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Darwin Correspondence Project



George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll
George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, by George Frederic Watts, oil on panel, circa 1860, NPG 1263
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Beauty and the seed

One of the real pleasures afforded in reading Charles Darwin’s correspondence is the discovery of areas of research on which he never published, but which interested him deeply. We can gain many insights about Darwin’s research methods by following these ‘letter trails’ and observing how correspondence served as a vital research tool for him.

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Tree bee (Bombus hypnorum)
Tree bee (Bombus hypnorum), showing unique colour pattern
Nigel Jones

A tale of two bees

Darwinian evolution theory fundamentally changed the way we understand the environment and even led to the coining of the word 'ecology'. Darwin was fascinated by bees: he devised experiments to study the comb-building technique of honey bees and used his children to observe the flight paths of bumblebees around their home.

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Hypothetical sphinx moth
Hypothetical sphinx moth, illustration by T. W. Wood, Quarterly Journal of Science 4 (1867)
Cambridge University Library

Was Darwin an ecologist?

One of the most fascinating aspects of Charles Darwin’s correspondence is the extent to which the experiments he performed at his home in Down, in the English county of Kent, seem to prefigure modern scientific work in ecology.

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