No one has seen them since 2000. Darwin’s diaries, which are of extraordinary value, have disappeared from the library of the British University of Cambridge. Library staff initially believed that someone had misclassified the documents. After a thorough search of the archive, the university reported that they were probably stolen from the archive. The British police have already started an investigation, and Interpol has also informed about the theft. The university called on the public to help with the search.
Charles Robert Darwin, a British naturalist, was born in 1809 and studied theology at Cambridge University. He became famous especially as the discoverer of the theory of evolution, which he publicly presented in July 1858. He earned considerable criticism for it, especially from the church, but a few years later it became the basis of research by biologists, geneticists, sociologists and philosophers.
“It broke our hearts,” said university librarian Jessica Gardner, who has worked at the library since 2017. She also believes no one will “leave stone unturned” until the diaries are found.
The library has tried to find documents in the past, but Cambridge University owns over ten million manuscripts and maps. If all the shelves from the library were stacked behind each other, they would measure 200 kilometers, which is roughly the distance along the road from Cambridge to Southampton, writes BBC. Darwin’s archive consists of 189 boxes.
Inside Darwin’s head
It was July 1837, when a 28-year-old, now known as Charles Darwin, wrote one word in his house in London at the top of the page of one of his red leather diaries – “I think.” Next to the inscription, a sketch of a tree was created, which later became the basis of Darwin’s theory of evolution. More than 20 years later, on November 24, 1859, Darwin published its final form in the journal On the Origin of Species.
“These diaries are Darwin’s attempt to ask where the species come from, what is their origin?” Explains Jim Secord, a professor of history and philosophy at Cambridge University in the UK. “It’s almost like being in Darwin’s head,” says the professor of reading the diaries of a well-known scientist. He also adds that they are written with great speed and “intellectual energy”. According to him, the disappearance of such an iconic object is a tragedy.