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Researchers launch digital Darwin archive

A natural selection

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The complete works of Charles Darwin have been digitised and made available online. The project was originally intended to aid researchers, but now everyone will be able to read the notebooks of the man credited with developing the theory of evolution.

The project, run from Cambridge University, has involved collecting and digitising some 50,000 pages of text and 40,000 images of original publications and handwritten manuscripts. The collection also includes audio files.

Project director Dr John van Wyhe told the BBC: "The idea is to make these important works as accessible as possible; some people can only get at Darwin that way."

He said he was inspired to begin the project when he was having trouble finding all the texts he needed for his own research into Darwin's work. He spent the last four years collecting material, and uploading it to the site at darwin-online.org.uk.

On the site, he explains that the collection is still incomplete. He says the archives now contain about half the material he intends to have uploaded by 2009, noting that "assistance with scanning, proof reading or transcribing is warmly welcomed".

The launch of the site has garnered significant interest. When we stopped by to check it out, it had recorded almost 30,000 visitors since 9 October.

If you are interested in reading the diaries Darwin wrote while aboard the Beagle, travelling through the Galapagos, you would do well to start by checking out the major works page. ®

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