Stolen Darwin journals returned after being missing for two decades

Stolen Darwin journals returned after being missing for two decades

Credit: Cambridge University Library/PA

After having been missing for two decades, journals belonging to renowned scientist Charles Darwin, have now been safely returned.

Darwin’s notebooks, which contain part of his first proposals for the theory of evolution by natural selection, were found missing in 2001. This came after a routine check that presumed the journals had been mis-shelved and it was only in 2020, following an extensive search of the library which stores around 10 million books, maps, manuscripts and other items, that the journals were reported as stolen to Cambridge Police.

The Police began an investigation and alerted Interpol, with Cambridge University launching a global appeal. Now the journals have been anonymously returned in a pink gift bag, with a typed note on an envelope wishing a happy Easter to the librarian.

The gift bag was discovered outside the librarian’s office on the fourth floor of the 17-storey building on 9 March, in an area not covered by CCTV, at Cambridge University. 

Doctor Jessica Gardner, Director of library services at Cambridge University, has stated: “My sense of relief at the notebooks’ safe return is profound and almost impossible to adequately express. I, along with so many others, all across the world, was heartbroken to learn of their loss.”

“The notebooks can now retake their rightful place alongside the rest of the Darwin archive at Cambridge, at the heart of the nation’s cultural and scientific heritage, alongside the archives of Sir Isaac Newton and Prof Stephen Hawking.”

Professor Stephen J Toope, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said:  “Objects such as these are crucial for our understanding of not only the history of science but the history of humankind.”

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Written by

Joshua Manning

Originally from the UK, Joshua is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at