skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project



‘Dot means new form – say in Birds’
‘Dot means new form – say in Birds’
DAR 205.5: 184r
Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library

Hack Darwin is an exciting opportunity to explore a data set that is the result of almost 50 years of scholarly dedication. We’re inviting people from a wide range of backgrounds who are willing to contribute their skills and creativity to find new ways to interrogate or present some aspect of the Darwin Correspondence Project data. The data set is a rich vein of historical information comprising all the letters of Charles Darwin that have been found, as well as letters written to him from hundreds of individuals. The letters discuss natural history, family life, publishing, medicine, popular culture, and observations and specimens sent from around the world.  This collection provides a unique window into the personal and professional lives of one of the history of science's most well-known figures, not to mention an enormous cultural and scientific resource covering most of the nineteenth century.

There will be an opportunity to speak to experts on the Darwin Correspondence Project team and to see highlights of Darwin's own research materials at Cambridge University Library. All results will be presented to a panel and public audience for feedback. 

Hack Darwin will be an intensive, creative experience. The goal is a prototype or a strategy to investigate a previously unexplored aspect of the data set or a creative method to display some aspect of the data.

Who are we looking for? 

Anyone! You don’t have to be a historian of science! We’re looking for developers, designers, creatives, archivists, museum professionals, historians, scientists, linguists, as well as anyone with an interest in historical texts to apply.

What is in the data set? 

The Darwin Correspondence Project has been transcribing and editing the letters to and from Charles Darwin since 1974. Now, the correspondence consists of: 

  • Almost 16,000 letter files 

  • Biographical information on 9,000 historical figures 

  • Bibliographical entries for 11,000 published works mentioned in the correspondence 

All files are in TEI XML.

Who are we? 

The Darwin Correspondence Project is an independently funded research team, jointly managed by Cambridge University Library and the American Council of Learned Societies, and affiliated to the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge.    

We locate and research letters written by and to the evolutionary scientist, Charles Darwin (1809–1882), and publish complete transcripts together with contextual notes and articles.  Darwin’s letters are an essential resource for understanding the development of his own ideas, and are an important source for the lives and work of more than 2000 correspondents and others mentioned in the letters.

How do you apply? 

Simply email (subject line: Hackathon) with answers to the following questions: 

  • What interests you about working with the Darwin data? 

  • What skills could you bring to the hackathon? 

  • Have you attended a hackathon before and, if so, please give details of what you got out of the experience?

When should you apply? 

Applications should be received by 15 January 2022. Prospective participants will receive responses by the end of January.

When is the hackathon? 

The hackathon will take place 30 March to 1 April 2022.

Where is the hackathon? 

The hackathon will be hosted at Cambridge University Library and Trinity Hall College.

What about accommodation? 

Accommodation can be provided for visitors to Cambridge at Trinity Hall Central Site.

What is being provided?

Lunch, coffee and tea are provided, as well as an optional college dinner on 31 March. Fully funded B&B accommodation will be provided to attendees who do not live locally.

Any other questions?