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Website of the Week — Darwin Online


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's Art Chimes, with a selection especially timed to coincide with Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, on February 12.

As the father of natural selection, Darwin was one of the most influential scientists ever. His landmark book, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago this year.

He was certainly a man ahead of his time … but it's hard to know what he would have made of the Internet. Can you imagine him blogging as he sailed the world on the HMS Beagle? There are lots of Darwin-related sites on the Web, but the most authoritative is the one that has a vast amount of Darwin's own writings.

"Darwin Online is the largest resource of material by and about Charles Darwin ever published online. It contains all of his books and articles and also the largest collection of his private papers ever assembled. So it's more material written by Darwin than one has ever seen before," says John van Wyhe, the director of Darwin Online at darwin-online.org.uk.

Here you can look at the handwritten diary Darwin wrote on board the Beagle as he explored South America in the 1830s. And you can read his books and articles and find out what he really said, not what people say he said.

"People could go and have a look at it and see that Darwin never said, for example, we come from monkeys. So there're loads of things that are not true, and it is possible now for people to just go to the originals and have a look."

Darwin Online includes some 180,000 images of books, articles, journals and other material by and about Darwin. And thanks to optical character recognition technology, it's all searchable.

Darwin's work sparked debate when it was first published, and the controversy continues. Van Wyhe says the material collected in Darwin Online is an essential part of today's conversation about evolution and natural selection.

"If you look at Darwin Online you can find in his papers the articles and the press clippings that he collected where clergymen discussed how they saw [that] Darwin's views were completely compatible with Christianity. Now, that's, I think, very valuable for that material now to also be available for people today, to inform current debate."

John van Wyhe says Darwin Online gets visitors from all over the world, and he hopes in the future to add translations of Darwin's work to the website.

Learn about one of history's great scientists at darwin-online.org.uk, or get the link to this and more than 200 other Websites of the Week from our site, voanews.com.

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