The Darwin Correspondence Project really is an interesting website. Just by reading through some of the letters you can understand how impressive and meaningful something like this really is. There are so many letters on here that it must have taken years to compile this collection, and I would not be surprised if they are still on the look out for more. I decided to take a look around the site more so than just read through the copious amounts of letters. Just from a quick look there are multiple audio and video interviews about Charles Darwin and his letters as well as various summaries of the items and ideas discussed in Darwin’s letters. Also included are critics’ reviews and even information on Darwin’s family and friends. It is more than just a database for Charles Darwin letters, but its also a kind of biography or summation of his works.
Though on a few letters I was not able to open because apparently they were not available online yet, the letters that did happen to be available were hard to read to say the least. Simply just because the language and the dialect in which they write to each other sounds strange to people of our generation. However I was able to decipher what they were getting at for the most part. It really is fascinating to read what they are writing to each other and trying to figure out. What is so interesting is that they do not even know what they are going to find. They are intrigued by every outcome of their experiments and to hear the outcomes of their collaborators experiments. It is like they are detectives. They do not only talk about their findings or that of other scientists, often times talk is of other things. Sometimes they just go off on a short little rant about something not overly important to the point of the letter.
I found some of the most interesting letters to be the ones when Darwin was studying what determines the sex of offspring and human evolution. These two are split apart on the website though they could be closely related. Sexual Selection in Darwin’s letters took place in 1968 while his letters regarding human evolution are in 1970. I particularly wanted to read what Darwin and his collaborators had for information on sexual selection. That is a very difficult field to study, as we do not even know what contributes to that now a days. Its interesting to see what they find to be possible causes or where their minds wander off in thinking. Of course Darwin was not only interested in sexual selection among humans, because that would not be very forward thinking or naturalistic thinking of him. He obviously wondered what was the determining factor in sex for all species not just human beings. I especially find it interesting how Darwin writes to Alfred Russell Wallace in 1864 that sexual selection was “the most powerful means of changing the races of man”. This is such an interesting statement and Im sure fueled more speculation and investigation into sexual selection.
Picture by Julia Margaret Cameron