/ 19 October 2006

Complete Darwin works put online

The complete evolutionary works of Charles Darwin have gone online, including the stolen notebook he carried in his pocket around the Galapagos Islands.

Tens of thousands of pages of text and pictures and audio files have been made available, including some previously unpublished manuscripts and diaries of the great British scientist.

Among the unique collection is the notebook used during the Beagle voyage which would later forge his scientific arguments. It was stolen in the 1980s, but Darwin’s great-great-grandson hopes the publication online, thanks to a transcription from a microfilm copy made two decades earlier, will persuade whoever has it to return it.

”It has huge importance for the history of science,” Randal Keynes told the BBC.

”We very much hope that now that it is known to have been stolen and the pictures of it are on the website and can be seen by everyone and read, when it next surfaces someone will get in touch with English Heritage, the owners, and enable them to recover it and bring it back to Darwin’s home, where it should be.”

Other items in the free collection of 50 000 pages and 40 000 images are the first editions of the Journal of Researchers, written in 1839, The Descent of Man, The Zoology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle, which includes his observations during his five-year trip to the Amazon, Patagonia and the Pacific, and the first five editions of the Origin of Species.

John van Wyhe, director of the project run by Cambridge University, said the collection is so comprehensive it will help dispel the ”many misconceptions and myths” about the naturalist.

He told the BBC that nothing can now come between the man and his writings.

People can log on to the site at darwin-online.org.uk.

Further writings will be added during the next three years to coincide with the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth. – Reuters