Darwin Correspondence project receives Queen's Anniversary Prize

Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 22, 2002 -- The Darwin Correspondence Project, based at Cambridge University and directed by Virginia Tech botany professor Duncan Porter, has received a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

The prize recognizes and rewards the outstanding contribution that universities and colleges in the United Kingdom make to the intellectual, economic, cultural, and social life of the nation. "It is a great honor to have won this prestigious prize," Porter said. "I salute the project staff for having made it possible."

The Darwin Correspondence Project involves transcribing, editing, and publishing more than 14,500 letters written and received by Charles Darwin throughout his life. The project has published 12 of a projected 32-volume set of Darwin's letters, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Volume 13 will be published next month.

The letters provide a good historical view of the way the scientist's ideas took shape as well as the years he spent traveling on HMS Beagle and the years leading up to his Origin of Species. That book outlined Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and started a debate over its validity.

Darwin exchanged letters not only with distinguished scientists, but also with people of all walks of life who could help him with his research gardeners, army officers, fur trappers, among many others. The Darwin Correspondence Project, founded in 1974 by Frederick Burkhardt, retired president of the American Council of Learned Societies, and the late Sydney Smith of the Department of Zoology at Cambridge University, is housed at Cambridge University, whose library has 9,000 of the approximately 15,000 known Darwin letters. Cambridge also houses the collections of plants, fish, and geological specimens that Darwin shipped back from the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere on the Beagle voyage. Porter was the first to identify many of the plants, which were important in Dar

Contact: Duncan Porter
Virginia Tech

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