Saturday, March 07, 2009

History of Biology Online Resources   posted by DavidB @ 3/07/2009 04:45:00 AM

For non-blogging reasons I have recently been exploring the web for online primary texts in the history of biology. Since I last did much searching of this kind, many new resources have become available, and existing ones have been improved. For the benefit of any interested readers, here are some recommendations:

A good website on the history of genetics, with an emphasis on late 19th and early 20th century texts, is here. It includes the original papers of Gregor Mendel and some important works by August Weismann.

For individual authors, Charles Darwin is of course well served. The 'Complete Works' site maintained by John Van Wyhe here gives access to all of Darwin's published work, many of the manuscript sources, and related works by other authors, such as contemporary reviews of Darwin's works. The full published correspondence from the Darwin Correspondence Project, which currently goes up to 1868, is available online about four years after print publication, For the period after 1868, the excellent Life and Letters and More Letters collections, edited by Darwin's son Francis, are already available.

People sometimes complain that Alfred Russel Wallace is neglected in favour of Darwin, but so far as online resources are concerned, Wallace has an outstanding website created by Charles H. Smith here, containing a large proportion of Wallace's scattered and diverse works.

I have often mentioned Gavan Tredoux's Francis Galton website before, but here it is again.

The complete works of Louis Pasteur are available here (follow the external links).

I don't personally care much for Herbert Spencer, but he is historically important, and many of his major works are available here.

These do not currently include his Principles of Biology, but this is available here.

Added: I just found a website for T. H. Huxley, here.

I don't know of any other 19th century biologists with 'complete works' websites, but many important works are now available on resources such as Google Books or OpenLibrary. For example, most of the books of the great anatomists Georges Cuvier and Richard Owen are available.

Going back a bit further in time, the works of Lamarck are available here, and those of Buffon here.

These are the sources I thought worth mentioning. If readers have other recommendations, please put them in Comments.