More than 1,700 book reviews of Charles Darwin’s works go online – Eurasia Review

Charles Darwin is arguably the most influential scientist in history.

Launched online this week is the culmination of 16 years of tireless dedication: a compilation of over 1,700 contemporary book reviews of Darwin’s works, in 16 languages ​​and spanning the years 1835 to the early 20ecentury. This collection of book reviews has been added to Darwin onlinethe most comprehensive science website for any historical scientist – and perhaps for any person in history.

Led by Dr John van Wyhe of the NUS Department of Biological Sciences and Tembusu College, which is most impressive about Darwin online is its completeness. It contains not only the complete works of Darwin, but also contemporary translations in 29 languages, tens of thousands of manuscripts of Darwin, the most complete bibliography of Darwin’s publications, the most complete catalog of his manuscripts throughout the world as well as the works he cited and promoted. , Darwin’s obituaries, publications of his specimens by others, the reconstructed library of the Beagle, and many important works on Darwin and his time. In total, the site offers over a million pages of content. As a scholarly edition, the majority of Darwin’s writings have been edited and annotated for the first time, with over 5,800 new editorial notes and introductions, making it even easier to navigate and understand. This is probably the most comprehensive scientific website on a historical individual.

Commenting on the importance of this review project, Dr van Wyhe explained: “To complete the picture made possible by the presence of Darwin’s complete works on a single website, one must know what his contemporaries thought and said about them. The unprecedented scale of Darwin’s scientific and cultural influence demanded a comprehensive snapshot of book reviews. We have not excluded any reviews, whether positive or negative.
Countless publications have been written about Darwin and the reception of his theories over the past 160 years. Until now, our understanding of how the world reacted to Darwin’s revolutionary ideas was based on a small sample of the original evidence. Most people today think that reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution can be seen as a simple conflict between science and religion.

However, these newly discovered reviews reveal that this is, in fact, far from the truth. In fact, Darwin’s work inspired a wide range of reactions ranging from respect to contempt, from scientific sophistication to utter ignorance, from distrust to satire. Captured in unprecedented detail, these reviews also continue to shed light on unexpected twists – for example, modern readers might be surprised to discover how many religious leaders have actually accepted and praised Darwin’s theories.

One of the first critics of hisThe origin of species remarked: “While it is certain that Mr. Darwin’s views will cause painful anxiety to many who will regard them as hostile to the truths of Revelation, we cannot share that anxiety and are therefore not willing to discuss the new theory on another topic”. only for strictly scientific reasons. […] The conclusions announced by Mr. Darwin are such that, if established, they would bring about a complete revolution in the fundamental doctrines of natural history”. And, of course, they did.

Conversely, other reviewers couldn’t resist poking fun at Darwin and his work, coming up with titles for their reviews such as “Darwin Demolished”, “The Angel or the Monkey” or “The Wonders of the world of worms”.

Regardless of the range of feelings, this new collection will make possible countless studies, theses and student projects that will far exceed the usual handful of reactions to Darwin – painting, instead, an almost complete picture of the diversity of answers to the greatest scientific revolution in history.

Alycia R. Lindley