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6:00pm-7:00pm on Thursday 7 April

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Cambridge University Library, Milstein Seminar Rooms, West Road, CB3 9DR

Many think of Charles Darwin as a ‘lone genius’. However, Darwin’s letters held by the Cambridge University Library reveal a more vibrant character. Join members of the Darwin Correspondence Project as they discuss the crucial role Darwin’s global correspondence network played in his scientific work.

Photos of Charles Darwin depict a bearded old man; the very epitome of the learned, but dull, Victorian man of science. Such images feed myths that Darwin was a ‘lone genius’, extracting brilliant ideas from thin air. The 9000 Darwin letters held by Cambridge University Library reveal a more vibrant character. Complex, at times witty, warm, curious, domestic, and above all collaborative.

Meet Darwin as a hands-on experimental scientist at the cutting edge of technology. And finally, discover how Darwin, far from being a recluse, worked surrounded by his family, and was at the heart of his local community.

The panel are all working on the upcoming exhibition Darwin in Conversation, which is due to open at the University Library in July 2022.

Dr Alison Pearn is an historian who has been part of a team editing Darwin’s letters for the last twenty-five years. In addition to writing both general and academic audiences she has made the occasional TV and radio appearance. She is the Darwin Correspondence Project’s Associate Director.

Dr Francis Neary has worked as an editor on the Project for over 10 years, dealing with topics ranging from animal reasoning to insectivorous plants. He has curated several exhibitions, including ‘Darwin the Geologist’ at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. As Head of Web Development he creates new content and discovery tools and uses analytics and social media to grow online audiences.

Sally Stafford is the Darwin Correspondence Project Head of Learning. She works with schools, families, and adult learners exploring the richness of Darwin's letters through a variety of hands-on activities, talks, website features, and online resources. She is part of the team that has developed ‘Exploring Evolution’, training days to help teachers deliver inspiring lessons on evolution.

Booking/Registration is: REQUIRED

Queries relating to this event can be directed to

Additional Information

Age: Adults
Format: Talk
Timing: In person
Cost: Free
Event Capacity: 60
Theme: Discovery
Accessibility: Accessible toilet, Hearing loop, Step-free access

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