Charles Darwin’s writings on the Internet

This 2012 video is called Evolution – Part 1 of 7 – Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (PBS Documentary).

From the American Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Project to Digitize Darwin’s Writings on Evolution Nearly Halfway Complete

by AMNH on 11/24/2014 02:36 pm

Tracing the evolution of Charles Darwin’s thoughts about evolution is becoming an increasingly accessible project, thanks to a growing cache of publicly available digitized Darwin manuscripts on the Museum’s site.

As of today—the 155th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species—the Museum’s Darwin Manuscripts Project has made available 12,000 high-resolution and color images of manuscript pages, drawings, book abstracts, and other writings, complete with transcriptions that decipher the famous naturalist’s handwriting. By June 2015, the Museum will host more than 30,000 digitized documents written by Darwin between 1835 and 1882.

“These notebooks, marginalia, portfolios, and abstracts were the basis for eight of Darwin’s books, beyond the Origin, that set down, enlarged, and defended the theory of evolution by natural selection,” said Darwin Manuscripts Project Director David Kohn. “In these writings, you can see Darwin as a thinker, a keen-eyed collector, an inspired observer, and a determined experimenter.”

The Darwin Manuscripts Project has been publishing Darwin’s writings since 2007, but the publication and interpretation of the entire corpus will make it possible for visitors to trace the gradual gestation and long maturation of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The project involves a close collaboration with Cambridge University Library, which holds Darwin‘s archives, and the Darwin Correspondence Project. Content is being simultaneously published by the Cambridge Digital Library.

The 12,000 documents accessible on the site now cover the 25-year period in which Darwin became convinced of evolution; discovered natural selection; developed explanations of adaptation, speciation, and a branching tree of life; and wrote the Origin.

Darwin’s work in creating the Origin of Species encompassed much more than just setting pen to paper and writing the epochal book,” Kohn said. “The Origin was the mature fruit of a prolonged process of scientific exploration and creativity that began toward the end of his Beagle voyage, which first kindled Darwin’s interest in evolution, and that continued to expand in range and deepen in conceptual rigor through numerous well-marked stages.”

The remainder of the manuscripts, which will be available in June 2015, will pick up in the year the Origin was published—1859—and will include the full record of Darwin’s massive experimental research program to substantiate the power of natural selection until his death in 1882.

Gandhi’s murderer getting statue, jail for eating beef in theocratic India?

This video from India says about itself:

Romila Thapar on the Colonial Scholarship Behind Hindu Rastra

Hindu Rastra (or Rashtra) is the idea of a fanatical tendency of some Hindu religious people that India should become a theocratic ultra-orthodox Hindu state, with inequality for Muslims, Christians, atheists, Jews, liberal and/or lower caste and non-caste Hindus and others.

There are some parallels with the ‘Islamic State’ advocated by ISIS terrorists; and with fanatical tendencies within Christianity, Judaism, and other religions.

27 October 2015

Hindu Rastra is Drawn from the Scholarship of Colonial Historians”

Romila Thapar, at the launch of the two websites of the Indian Writers’ Forum Trust, speaks on the recent attempts at the rewriting of history to suit the purposes of a Hindu India. The proponents of this theory claim that history must not only be rewritten, but corrected – a more dangerous proposition than rewriting.

She does not find the approach – in spite of its absurdity -, the working of some fantasy, but a very systematic approach to suit history for the argument of a Hindu state. Most of these claims are based on the work of colonial scholarship such as the historians James Mill, Max Mueller, and [Theosophist US American] Colonel Olcott.

The irony of the fact remains that those who oppose the secular history as Western must fall back on colonial scholarship of Indian history done by – to borrow the vocabulary of the Hindu Right – Westerners. “It is colonial scholarship which is at the foundation of this new so-called indigenous history”, says Thapar. She concludes by saying that there may be various versions of history, but pleads for a space where these versions can be debated and discussed in public or in institutions. What must be opposed is the reduction of all knowledge to a single narrative and the grounding of that knowledge on a single ideology.

Today, Dutch Internet site De Correspondent publishes an article by correspondent Peter Speetjens in India. He interviewed Ms Romila Thapar.

Translation of some of it:

Meanwhile in India: A Muslim who eats a cow can get up to five years in prison

There is a cultural revolution going on in India. Minorities are converted, books banned, intellectuals gagged.

Some people even advocate to have a statue for Nathuram Godse, the man who on January 30, 1948 shot dead Mahatma Gandhi. Godse: the staunch Hindu nationalist who took up arms. Gandhi, the father of secular India, with a firm belief in nonviolence.

Romila Thapar, now professor emeritus, was at the time of the murder a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Godse’s hometown Pune.

Although she has been retired for years, she still regularly writes. Last year, for instance, her twentieth and latest book.

The developments in her country cause her great concern.

“Gandhi’s death was like a knockout punch,” says the 83-year-old historian in her apartment in South Delhi, filled with books, art and antiques. “There was, after India’s independence, so much hope in the country. Until that happened … Suddenly we saw the presence of an intense ugliness, of which we never we were previously aware. ”

She talks about the murder as if it occurred yesterday. “We were scared. Suppose that the killer was a Muslim, it would have led to massive retaliation. But even when it became known that the culprit was a Hindu, the situation remained tense. We could not understand. Gandhi was such a great man. Who could do that? And why? How could Gandhi’s death be a solution for anything?”…

Since a year the Hindu Mahasabha organisation is calling for a statue for Godse. The movement even wants to make a film about his life.

“It is a frightening development,” says the elegantly black-clad Thapar. “We are talking about the rehabilitation of a convicted murderer”. …

And it does not stop with a posthumous tribute to an ancient Hindu nationalist hero. Since last May, the political wing of Godse’s movement has an absolute majority in the Indian parliament. …

Last 28 September, a mob of about a hundred Hindus stormed the house of Mohammed Akhlaq in Bisara village, dragged him outside and clubbed him dead, after a local priest had – wrongly – proclaimed through a loudspeaker that the 50-year-old Muslim had supposedly butchered a calf. His son ended up badly injured in hospital.

Prime Minister Modi did not consider it necessary to condemn the act, even though eight of the eleven arrested suspects have links with his Hindu nationalist BJP party.

The cow is sacred to Hindus and in most Indian states there is a slaughter ban. The western state of Maharashtra did not think that went far enough and in March also banned the slaughter of bulls and oxen. For eating ‘bad meat’ there is now a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. Although not all Hindus are strictly vegetarian, such bans hit especially the 200 million Indian Muslims and Christians.

This 15 October 2015 video from India is called Romila Thapar: In The Wake of the Beef Controversy.

From the (non-theocratic) daily The Hindu:

October 10, 2015 05:49 IST

‘BJP, RSS trying to declare India Hindu rashtra’

“The Constitution has taken care that people of all religions live in the country and so the country has not been accorded the status of Hindu rashtra…if BJP and RSS turn it into a Hindu rashtra, I want to tell Dalits and adivasis that their interests will not be safe,” Ms. Mayawati stressed.

Vermeer’s Little Street painting, address found?

Vermeer's Little Street

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The original location of The Little Street by Johannes Vermeer appears to be at the Vlamingstraat 40-42 in Delft. Until now it was not clear where the famous painting was created. Frans Grijzenhout, Professor of Art History at the University of Amsterdam, says the address has been found.

Grijzenhout consulted for his research records which had been kept exactly how much tax canal house owners had to pay for the deepening of the canals and the maintenance of the wharfs at their doors.

This registry gives the researchers an up to fifteen centimeter accurate picture of the breadth of all the houses and the gates at the time of Vermeer. Thus Grijzenhout discovered two houses at the narrow canal along the Vlamingstraat.

Vlamingstraat now

Much has changed with the buildings of Vlamingstraat 40-42 since the age of Vermeer, as this 2015 photo shows. Basically, only the gate is left. When Vermeer painted, mostly poor refugees from Flanders lived there. The name Vlamingstraat still reminds today about them.

Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, exhibition in London

This video from England says about itself:

30 September 2015

On the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), this film explores the life and work of one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century.

By John Green in England:

Views of tender ardour: Julia Margaret Cameron

Saturday 7th November 2015

A new exhibition of Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron’s work shows her to be a dynamic and creative innovator, says JOHN GREEN

Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy at the Science Museum, London SW7


JULIA MARGARET CAMERON was a British pioneer of photography.

Born in Calcutta, the daughter of an official of the East India Company, she was entirely self-taught and only took up the camera as a 48-year-old.

Beginning in 1863, after her daughter gave her a camera, she was only active as a photographer for 15 years.

Yet her legacy is an unrivalled series of portraits of personalities of her time, including poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, painter Holman Hunt, writer Anthony Trollope and astronomer and scientist Sir John Herschel.

“When I have had such men before my camera,” she said, “my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.”

Her work is made up almost entirely of portraits, many of her own family, acquaintances and servants, but in unadorned close-up.

No-one laughs, let alone smiles, in her images. This was probably due to the long exposure times needed at the time, when holding such expressions would have been difficult.

The results give her images a gravitas, earnestness and intimacy. She invariably eschews background scenery or props, giving us the face alone against dark backgrounds.

Cameron said: “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour, and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour… I began with no knowledge of the art.

“I did not know where to place my dark box, how to focus my sitter and my first picture I effaced to my consternation by rubbing my hand over the filmy side of the glass.”

She made her albumen-silver prints from wet collodion glass-plate negatives and was innovative and unconventional in her approach to the technical applications of her medium in order to create images transcending the purely descriptive function of photography.

Her portrait of Herschel, her “teacher and high priest,” conjures a Rembrandtian figure, a Biblical prophet in three-quarter profile, staring into the far distance.

Her portrait of May Prinsep, The Wild Flower, exudes a calmness and serenity reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance portrait yet, perhaps contradictorily, it also has something of the Victorian penchant for romance and melodrama and an uncanny resemblance to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portraits of Jane Morris.

Cameron’s work is radically different from the conventional portrait. They are not obviously posed or staged.

In a letter to Herschel — in response to criticisms others had made about the lack of focus in some of her images — she wrote: “Who has the right to say what focus is the legitimate focus… my aspirations are to ennoble photography and to secure for it the character and uses of high art by combining the real and ideal.”

The few photographs she took in Ceylon, where she later settled with her husband, are an intriguing taster of what she could have achieved.

Two show tea plantation workers against a backdrop of the plantation, others are of local people and differ from other “colonial” images of the time in reflecting a naturalistic and observed reality rather than an attempt to record “ethnographic types” or allegorical figures.

This free exhibition will be chiefly of interest to those with an interest in the history of photography.

But it does also transport us into the Victorian world of 150 years ago better than many a painter or other photographer could do.

Runs until March 28, details:

United States Republican Carson believes Joseph built the pyramids to store grain

This 2011 video is called Pharaohs-The Great Pyramid of Egypt (How was it built?) – BBC 1 of 6.

While all serious Egyptologists say that the six pyramids of Giza were built about 2500 BC as graves for pharaohs, there are some crackpot theories denying that.

Some claim ancient Egyptians did not build the pyramids, but aliens who had arrived in UFOs did.

And now, a United States Republican politician has another off base pet theory. After his fellow Republican Sarah Palin claimed that dinosaurs and humans used to live at the same time, Ben Carson thinks he should not just become president of the USA, but an amateur pseudo-Egyptologist as well.

From daily The Independent in Britain, 5 November 2015:

Ben Carson says pyramids were ‘built by biblical figure Joseph to store grain’

It is not the first time the 64-year-old former surgeon has expressed the novel theory

Andrew Buncombe, New York

There are three of them on the outskirts of Cairo, with the tallest of them soaring to more to more than 140 metres.

Over the years, experts and archaeologists have debated over what may have been the use of these giant pyramids, one of which was for centuries the highest man-made structure on earth. Were they simply burial chambers for the mightiest of the pharaohs?

Ben Carson, one of the leaders of the US Republican presidential race, believes the solution lies in the Bible.

He has repeated his longstanding belief that Egyptian pyramids were built by the biblical figure, Joseph, to store grain.

Dear Dr Carson, there are some problems here. Most historians think that the biblical Joseph was a myth. A few believe the Joseph tradition was based on the Hyksos Asian invaders of Egypt. But that was around 1800-1500 BCE, so almost a thousand years after the Giza pyramids were built.

Another theory claims that the Bible was right on Joseph. In that view, Joseph was the same person as Amenhotep-Huy, vizier of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. But that was about 1360 BC, still more centuries later than the building of the pyramids.

“It’s still my belief, yes,” the retired neurosurgeon told reporters this week.

“Well, the pyramids were made in a way that they had hermetically sealed compartments. You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time.”

The Associated Press said that Mr Carson, 64, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, first articulated his theory at a 1998 commencement speech at Andrews University.

In the commencement video, Mr Carson laid out his theory that the pyramids were constructed for grain storage.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Mr Carson

“Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”

Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied. Republican hits POLITICO story, later admits to The New York Times he wasn’t offered aid: here.

Ben Carson ‘fabricated’ his admission to West Point military academy: here.

Ben Carson is not having the best week, between redrawing borders on a U.S. map and that NYT piece on his lack of foreign policy understanding.

Seventeenth century letters read at last

The suitcase with seventeenth century letters

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Unopened mail from 17th century read at last

Today, 13:06

Scientists will at last read a collection of hundreds of never-opened letters from the seventeenth century and study them. The mail was in a trunk of a seventeenth-century postmaster from The Hague. This suitcase was last summer rediscovered in the archives of the The Hague Museum for Communication.

There were more than 2600 items of mail in it, including about 600 sealed letters. With modern scanning techniques such letters can be read without breaking the seals. The research is led by scientists from the Universities of Groningen and Leiden, and they get help from the universities of Oxford and Yale, among others.


By reading the letters, the researchers hope to learn more about everyday life in the seventeenth century. “The letters are from all walks of life,” said David van der Linden of the University of Groningen. “There’s mail by doctors and spies, but also by people who could barely write.”

The postmaster whose suitcase this was led postal transport between the southern Netherlands and France. According to Van der Linden the letters may tell much about the migration between the Netherlands and France in those years.