visualizing changes in The Origin of the Species 10.11.2009, 10:05 PM
posted by bob stein
Ben Fry has made a wonderful visualization showing how Darwin changed the text of Origin of the Species over the course of six editions. It's more of a conceptual art piece at this point but an exciting indicator of the powerful tools to come. Here's Ben Fry's own description:
We often think of scientific ideas, such as Darwin's theory of evolution, as fixed notions that are accepted as finished. In fact, Darwin's On the Origin of Species evolved over the course of several editions he wrote, edited, and updated during his lifetime. The first English edition was approximately 150,000 words and the sixth is a much larger 190,000 words. In the changes are refinements and shifts in ideas -- whether increasing the weight of a statement, adding details, or even a change in the idea itself.
The second edition, for instance, adds a notable "by the Creator" to the closing paragraph, giving greater attribution to a higher power. In another example, the phrase "survival of the fittest" -- usually considered central to the theory and often attributed to Darwin -- instead came from British philosopher Herbert Spencer, and didn't appear until the fifth edition of the text. Using the six editions as a guide, we can see the unfolding and clarification of Darwin's ideas as he sought to further develop his theory during his lifetime.
This project is made possible by the hard work of Dr. John van Wyhe, et al. who run The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. The text for each edition was sourced from their careful transcription of Darwin's books, and Dr. van Wyhe generously granted permission to use the text. This piece is a simpler version of a larger effort that looks at the changes between editions, and is intended as the first in a series looking at how the book evolved over time. Built with Processing.
Posted by bob stein on October 11, 2009 10:05 PM
bowerbird on October 13, 2009 5:19 PM:
i appreciate the idea, and admire the execution too, but
if this is "a wonderful visualization", i need new glasses.
Mark Horney on October 14, 2009 3:08 PM:
How did this process account for deletions from Darwin's text?