The latest publication from the Darwin Correspondence Project, Darwin and Women, begins with its own taxonomic quandary. From the outset Samantha Evans, entrusted with the tricky task of uncovering Darwin’s intellectual interdependence with women through the fractured prism of his private correspondence, wisely chooses to forgo chronology for a thematic arrangement. This classification system, in which letters are sorted into 14 clusters, means that correspondents frequently reappear under different taxons. The book includes sections on botanical correspondence, observing humans, religion (a chapter edited by Paul White), companion animals, and a section on insects, “small, apparently insignificant creatures”, though, as Evans notes, no mention is made of outliers such as John Lubbock’s pet wasp. My favourite chapter, “Scientific wives and allies”, best illustrates the inextricable way in which the contributions of women interwove with Darwin’s vision of an entangled bank.
Click to read more in the Archives of Natural History