Charles Darwin (1809–1882), author of On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, is one of the most famous names in science. Darwin’s explanation of how all living things evolved from a single shared ancestor laid the groundwork for evolutionary biology and the way scientists look at the world today. Through his letters, all of us can meet and explore the life and work of a man whose ideas and indefatigable research launched a scientific revolution.
Throughout his life—whether as a raw young adventurer, a family man, or a gray-bearded celebrity—Darwin had an infectious curiosity about the world around him. His letters, often warm, witty, and engaging, mix science and gossip. Darwin counted many scientists, amateur and professional, as friends even if he never met them; his network of correspondents encompassed the scientific world and included women and men from all walks of life, from working-class pigeon breeders to aristocratic orchid collectors. The letters open a window onto their lives, too.
The Darwin Correspondence Project, which published its first printed volume in 1985, completed the 30th and final volume of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin in 2023. As new letters are found, they continue to be added to the online edition, where anyone can read the complete texts of all known letters Darwin wrote and received. They total more than 15,000.
Charles Darwin: A Life in Letters is presented in partnership with Cambridge University Library and celebrates the completion of the Darwin Correspondence Project, a 45-year endeavor to publish all of Charles Darwin’s letters; research is at the exhibition’s heart. This is the rarest of chances to be with Darwin as he was, in his own words.