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Where It Happened

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Darwin's study at Down House

©AMNH


In this comfortable, cluttered study--really part library, part laboratory--Charles Darwin spent most of his days at Down House. Rising early, working here for several hours in the morning and several in the afternoon, Darwin produced an enormous amount of work, including one of the most influential scientific books of all time: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

The study reflects the character of the man, unpretentious and intensely focused. Everything here was set up for comfort and efficiency. Darwin wrote on a cloth-covered board set across the arms of his battered but comfortable upholstered chair. Wheels had been attached to its legs so Darwin could reach everything without getting up. Plagued by a lifelong series of illnesses, Darwin felt the cold; he often draped a shawl around his shoulders, even in warm weather. His dog Polly--immortalized by a reference in the Expression of the Emotions--dozed in her bed by the fire while he worked.

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Darwin's microscope

©AMNH / Denis Finnin


Charles Darwin's Microscope

Darwin used microscopes for many purposes: dissecting small organisms such as barnacles, for instance, and counting seeds and pollen grains. He began collecting microscopes even before he left on the Beagle voyage. While each new instrument tended to be more sophisticated than the last, Darwin retained his affection for the simple, single-lens variety. He took pleasure in these devices, describing one to botanist Joseph Hooker as "a splendid plaything."

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Recreation of Darwin's Study. 

© AMNH / Denis Finnin


Charles Darwin's Study

This re-creation of Darwin's study includes many objects (in color) used by the scientist during the period in which he wrote the Origin of Species, the Descent of Man, and many other works.

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