"The most important single work in science"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 11:04 PM

February 12th is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work On the Origin of Species.

An important book on evolutionary biology, it created widespread interest for its controversial ideas that contradicted the leading biology theories of its day. Famously called "the most important single work in science" by scientific historian Bern Dibner, On the Origin of Species revolutionized modern scientific thinking and established Darwin as one of the most influential thinkers of all time.

Only 1,250 copies of the book were printed, of which 1,170 were for sale. Such was the interest in the work that it is believed that all available copies sold on the day of publication. Copies of the first edition are therefore very rare.

With Darwin's anniversary approaching, the Bibliographic Evaluation Team (BET), which is responsible for preparing Oxford University's material for scanning, wanted to make sure that an Oxford copy of On the Origin of Species made it online. There are two first edition copies within the University Library, so we arranged for the Plant Sciences Library copy to be scanned in late January.

While the book was only away from the library for a day, preparing the catalogue metadata took much longer. Thanks to the hard work of the BET and our colleagues at Google, you can now search and read the full text of this classic book online.

On the Origin of Species
is one of many hundreds of thousands of Oxford University books now available through Google Book Search, and we look forward to bringing even more volumes online for scholars and enthusiasts alike.


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