big book' before Origin, Origin itself, the subsequent editions of Origin, Orchids, Climbing plantsLife of Erasmus Darwin, Journal of researches, Living and fossil cirripedia, Forms of flowersMovement in PlantsDescent of man, Expression of emotions, and Insectivorous plants (accompanied by this song with lyrics based on Darwin's letters).

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Charles Darwin by John Collier, 1881
Charles Darwin by John Collier, 1881

The full edition is now online!

For nearly fifty years successive teams of researchers on both sides of the Atlantic have been working to track down all surviving letters written by or to Charles Darwin, research their content, and publish the complete texts. The thirtieth and final print volume, covering the last four months of Darwin’s life, will be published in early 2023 and all the letter texts – more than 15000 between 1822 and 1882 – are now published online. Discover more about the final months of Darwin's life in our Life and Letters series, 1882: Nothing too great or too small. See a full list of letters from 1882.

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Volume 29 (1881) is published!

In October 1881, Darwin published his last book, The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. A slim volume on a subject that many people could understand and on which they had their own opinions, it went through several reprints within a year. The idea of the powerful effects brought about by apparently insignificant creatures caught the public imagination. Read more about Darwin's life in 1881 and see a full list of letters.

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Read and search the full texts of more than 15,000 of Charles Darwin’s letters. Discover complete transcripts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received.

Darwin for Schools

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

Visit the schools section