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How did Darwin decide which book to read next?

17 January 2017

New research analyses Charles Darwin's diary of non-fiction reading to discover how he made his choices.

Between 1837 and 1860, Charles Darwin kept a diary chronicling every book that he read, including a total of 687 English non-fiction titles and averaging one title every ten days.

New research in Cognition, led by Jamie Murdock, has analysed the content of these English non-fiction books as well as the order in which they were read, in a bid to discover his favoured information-gathering approach and how it changed over time.

They found that Darwin began his note-keeping period with a greater emphasis on exploitation, tending to master one area at a time, but as he gets closer to writing On the Origins of Species, he transitions to a much sporadic and explorative approach, jumping between topics.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.


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