Darwin Online reader feedback

Darwin Online, since its re-launch online went viral on 19 October 2006, has experienced an unprecedented reception. Many readers write to express their reactions. Selected excerpts are reproduced here. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvements, email the Director, Dr John van Wyhe dbsjmvw@nus.edu.sg See also press notices

Darwin Online has been selected for archiving by the British Library and the National Library of Congress as a scholarly work of exceptional importance worthy of preservation.

28 March 2008

Darwin Online was awarded the prestigious Thackray Medal by the Society for the History of Natural History which writes: 'From a strong field of nominated works, the Society's Prize Committee chaired by the Vice-President Geoff Moore, was unanimous in their selection of "The complete work of Charles Darwin Online" for the award of the Society's John Thackray Medal for 2008. The medal is awarded for a significant achievement in the history of those areas of interest to the Society in memory of John Thackray. ... [Darwin Online is] a monumental achievement: making freely available an exhaustive collection of primary sources and doing so in a way that is easy to use by both novices and experts. The largest collection of Darwin's writings ever published, "Darwin Online" is substantive and rich in content and makes archival material accessible to scholars worldwide. In addition, it is multimedia-based and clever with a minimal use of technology. Since it meets desired standards of accessibility, it will have a value to the public far beyond Darwin scholarship.' The medal was awarded by the President of the Society, Professor Arthur M. Lucas, at its AGM on 28 March 2009 at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

The edge of the medal is inscribed:

25 November 2023

thank you for all you have done for Darwin enthusiasts like me – invaluable – you have transformed the field, thank you, thank you.

Professor Michael Ruse

14 November 2023

Firstly let me tell you how thankful I am for you building up this amazing website on Darwin. I always tell people interested in Darwin about it.

Museum für medizinhistorische Bücher Muri

16 October 2023

I just wanted to say how much I love Darwin Online. I use it all the time, and I am always so grateful to have such a wonderful resource freely available and searchable. Thank you for all the work you have put into this wonderful website.

Lindell Bromham Macroevolution & Macroecology Division of Ecology & Evolution Research School of Biology Australian National University

12 February 2023

the site is now more indispensable than ever. …it is truly wonderful! It has the incredibly precise attention to detail … it reveals, even in a catalog of photos,  how we can still learn so much about Darwin and why he is worth studying. …Darwin scholarship in particular, and evolutionary biology and the history of science in general, are in your debt.

Gregory C. Mayer
Dept. of Biological Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Parkside

February 2023

My indebtedness to your online miracle is boundless.

Polly Winsor, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST), University of Toronto.

November 2022

As a Darwinian biologist, I very much appreciate Darwin Online. Thanks so much!

 Emeritus Professor W. S. Armbruster, University of Portsmouth

October 2022

First, let me thank you for creating and moderating Darwin Online.  ... I have found the information available in Darwin Online invaluable.  

A writer and traveller in Darwin's footsteps.

December 2021

Thank you for your stellar work on making the Darwin-online such a magnificent resource. 

Phil Sloan

Program in History and Philosophy of Science University of Notre Dame

November 2021

I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you for the new book review section on Darwin-online, and for Darwin-online itself. Evolutionary biologists and historians of science are in your debt.

A behavioral ecologist and historian of science, USA.

J. P. Daly 11 Nov 2021. Research Professor. Stanford University.

 "This is amazing. What a brilliant contribution, thank you."

Juli Pereto 11 Nov 2021. Evolutionary Biochemist working at the University of Valencia.

Una fantàstica aportació del projecte Darwin Online
@uk_darwin dirigit per John van Wyhe: més de 1.700 ressenyes publicades de les obres de Darwin ara accessibles. Com era esperable, encapçalen el rànquing de ressenyes "L'origen de les espècies" (272) i "L'origen de l'home" (227)

Greg Priest 11 Nov 2021. PhD Candidate, History of Science at Stanford focusing on Darwin and evolutionary biology.

Another wonderful resource put out by @uk_darwin
under the guidance of John van Wyhe. 1,700 hundred reviews of Darwin's books. Thanks so much!

Rodrigo Medel 11 Nov 2021 Ecología Evolutiva • Filosofía de la Ciencia • Universidad de Chile.

Tremendo trabajo sobre la obra de Darwin. Más de 1700 revisiones en la página de Cambridge.

Biblioteca de Ciència i Tecnologia de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona 11 Nov 2021

El recurs 'Darwin online', per accedir a documentació relacionada amb #CharlesDarwin, no deixa de créixer.

Tom Dickins 12 Nov 2021. Behavioural Science Lab Middlesex.

This looks to be a great resource. An amazing project!

Peter C. Kjaergaard 23 Nov 2021. 

"What did the world think of Darwin? With more than 1,700 book reviews in 16 languages, including 290 from Darwin's own annotated collection, the short answer is: anything you can possibly imagine! What a treasure trove from @uk_darwin [Darwin Online twitter account]

The Darwin On-line of yours is a god-send to folks like us. Thank you very much.

A primatologist in Japan

September 2021

...allow me this opportunity to thank you for all the evident work you've put into your excellent Darwin Online website. I've spent the pandemic hunkered down completing an earlier commenced book… I'll express my gratitude in the work's acknowledgements but in the meantime I want to let you know how appreciative I am for your work.

An author and historian in the USA

March 2021

I want to tell you more concretely of several points in my narrative that are entirely due to your website. Sitting at my computer (not spending hours in my nearby excellent library, which is now closed due to Covid) the ease of searching on your site allowed me to … There are many other instances of my indebtedness to you, and I can collect them if you like, but perhaps I bore you.

A historian in Canada

January 2021

I have found the Darwin Online project of immense interest for many years and can well appreciate the amount of dedication that put it together.

An editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

February 2020

I should not forget to say how vastly I and thousands of others are in your debt for your selfless and terrific website.

A professor at the University of Toronto, Canada.

June 2019

Darwin Online is incomparable.

An author from Australia.

I thank John van Wyhe for his doggedness and generosity in assembling the life-changing The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online

Alistair Sponsel, Darwin's evolving identity, 2017

December 2016

I will use this opportunity to offer my deepest gratitude for the incredible effort you have put in making Darwin's work, and associated publications, available to the public as an educational tool.  Without it the research I am doing on Charles Darwin would have been utterly futile, even though I have accessible to me the hard copies of practically all of his publications.  Thank you.

November 2016

The Darwin online collection is amazing; I'm a huge fan, and I use it all the time.  Thanks to you and your colleagues for making it all available.

Dr Olivia Judson


I really can't say enough about how all of us who work on Darwin benefit from the work and the scholarship of all of you at Darwin Online.

Greg Priest, PhD candidate in History of Science, Stanford University


Every day I thank god for Darwin Online.

Professor Michael Ruse

June 2014

The very BEST site in all the internets.

A reader on Facebook

May 2014

Dear Dr. van Wyhe,

Please allow me to say what a marvelous, incredible, thrilling resource Darwin Online has proved to be. I really can't find adjectives or intensifiers strong enough. Working with it over the last several years has been the most rewarding experience, tremendous, both as a scholar and a someone who loves to spend time with Darwin. It is stunning work.

A professor of English, California.

July 2011

As a biology student and reader of Charles Darwin's papers, I really appreciate what "Darwin Online" website has been offering
to those who enjoy the studies of life. It would be most grateful if that knowledge could sensitize more and more people every day. The public education granted to the children of my country, Brazil, in my opinion, lacks discussion on evolution issues. Therefore, I believe the website can surely help teachers spread its content and encourage the will of learning of our descendants. Through the research of evolution, humanity will surely find its place in nature and know how to admire and live with it.


A Student of Biology at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais.

February 2011

The Darwin Online project continues to be a treasured resource of world literature now made instantly and freely available to the entire world. As an ordinary, science interested citizen, I would like to offer my praise for its construction and management, and my best wishes that the resource of knowledge it represents ever be celebrated with us as a species.


A reader from Louisville, Kentucky

May 2010

In the first place I want to thank you for the excellent work you have done at the "Darwin Online" site.
The treatment you gave to Darwin's works on-line is the finest way to present books on the web I have ever seen.

A reader from Argentina

28 December 2009

Subject: Thank you for Darwin Online

Dear Dr. van Wyhe,

I have used the Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online literally thousands of times since the site was launched. For me, as an anthropologist and evolutionary biologist, it is the single best scholarly resource available, of any kind. The sophistication of the search engine always permits me to find the passages I need, in a trice. I am incredibly grateful ... [for] this superb project, which has served so many of us so well, especially in the last “Darwin year”.

Thank you very much for creating such a fabulous tool and resource, which truly capitalizes on all the best attributes of modern computing.

With sincere thanks and best wishes,

A Professor of Anthropology

Penn State University, USA

June 2009

From the AHRC referee assessment of the Final Report on Darwin Online [for 2005-8 funding].

A "resounding success". "I cannot imagine a better project in terms of value for money. This is a resource closely linked to top-level scholarly research, of clearly international significance, and meeting all the key objectives of AHRC funding, including knowledge transfer. It is a matter for celebration that the AHRC has supported this project."

Over the last decade Darwin studies have been enormously bolstered through direct web-access to his archival sources (for example van Wyhe 2006; Darwin online...My traversing of Darwin's rich archives was greatly abetted by Dr John van Wyhe (Director, Darwin Online)

Chris Evans, University of Cambridge

23 March 2009

Dear all,

I just wanted to thank you and congratulate you. It's just a superb work! Congratulations to all that made possible this brilliant work. It really brings anybody the possibility to swim in any desired depth in Darwin's world. The design is easy, clear and fast, the intuitivity of the site is excellent, the contents are awesome, the media and image work are just fabulous!

Thank you very much.

A reader from Barcelona, Spain.

10 July 2008

I used the Complete Work Online extensively while teaching a class on Darwin last academic year, and will use it again for a class this coming year on Darwin's finches. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online is undoubtedly the best scholarly website, ever.

A reader from University of Wisconsin-Parkside, USA

I appreciate the availability of Darwin’s works. I teach at a Lutheran Seminary and require my students to read Origin of Species and Descent of Man. If theologians are to discuss Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and all of the other theories ‘out there’, especially how they relate to the Biblical Creation account, they need to know who Darwin is and, two of his major works. Thanks again. I will use this cite and pass it on to others who are interested learning more about Charles Darwin.

A reader from St. Louis, MO USA

25 April 2008

Thank you, thank you, thank you for leading this project. I could blather on and on about how wonderful it is to see his work in his own handwriting and his illustrations but, instead let me just say: Thank you.

A reader from California, USA

Thank you for your outstanding site. I have a copy of Origin of Species but found reading it online to be so much easier! This is truly a great benefit to future generations.

A reader from New Jersey, USA

17 April 2008

Hello Dr van Wyhe

What an incredible website and a remarkable achievement by a large number of people. As it is impossible to thank you all, at least I can thank you.

Just a day after going online this document has already been accessed 19,017 times. I know I will be returning to it many, many times in the months and years ahead.

Thank you for making it possible.

A reader from Norway

19 April 2008

Dear Sir,

First, let me say thank you for your work and the opportunity to read all about Mr. Darwin. I have only yet begun to read the tip of the iceberg; however, I am looking forward to reading every last page.
As a child growing up in Texas the only thing we learned about Darwin was his Theory of Evolution and how we come from monkeys. ...
After reading only a mere portion I can only say I am saddened by the lies and misgivings I was taught as a child and I wish I had taken it upon myself sooner to learn firsthand about Darwin and his theories. As a medical professional and a free thinker I have learned that we have a lot more to learn in regards to our universe and the way we heal.

A reader from the USA

Dear Dr. John van Wyhe.

Congratulations! The complete Work of Charles Darwin Online is an outstanding project.

A librarian reader in Mexico

17 April 2008

Congratulations for your effort. This job is an inspiration for the new generations in Science.

A reader from Colombia

17 April 2008

I just learned about Darwin Online today. As a citizen of the USA i just wanted to thank you for having this important information available for everyone. I'm sure that there will be plenty of complaints from ignorant people also from the USA, so i just wanted to send a letter of support.

A reader in the USA

7 June 2007

Subject: Thanks a lot from the Galapagos Ecuador

Dr John van Wyhe,

It has been a true delight to discover your Website. For years I have been compiling information about this fascinating topics. Your hard work in putting together all this information should be commended and recognized.

From the Enchanted Islands,


A Naturalist Guide.

12 March 2007

I'd like to thank John van Wyhe and everyone else involved in getting Emma Darwin's diaries online. I listened to the piece on Radio 4 this morning and went straight to my computer and logged onto the site. It's going to take me many hours but I'm determined to look through all the diary entries!

I just think it's wonderful that people have taken the time to put these diaries online so that we can access them completely free of charge.

Thank you again - I do hope you'll be able to pass this email on.

A reader in the UK.

15 February 2007

Your website was very helpful in dating the copy of Charles Darwin's, Origin of the Species that I have. It was published by Hurst and Company in New York as one of "The Companion Books." According to the information on your website it was possibly published around 1912.

A reader from Arizona, USA.

Professor Alison Richard, MA PhD DL
The Vice-Chancellor

University of Cambridge
Vice-Chancellor's Office

Dr John van Wyhe
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
17 Mill Lane

26 October 2006

Dear Dr. van Wyhe

I wanted to write to you personally to say how delighted I was to hear of the launch of The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online.

Your project is not only a great academic achievement, but one which has clearly touched millions of people worldwide, as evinced by the global media coverage it has received.

Such work can only serve to further enhance the University of Cambridge's reputation for world-class research and innovation and for that I offer you my thanks.

Best wishes and congratulations,

[signed] Alison

A F Richard

The Old Schools
Trinity Lane
Cambridge CB2 1TN

19 October 2006

Dr. van Wyhe,

What a wonderful resource! It is very exciting to know that I can access these documents so easily. I especially appreciate the images. I just felt I needed to let someone know this is time and money well spent. For me this is what is best about the internet – dispersal of knowledge, access to information.

From a high school science teacher, Kentucky, USA.

19 October 2006

First of all, I would like to express my thanks to you. I came across your complete works of Darwin online, and fifty pages into the first edition/issue of _On the Origin of Species_ I broke into tears, the experience was so powerful. Thank you for your time, your effort and your care in putting works so central to our modern understanding of life up free for the world, undiluted by some intermediary of unwanted analysis. … Thank you again. If nothing else, you have renewed my commitment to the study of natural sciences.

A reader from Columbia University, USA.

19 October 2006

Dear Dr John van Wyhe,

Thank-you and your colleagues for doing this. I live in upper midwest America in a small city of 25-thousand or so. I especially feel the 'small town' limitation when it comes to gaining access to academic and cultural materials. You have just given me access to the Complete Works of Charles Darwin. How can i thank you enough?

A reader from upper midwest USA.

19 October 2006

Dear Dr. John van Wyhe:

I and my students thank you for your efforts in developing the Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, … a very significant contribution to world science and public good.

A reader from the University of Lethbridge, Canada.

19 October 2006

Dear Dr. van Wyhe, I just discovered the Darwin web site and find it fascinating … I do wish to express my appreciation to those responsible for placing this wonderful material on line with free access to all.

A reader in California, USA.

20 October 2006

Dear Sir,

I simply wanted to express my congratulations for such a brilliant project, especially in a day and age where all sorts of beliefs and superstitions try to discredit Charles Darwin works.

Although I am familiar with Darwin's name, I realize that I know very little about his contribution to science and I hope this web site will help me (and eventually my kids) to better understand where we come from as human beings.

A reader in France.

21 October 2006

On accessing the site and entering the search term [for a subject long researched] I was pleased to find numerous excerpts about [it] in his writings additional to the ones with which I am already familiar.

A reader in New Zealand.


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