May 31, 2007
By Vernon Horn
Over the course of his life Charles Darwin, like so many Victorians, was a prolific letter writer, corresponding with as many as 2,000 people. Darwin’s letters, which cover a wide range of topics, from scientific inquiry to the implications of his theory of evolution for religion, have now been released to the public at http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/index.php
This project first began in 1974 as a standard papers editing project by the historian of science Frederick Burkhardt and zoologist Sydney Smith. To date the project has verified the existence of about 14,500 letters and has been able to put about 9,000 online.
In addition to the search engine, the site also contains several topical guides. The archive’s creators hope that the section on “Darwin and Religion” will be the “definitive resource.” It currently offers essays from Darwin’s contemporaries, such as Asa Gray, but in the next few months may also feature specially commissioned essays from 21st-century scientists, theologians, philosophers, and historians.