Friday, June 1, 2007

Darwin on Law and Interdisciplinarity (and more, in new collection of letters on-line)

"I said in a former letter that you were a Lawyer," Charles Darwin wrote to Asa Gray, on September 10, 1860, in a letter heaping praise on Gray for his recent articles. "But I made a gross mistake, I am sure that you are a poet. No by Jove I will tell you what you are, a hybrid, a complex cross of Lawyer, Poet, Naturalist, & Theologian!— Was there ever such a monster seen before?"

This letter and about 14,500 more Darwin letters are available and searchable on-line at a valuable new website, the Darwin Correspondence Project. The American Historical Association Blog gets the hat tip. AHA blogger Vernon Horn reports:

Over the course of his life Charles Darwin, like so many Victorians, was a prolific letter writer, corresponding with as many as 2,000 people. Darwin’s letters, which cover a wide range of topics, from scientific inquiry to the implications of his theory of evolution for religion, have now been released to the public.

This project first began in 1974 as a standard papers editing project by the historian of science Frederick Burkhardt and zoologist Sydney Smith. To date the project has verified the existence of about 14,500 letters and has been able to put about 9,000 online.
In addition to the search engine, the site also contains several topical guides. The archive’s creators hope that the section on “Darwin and Religion” will be the “definitive resource.” It currently offers essays from Darwin’s contemporaries, such as Asa Gray, but in the next few months may also feature specially commissioned essays from 21st-century scientists, theologians, philosophers, and historians.
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