On his death in 1882 Darwin was celebrated as a national hero. Although often controversial, he was “one of the greatest naturalists of his time”.
This is in part due to the fact that in spite of the contentious nature of many of his discoveries, the content and language of Darwin’s published works were carefully crafted in order not to alienate his Victorian audience. In addition, Darwin’s correspondence shows us how he tried to conjoin his scientific interests, which were often life-long passions that he had started to research years if not decades before publication, with the demands of a new readership, employing popular artists or the newest technical discoveries to illustrate his books. Accordingly, growing tension and excitement surrounded the launch of his books.
More unexpectedly, Darwin’s correspondence also reveals how the scientist, far from being a solitary, isolated thinker, relied on his family and friends, including numerous women, for ideas, advice, and observations. Darwin made use of a worldwide network of scientists and non-scientists to gather information, drawing facts and anecdotes from a wide range of sources.