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Darwin Correspondence Project

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 Origin of species' 162nd birthday, explore Darwin’s Networks to see how the correspondence he exchanged shaped events in his life and informed his ideas, and read Darwin's 1879 letters now released online for the first time.

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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 162nd anniversary of the publication of Origin of species, we've added two new pages to our Works in letters section on Climbing plants and Forms of flowers. These complement our existing pages on the 'big book' before Origin, Origin itself, the subsequent editions of Origin, Orchids, Life of Erasmus Darwin, 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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Auxanometer.
Auxanometer.
Arbeiten des Botanischen Instituts in Würzburg 1 (1872): 113.
By permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

1879 Letters now online

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. In October, Darwin’s youngest son, Horace, became officially engaged to Ida Farrer, after some initial resistance from her father. The transcripts and footnotes of over 640 letters written to and from Darwin in 1879 are now online. Read more about Darwin's life in 1879 and see a full list of the letters.

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Volume 28 (1880) now published

1880 opened and closed with an irksome controversy with Samuel Butler, prompted by the publication of Erasmus Darwin the previous year. Darwin became fully devoted to earthworms in the spring of the year, just after finishing the manuscript of Movement in plants, his most ambitious botanical book. Financial support for science was a recurring issue, as Darwin tried to secure a Civil List pension for Alfred Russel Wallace, and continued his aid for James Torbitt and the quest for a blight-resistant potato. Volume 28 of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin is now available. Read more about Darwin's life in 1880 in our Life in letters series.

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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 1879.

Darwin for Schools

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

Visit the schools section