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UL’s new app makes his seminal text accessible to all

Download Words that Changed the World on the Apple Store

It was the controversial bestseller of its time, based on some 20 years of research and experimentation – and a five-year voyage aboard HMS Beagle. One thing that was very clear when Charles Darwin wrote his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859 is that he wanted it to be read and understood by many.

The text that we know as The Origin of Species was described by Darwin as ‘an abstract’ of the original, setting out his core thoughts into a shorter work. His book has a sense of urgency, and his wish to spread this very important message to the world. It was designed to be read by scientists and non-scientists alike, and written in such a way as to defend itself against argument. This built-in defensive approach was one of the reasons it took him such a long time to write.

Darwin’s book is well known for causing outrage, uproar and ridicule. It challenged the Church of England’s long-held and ancient belief that all living things were the end product of God’s design. Darwin dared to hypothesise that man and apes evolved from a common ancestor, with his audacious theory of Natural Selection, which argued that the offspring of all creatures are born with variations, some of these advantageous, others less so. This, in turn, leads to a ‘natural selection’, allowing those with the ‘good’ variations to diverge, and eventually become a stronger species.

Darwin argues that this ‘branching off’ continues, until many species are created, which can all be traced back to one, or just a few, original species. This theory remains as arguably the most credible explanation we have for the origins of man.

Anyone, anywhere, can now interact with Darwin’s text thanks to the University’s new app, Words That Changed the World. His words and ideas come to life as never before. The app displays a copy of the first edition of the book owned by Darwin and which remained in the Darwin family for several generations. It includes a hand-written letter from Darwin’s son Leonard, which calls it “the first copy of The Origin of Species to reach my father’s hands”. The app includes close discussion of the text by Alison Pearn, Associate Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University Library

Download the free app, and you can:

  • Interact with the text quickly and easily. Leaf through the pages of Darwin’s ground-breaking work.
  • Tap the screen anywhere to swiftly move through layers of fascinating information in the form of pop-up captions, illustrations and photographs View short, informative videos about the ideas in the texts, presented by  an expert in Darwin’s life and work.
  • Zoom in to see the words and even imperfections of the paper up close – more clearly than with the naked eye.
  • View photographs of Darwin and his family.
  • Learn interesting and key facts, (did you know, for example, that Darwin had 10 children, 7 of whom survived?)

The app makes the life and work of Darwin accessible at the touch of a button, just as it would have been seen for the very first time by Darwin himself and available to everyone. We suspect that Darwin would have heartily approved.

Download Words that Changed the World on the Apple Store