Thursday, July 17, 2014

Natural selection

"Considering the limited disposable space in so very small a ship, we contrived to carry more instruments and books than one would readily suppose could be stowed away in dry and secure places," wrote Captain Robert FitzRoy of the HMS Beagle. A young Charles Darwin shared his cabin with 404 volumes for their landmark expedition around the world from 1831 to 1836. After the voyage, the then state-of-the-art library was dispersed. Now senior lecturer John van Wyhe of the National University of Singapore has collected and digitized the books – all195,000 pages containing more than 5,000 illustrations (GALLERY HERE) – and made the collection freely available as part of the Darwin Online website. The library includes books in English, French, Spanish, German, Latin, and Greek. The subjects span travel, natural history, geology, history, literature, and atlases and nautical maps. Sums up van Wyhe, "The Beagle library reveals the sources and inspirations that Darwin read day after day as he swung in his hammock during long sea crossings, or as he worked on his specimens at the chart table or under the microscope. For a long time this was lost to us, but this reconstructed library provides us an unprecedented insight into the journey that changed science and our understanding of the world."

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