Darwin centenary books

This month we added two books to the Human Genetics Historical Library that commemorated the centenary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. Both books were published in 1909 by Cambridge University Press.

The foundations of The Origin of Species, a sketch written in 1842 by Charles Darwin, was edited by Darwin’s son, Francis.  The manuscript was only discovered in 1896 after the death of his mother (Emma Wedgwood), and was found in a cupboard under the stairs at the family home.  It demonstrates that 17 years before the publication of the Origin that Charles Darwin had been able to write a very full outline of his future work.

Darwin and modern science is an edited volume by A. C. Seward that contains essays commissioned to celebrate the Darwin centenary.  The audience was intended to be the ‘educated layman’ rather than experts and it was hoped that it “would serve the double purpose of illustrating the far-reaching influence of Darwin’s work on the progress of knowledge and the present attitude of original investigators and thinkers towards the views embodied in Darwin’s works.”

Some of the contributors to this work include authors we already have represented in the HGH Library, such as William Bateson, a geneticist, whilst others such as Jane Ellen Harrison and James G. Frazer, added essays that showed the influence of Darwin on their own sphere of expertise.

In 2009 when the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species was reached SCOLAR produced an exhibition (Dec 2009-Jan 2010) on Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace; extracts can be viewed on SCOLAR’s website.


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