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Cambridge University Library


Darwin in Conversation

The endlessly curious life and letters of Charles Darwin

9 July – 3 December 2022

Charles Darwin’s name is so famous, still so constantly invoked in debates on evolution, society, and religion, that the man himself is easily overlooked.

Darwin’s letters sit alongside his famous publications, providing a more rounded, personal view of Darwin. A prolific correspondent, he wrote and received over 15,000 letters in his lifetime. Cambridge University Library’s current exhibition uses this correspondence to uncover little-known aspects of Darwin’s life. It reveals a global network, fuelled by letters, carrying knowledge and insight between the public, subject specialists, and some of the most famous names of 19th century science. Darwin’s ideas were forged through this correspondence.

Visitors to the University Library will see Darwin was not a lone theoretician sitting in Down House, but someone whose world-changing discoveries and theories were driven by experiment and interaction. Darwin was a complex, richly human individual whose ideas changed throughout his life and were informed as much by the frustrations of failure as the triumphs of success.

The exhibition comes at the completion of the Darwin Correspondence Project, a 40-year endeavour to publish all of Darwin’s correspondence; research is at the exhibition’s heart. This is the rarest of chances to be with Darwin as he actually was, in his own words, with his own letters, and not as others would have him.

Find out more about the Darwin Correspondence Project here:

Supported by the Evolution Education Trust and the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation