American Philosophical Society Museum

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Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

Dialogues with Darwin: An Exhibition of Historical Documents and Contemporary Art

Dialogues with Darwin: What the Exhibition is About

Charles Darwin’s theory about the history of life on earth has produced more spirited dialogue than any other scientific idea in modern history. This exhibition tells the story of Darwin’s theory, and it considers the debates about evolution that came both before and after him. On view are books and manuscripts that span more than a century, beginning before the 1830s, when Darwin jotted down his first thoughts on evolution, and ending in the 1940s, when his work was accepted as the basis of all life sciences.

Contemporary art works on view by Eve Andrée Laramée extend the dialogue with Darwin into the present, merging the visual and scientific worlds of Darwin’s Victorian era with twenty-first-century video technology. In the spirit of this artistic response, we invite you, the visitor, to explore the history of evolutionary theory and engage in your own dialogues with—and about—Charles Darwin.

This exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the 1859 publication of his famous book, On the Origin of Species. On view are books and manuscripts from the collection of the American Philosophical Society (APS).

The APS has the largest collection of Darwin manuscripts in North America, including some 800 Darwin letters. The holdings are second only to the Darwin collection at Cambridge University in England.

With the recent acquisition of nearly 4,500 Darwin books, the APS is also the largest repository of Darwin publications in the world, with many first editions of Darwin’s seventeen books and translations of On the Origin of Species in twenty-two languages. Dialogues with Darwin explores Darwin’s famous theory of evolution through natural selection and tells the story of how it became the basis of modern biology.